First impressions always count. No matter how forgiving the other person could be, first impressions last, and if you make a particularly bad one, it could be the only impression you ever make. This is especially important to remember in making business connections. When trying to make a great first impression, treat it as a once in a lifetime opportunity – because that is exactly what it is.
When you meet someone for the first time and you want to leave a positive and lasting impression, it’s best to go back to the basics. Review the following guidelines to ensure that you can maximize every opportunity:
- BE PREPARED
Coming prepared to an important meeting lets your potential client know that you are serious about doing business. When you do your research, you can learn about that company’s history and business practices, allowing you to tailor fit your approach. Brush up on current events, especially those that could affect you and/or your potential client’s industry. If you have a proposal, make sure you have it neat and ready inside your custom company folder, and make sure you have enough copies for everyone attending. Have your business cards on hand, as you will never know who might ask for one. Know your “what if” scenarios so you can address them ahead of time.
- KNOW WHO’S WHO
It is equally important to know about the business as well as the individual. If you will be meeting with more than one person, know their faces, names, and designation by heart. When applicable, find out what their hobbies and interests are as these could help you initiate small talk and build rapport before getting down to business discussions.
- DON’T BE LATE
This is a cardinal rule for any meeting. Nothing sets off a red flag faster than coming in late to a meeting, especially if it’s the first. Arriving a few minutes early is always recommended – it creates the impression that you respect other people’s time, and it’s also a sign that you are responsible. Having a few extra minutes also allows you to check that everything is in order – reducing any anxiety you may have.
- DRESS FOR SUCCESS
You don’t need expensive or designer clothes to make a great impression, but you do need to look neat and pleasant. Unless you are meeting with fashion designers or artistic minds, a classic style would be a safe bet. Choose comfortable clothing that makes you feel powerful at the same time.
Meetings always involve an exchange of ideas. Let your potential client know you are paying attention by asking questions as well as making eye contact. Never interrupt. Also, be aware of your body language at all times as this can easily indicate whether or not they have your full interest and attention.
It helps to treat a first meeting as a job interview – you always want to put your best foot forward. Following these guidelines will help you make a great impression the first chance you get – opening doors to more opportunities in the future.