Every salesperson in every business knows the importance of making a positive first impression. Sales people know their success and livelihood will depend on how their potential customer perceives them in the first 30 seconds of interaction. Good salespeople develop an almost instantaneous rapport with potential customers. Customers like them, follow their advice and then buy their product.

The reality is that we prefer doing business with those we like and trust. Impressions are the key to developing trust and confidence in the customer.

As the old saying goes, “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.”This is why the first impression is extremely important and can set the tone for all future transactions.

Here are some ways of creating positive impressions, some of which have already been discussed:

  • Thoughtfulness in meeting the customer’s needs

  • Personal responsibility for a customer

  • Quick problem solving for customer

  • Offering immediate assistance

  • Friendliness

  • Using customer’s name in a conversation

  • Pleasant voice tone

  • Polite and courteous manners

  • Neatness

  • A genuine smile

Here are some factors that create a negative impression:

  • Making the customer wait

  • Not answering the phone promptly

  • Not saying “please” and/or “thank you”

  • Speaking loudly or condescending to customers or colleagues

  • Making faces, frowning, acting distant, not smiling

  • Looking disheveled or like you do not care about your appearance

  • A poor handshake

  • Focusing on another task while addressing or servicing a customer

Remember, impressions stay with those you meet, especially customers, and once registered, negative impressions are difficult to overcome.

Simple actions can lead to huge returns:

  • Customers will spend up to 10% more for the same products with better service

  • When customers receive good service they tell 10-12 people on average

  • When customers receive poor service they tell upwards of 20 people

  • There is an 82% chance customers will repurchase from a company where they were satisfied

  • There is a 91% chance that poor service will dissuade a customer from ever going back to a company

It is often not what articulate but how it is presented. What you wear and how you express yourself has a lot to do with how what you say is received.

Have you ever noticed how a person who is dressed-up even in older or out-of-style clothing always commands more authority and respect? The impression they make and what they have to say is enhanced by their personal presentation, facial and hand gestures, as well as the substance of what they have to say. As it turns out, substance is only part of the equation of being persuasive and influencing perception.

On one level this seems unfair and superficial because what a person says and how they behave should be more important than if they are well groomed, smiling and dressed-up. Yet visual perception plays a vital role in human impressions and reactions. For reasons psychologists do not fully understand, nature and learned behavior have taught humans to perceive neat, smiling, well-presented individuals in a more commanding manner.

It is clear that just looking good will not produce the desired level of customer satisfaction.

Smiling- there is nothing like a smile and pleasant face to greet a customer, especially if he/she has a complaint. A smile and polite conversation can immediately disarm a disgruntled customer. Facial expression sets a positive tone before you even begin speaking. A relaxed or pleasant facial expression is the ideal most of the time.

Eye contact- always look into your customer’s eyes. Directly address customers.

How you look- personal grooming has a big impact on your customers. Dirty hands, messy hair and poor dress can mean the loss of an otherwise happy customer. When interacting with customers, dress neatly and in a professional manner so as to command respect and to let customers know you take seriously your position.

Shaking hands- when shaking hands with a customer a firm and a professional handshake is expected. This part of the greeting is now common among both men and women in a professional environment.

Be attentive- when listening to a customer, slightly lean towards your customer and nod your head ever so slightly to indicate you are listening.

Tone of voice- always conveys friendliness and amicability. Do not raise your voice in frustration or anger no matter how difficult or tiresome a customer may behave.

Hand gestures- use hand movement to emphasize what you say (even on the phone) and to emphasize your feelings.

Personal space- this is the distance that feels comfortable between you and another person. If another person approaches you and invades your personal space, you automatically move back without thought. You are uncomfortable. Leave adequate distance between you and your customer. Adequate space is important to making customers feel secure and unthreatened.

Posture- slumping in a chair or leaning against a wall while interacting with a customer are sure signs you are not interested in the customer. Your pose or posture should express attention, friendliness and openness. Lean forward, face the customer and nod to let them know you are interested.

Observation- notice how your customer behaves and what he/she reacts positively to while you are providing service.

Remember, the little, interpersonal actions noted above mean a great deal in the area of customer relations. They can change customer perceptions and ultimately affect the success of youe customer relations effort.