First impressions count

Let's talk about first impressions: making the right one and making sure you don't make the wrong one.

First, a few don'ts.

Let's say you're going to meet a potential client/customer for the first time:

* Don't be late - your client won't forgive you like your family will!

* Don't forget to check your teeth. There's not much worse than opening your mouth to reveal the pesto smile!

* Don't call her or him mate. They're not . . . yet!

* Don't have your tie undone, your fly undone, you're skirt caught up or a run in your stockings.

* Don't have sweaty palms. It's not a good feeling from the other person's perspective!

* Don't over-grip the handshake. You don't want to appear overbearing* Don't kiss your client/customer. This one's self-explanatory!

Got the idea? Be professional. Be confident and be impressive. That's your aim.

There are four crucial items you need to consider to ensure you create a lasting impression and make your client feel they need and want to do business with you.

1) Dress

The very first impression you make is visual and is based on how you dress. If you're trying to sell to an IT startup don't go for the Armani suit. Opt for something a bit more casual. On the other hand, if you're trying to sell a $10 million solution into a giant corporation, go for the suit every time.

2) Voice and language

Now you've got your clothes sorted out, it's time to start talking. There are two things to consider: first, you don't want to sound like Fran the Nanny, Woody Allen or Macy Gray. The tone and range of your voice is where a lot of your credibility comes from at the first meeting. The volume and projection reflect your confidence level. Don't shout.

Secondly, language. Don't just talk the talk. You don't want to sound like a parrot reciting acronyms, jargon and MBA buzzwords. Be sincere. Talk in plain English. Never presume your client knows all the same jargon you do. Key words to remember here are: "Simple, sincere, sound like Sean,"(Connery, that is - or Lauren Bacall if you're a woman!).

3) Look proud

This is easy. It's exactly what your mother told you to do: stand up straight; don't slouch; shoulders back and pull your socks up!

Ok, you're dressed for success; sound like a movie star; talk like the intelligent, informed professional you are; and you are standing straight and proud. Now let's look at the fourth key.

4) Movement and gestures

Physical impression is just as important as your vocal impression. That's why every real screenplay or play has a great director telling the actors what to do. Movement, facial expression and gestures are the visible things we control. Think like Martin Scorsese!

You want to appear authoritative (like Nelson Mandela), and not manic (like Kramer), or overly expressive (like Jim Carey).

Now it's time to go out and make a good first impression. Remember, you'll only get one chance.

Anna Raine is a senior consultant at Rogen International. Reach her at

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