First impressions can make or break the start of any relationship. This holds true for personal as well as professional and business relationships. As a financial advisor or insurance producer, the pressure of the first impression is immense. Often times, we are meeting with high-net-worth clients, or with a referral from one of our best clients. On a personal level, we constantly network. We always attempt to present ourselves in the best light.
“I influence anybody who is able to get through the chaos of my first impression.”
I resemble the quote above, and it is not a good thing. I am one of those people who is always on the go, both physically and mentally. My mind constantly runs. I have had to learn to quiet myself and focus on the task at hand so I do not get distracted by myself. This is very important when it comes to making that first impression.
When I Made A Bad First Impression
I remember once when I absolutely bombed a first impression. It was just after my youngest son was born and I was an exhausted dad. I had an early morning meeting with a new prospect and I couldn't stop yawning during our meeting. No matter what I did, the yawns keep coming. I quickly realized that my yawning was becoming a distraction and making my prospect feel uncomfortable.
Fortunately, I stopped our meeting and apologized to my prospect. I shared that I was a new father and that my son wasn't sleeping at night. I let him know that this meeting was very important to me, and that I valued the time that he had given me, which is why I didn’t want to cancel or reschedule our meeting. Luckily, my prospect empathized with me. He shared a story of when his newborn didn’t sleep either. We instantly had a connection, our meeting resumed and I improved that first impression.
An Impression Before You Finish a Sentence
“Research shows that when making a new contact, we decide if we like someone - and people do the same with us - within a fraction of a second,” writes Patti Wood in Snap: Making the Most of First Impression, Body Language, and Charisma. You have one chance to make a good first impression and that’s it.
The good news is, if you make a less then stellar first impression, if your chaos overwhelms and distracts, you can still recover and save that impression.
Three Strategies to Fix a Bad First Impression
1. Realize that you are making a bad impression and stop!
Don’t ignore that feeling in your stomach that something is wrong. As I sat there yawning uncontrollably and my prospect looked completely miserable, I knew something was wrong. If you're standing there trying to be funny and no one is laughing, stop. There can be no growth without pain. We need to realize when we are making a less than desirable impression and fix it immediately, even if it hurts a little bit.
2. Honestly apologize.
Once you realize the fact that things are not going as planned, stop and apologize. My sincere apology for constantly yawning and the admission that I was an exhausted dad saved my horrible first impression. In fact, it provided a connection between us which led to a profitable and eventually a personal relationship. When you say, “I am sorry. I was trying to make a good impression on you.” It goes a long way to overcoming that negative first impression you were making.
3. Be yourself!
Often times in our desire to make that great first impression, we try to become the funniest, wittiest, most knowledgeable, or most charming person in the room. The reality is that in trying so hard to make that great first impression, we sometimes become something we are not. The result is that your great first impression goes up in flames. You have existing relationships, and the people who know you like who you are. There's no reason or benefit to acting like someone else.
It's Not Your Only Chance
In his article, How to Recover From a Bad First Impression, John Corcoran writes, “The truth is that the first impressions are not last impressions.” So if you are like me, and are not the funniest, wittiest, most dynamic person in the room, don’t try to be. Be yourself. Make a good first impression and get the chance to reinforce a positive second, third, and fourth impression.
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