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EIGHT SECONDS is not only the length of a successful bull ride, it’s also how long we have to leave a first impression on those we meet. For bull riders, that eight seconds is an eternity — but for the rest of us, it’s gone in the mere blink of an eye. In the first eight seconds after meeting a prospect, the prospect evaluates your social standing. If the prospect thinks you have comparable business or social standing, you’ll be considered a possible partner. If you appear to have a higher status, you’ll be admired, and your prospect will cultivate a relationship with you, since you’ll be seen as a valuable contact. If the prospect thinks you’re at a lower social level, though, you’ll be kept at arm’s length. It’s a harsh reality, but we have to accept it. Once a first impression is formed, it’s extraordinarily difficult to change it, so it’s crucial that you put your best foot forward all the time. Not only is it essential to master the art of the first impression in sales, but it’s also an important life skill. While you can’t completely predict what kind of first impression you’ll make, there are at least eight factors you can control. One picture is worth a thousand words. When your prospects think of you, what do they picture? Dressing up more than expected can help accentuate your high standing. Pay attention to the details. Carry a nice leather portfolio, instead of a free canvas portfolio with someone else’s logo. Don’t let papers fall out in a disorganized way. Less is more. Invest in a nice pen, not a disposable plastic pen that’s seen better days. Ladies, leave the giant purse in the car. When you see your prospects enter the room, stand and walk to greet them, instead of waiting for them to walk to you. If you wait, you could come off as passive or unsure. Memorize your opening line. Make sure you have a point of connection ready to pull from your arsenal, like a common acquaintance or shared interest. Carry yourself with confidence and genuine enthusiasm. Weakness may be a repellent, but arrogance can be even worse. Find the middle ground. Don’t fidget. Avoid nervous tie adjustments, touching your watch (which insinuates you’re in a hurry), shaking your leg or fiddling with your pen. Smile, and make eye contact. We are naturally attracted to those who smile, and eye contact demonstrates confidence. Stay focused. Tune out everything, staying completely attentive to your prospect. Avoid the temptation to glance away when someone walks by. Turn your cell phone off, and make sure it’s out of sight. Your handshake should be firm, of course. Don’t shake like a dead fish, or a bone crusher. Avoid the two-handed shake or pulling the prospect closer while you shake hands. Some other handshakes to avoid are the political handshake, where your other hand is placed on the prospect’s forearm or shoulder, and the cupped shake, where your palm doesn’t touch your prospect’s palm, which could make the prospect think you’re shy — or even hiding something. Leave the prospect with a sense of your competence, preparedness and likability by making a good first impression, and you’re on your way to a successful sale.

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RedRover Sales & Marketing

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