Hank Darlington: The importance of first impressions
In my “Selling Skills” workshop I stress the importance of making great first impressions.
That would include your website, your presence on social media, where your showroom is located, what it looks like on both the outside and inside and, of course, the first impression a sales consultant makes when first meeting a client.
It’s trite and you’ve heard it said often, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” It behooves you to make sure it happens.
In today’s world probably the first impression someone will get of your showroom business is when they go to your website. If it’s well-done, tasteful, informative and educational, the odds are good the potential client will follow your directions and come visit your brick-and-mortar facility.
The location, accessibility, parking, overall look of the building and grounds will be the next impression. This will be followed by the walkup to the front door, the window displays and signage on the doors. Next, they step into the showroom. They will look to the right, to the left and straight ahead, and in a mere 30 seconds will judge the space. Is it open, well-lit, easy to navigate, etc.? And then comes the all-important first contact with a live person. Whether it’s a receptionist, barista or sales consultant, this first contact (impression) is very important.
So there you are standing face to face with a new client. You haven’t said a word and they’re already judging you based on all the above factors. What’s fair about that? Probably nothing, but it would be in your best interest to do everything in your power to make all these first-impression contacts as positive as possible. All these first “touches” have to be consistent if you’re goal is to project a high-end, classy and quality image. Everything needs to look, feel and sound that way!
I think you would agree first-time visitors to your showroom will tend to be a little reserved. It’s the showroom sales consultant’s responsibility and mission to make visitors feel comfortable, to earn their trust and engage them in a meaningful conversation that leaves them wanting to learn more and to come back.
Start earning that trust by making visitors feel good about themselves. One of your goals is to elevate the confidence, pride and esteem of everyone who comes through your front door. This initial conversation should not be about how wonderful your showroom is or what a great designer you might be. Your first-impression conversation should be all about your customer. Be interested in what they want, what their goals are and what brought them to the showroom in the first place.
Find out what part of their project will make them the happiest and bring them the most joy. Dale Carnegie once said, “Every person’s favorite subject is usually themselves.” Let your visitors be themselves. Let them talk about whatever they would like to. Your challenge is to make them feel like they are the most important person in the showroom. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. Participate as if it matters, because it does!
Part of Step 3 in the workbook is warmly greeting your clients to increase their interest and comfort. If your showroom has a receptionist, this person will and should be the first welcome and they should ask the client what brought them into the showroom. Let’s face it: coming to your store is a destination stop. There’s a reason they Googled your website and got directions on how to find you. The top priority as a sales consultant is to approach the prospect in a timely manner (within a matter of minutes of them walking in the front door) and to find out why they are there.
Part of that greeting is a big part of the first impression the client will form about you and your company. You will be judged on how you’re dressed, if you have a sincere smile on your face and what your body language implies. Yes, all these factors are very important. Have a smile that shows them you’re glad they came in, stand tall with your shoulders back and have good eye-to-eye contact. If you’re having a good day this should be pretty easy. But even if it’s been a crappy day, you still have to project the image that you’re glad to see them.
If you offer coffee or other refreshments, this is a good time to do this. Then perhaps invite the client to come sit in your decompression area (comfortable lounge chairs, sofas, etc.). This offers a great opportunity to start getting acquainted with the client. All these things become important pieces to help make that first good impression.
Just like the client’s first steps inside your front door and their glances left, right and straight ahead, the client will form a first impression of you within the first three seconds of seeing you. Again, not fair — but it is what it is! And, unfortunately, if it’s been a bad first impression, it’s nearly impossible to reverse or undo. Here are some more hints regarding good first impressions.
Courtesy: Be courteous. If the client has made an appointment, always be on time and be prepared.
Dress for success: Present yourself appropriately. This doesn’t mean you have to look like a model, but you are selling higher-end beautifully designed products so you need to dress nicely. In most environments that means “business dress.” Blue jeans won’t get it done. Your products, your showroom layout and displays and your appearance must all have a consistent higher-end quality look.
Be yourself: Yes, making a good first impression does mean you need to “fit in” to some degree, but it doesn’t mean pretending to be someone you are not. Be your authentic self. By doing this, it will make you feel more comfortable and confident. It also will help build trust and earn the respect and integrity from the people you meet.
Have a winning smile: As the saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles, too.” A warm and confident smile will put both you and the other person at ease. Don’t overdo it or it will come off as insincere and phony.
Be open and confident: Body language can speak louder than words. Use body language to project appropriate confidence and self-assurance. Stand tall, smile (of course), make eye contact and greet with a firm handshake.
It’s OK to use small talk: Conversations are based on verbal give and take. You should have a well-rehearsed welcome greeting. For instance “Welcome to ABC Bath and Kitchen. Have you been in before? What brought you in today?” In the first few minutes of meeting a new client try and learn something about them. If you find something you have in common it might be a good way to open the conversation and keep it flowing.
Be positive: Your attitude shines through in everything you do. Project a positive attitude even in the face of criticism or in the case of nervousness. Show you are approachable by maintaining an upbeat manner and smiling
Be courteous and attentive: It goes without saying good manners and polite, attentive and courteous behavior help make a good first impression. Set aside modern-day distractions, for instance, by turning off your mobile phone so you can give the person your full attention. And don’t get sidetracked by other people. Your new acquaintance deserves 100% of your attention. Anything less will make them feel unimportant or even irritated.
Remember, you have only a few seconds to make a good first impression and it’s almost impossible to change once it happens. So it’s worth giving each new encounter your very best shot.