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What kind of first impression do you make?

You only get one chance to make a first impression. 

Did you meet anyone new over the holidays? Summer is often the time when we chance across a new introduction, meeting new people at friends’ BBQs, New Year’s drinks or even the camping ground or hotel you spent a few days at. You may have met the friend of a family member, the mate of a mate or just some random stranger you happened to strike up a conversation with.

Have you got your person in mind? (This is a bit like a magic show, isn’t it?!) How long did it take you to remember them? Were they top of mind or did it take a bit of time and work, perhaps needing your partner’s help and prompting to recall them? Keep thinking – do you remember this new introduction’s name and what you talked about or are details a little fuzzy?

Okay, now what did you think of this person? Did you come away raving about them, impressed and enthused after your chat with them? Did you immediately forget their name, so boring was the conversation and interaction? Or did they make their mark and you can easily visualise everything about them… but for the wrong reasons? As in, maybe they rubbed you the wrong way, said something nasty, were boorish and arrogant and you couldn’t get away fast enough? 

Now here’s the rub: what do you think they thought of you? Were you memorable (and for what reasons)? Would they know your name? Would they think positively of you? Would they say to other people, “That guy/lady was awesome. They had some really interesting stuff to say on blah blah” or are they more likely to say, “Can’t stand that guy over there. Steer clear!”

No one wants to be so beige that we’re instantly forgotten. No one wants to be so annoying that we’re memorable, in a bad way. We all want to be thought of as being someone who’s likeable and fun to be around. Hopefully this simple little exercise has made it obvious how important it is to make a good – no, an EXCELLENT – first impression on someone. Now, dramatic flourish, for our final trick…

Apply this exercise to your business.

?* Imagine you are a first-time customer at your business. Does it make a strong impression? Are your staff those awesome people you want to spend more time with, or do they make you want to beat a hasty retreat? Are they knowledgeable and interesting, or disinterested and disappointing?

* As an imaginary first-time customer, are you likely to walk away feeling good about your experience? Does it have a certain “wow” factor to it that will have you leaving the shop with a spring in your step? Does your business leave a lasting impression? A GOOD lasting impression?

* Will a first-time customer feel strongly about their experience with your business or will it not really register with them? (Customers who felt the experience was good are ok, but ones who thought it was amazing are even better – they’re the ones who will constantly return plus they’ll go out and tell others how fabulous you are aka free advertising and a better Net Promoter Score.)

* Consider whether a first-time customer will remember your company name. Is it likely to be top of mind, easily recalled and passed on when someone else in their circle needs your services? If you think your company name is a little ho-hum and tough to remember (a bit like uncommon names for children that are hard to spell, such as Keleigh), maybe that’s something you need to work on.

Now I know we all have our off days. Sometimes we’re dragged to functions we don’t want to be at, sometimes we’re tired, sometimes we’re cranky for some reason. Catch us on days like this and we’re not likely to make a great first impression.

It’s not a great result but, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter in personal situations – you’ll often get another chance to redeem yourself, at the next family event or BBQ. Plus you have your mutual friend to stick up for you and explain why that meeting was out of character.

But as a business, you don’t get that second chance. A customer won’t come back to see if your service has improved, if your staff are nicer, if you know what you’re talking about now. No one will stick up for you.

You really only get one shot at making a first impression. What kind of first impression do you make?

Zac de Silva is a business coach and former owner of Barkers Menswear. He currently runs Business Changing and works with over 70 clients, including BNZ, Westfield, Huffer, Foodstuffs, The Icehouse and Les Mills.

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