Here are 15 effective ways to make a suitable and lasting first impression when calling on ag producers, dealers and corporate managers:
- Check and adjust your attitude. People are going to notice your attitude immediately. Before you greet someone, enter an office setting for a business interview or meeting, or step up to make a presentation, think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to personify.
Attitudes that appeal to people include friendly, happy, enthusiastic, receptive, patient, approachable, welcoming, helpful, curious and respectful. Attitudes that are deal-killers include angry, impatient, rude, bored, arrogant, afraid, disheartened, boring, mistrustful, loud and skeptical.
- Stand tall with good posture. Center your shoulders over your hips. Imagine a helium balloon is attached to your sternum, pulling you forward. Look straight ahead so your head is held up. This is the posture of success, confidence and healthy self-esteem. Practice good posture whether you are standing or sitting.
- Smile. A smile is an open invitation, the human body’s welcome sign. It says, “I’m friendly, trustworthy and approachable.” Make your smile convey genuine caring and warmth.
- Silence your mobile phone prior to the meeting, and do not check the phone while in the meeting unless it is information for which both parties are waiting.
- Make good eye contact. Looking at someone’s eyes conveys energy and indicates honesty, openness and interest.
- Raise your eyebrows. Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the eyebrow flash that is a general signal of recognition and acknowledgement.
- Shake hands. This is the universal way to establish rapport and affiliation. It is also the most effective way. Make sure you have a firm handshake, where the web of your hand meets the web of the other person’s hand. Grip firmly for two to three seconds. Do not pump the hand or squeeze very hard. At the same time, do not do a wimpy handshake. Rather, grip the person’s hand firmly for a few seconds while maintaining eye contact.
- Lean in slightly. Leaning forward shows that you are interested and engaged, but be respectful of the other person’s space. Never go behind a person’s desk. Maintain appropriate space levels, which means, in most business situations, about two feet away.
- Never enter a person’s office without their permission. If you are to meet someone and the individual is on the telephone, wait until the person if off the telephone before you enter their office. Do not stand outside of the office where you might be a distraction. Rather, have a seat in the waiting/reception area.
- Dress appropriately for your interview/meeting. If you are unsure of what to wear, it is always better to overdress in a coat and tie or skirt and stockings than to underdress.
- Always have your business card ready. Make sure the business card is accurate and professional looking. Have your writing utensil and notepad at the ready so you can begin taking notes immediately. Electronic tablets are fine too, but have it charged and ready to go. The thing to not do is fumble around in your briefcase or bag, searching for something. This indicates disorganization on your part. It wastes time and can be very annoying to you and the person with whom you have an appointment.
- As you greet your new acquaintance, call them by their most formal name until they give you permission to call them something else. “Hello, Dr. Smith. I am happy to meet you.” “Oh, you can call me Dale.” “Great, Dale it is, then.”
- From the first moment you shake hands with your new acquaintance, start building rapport. This means to talk a little bit, but not a lot. After all, you are there to listen to your new potential customer/client. Recognize and learn your customer’s communication style by reading body language and listening. Always think about the other person. You are building a new relationship and relationships are the key to getting ahead.
- Match your customer’s personality. If the person you are meeting with is somewhat quiet and laid back, then you need to match that. By matching the customer’s personality, this will encourage the customer to be comfortable with you and trust that you are looking out for their best interests. Meeting the customer’s needs is why you are there, after all.
- Be sure to establish a clear future once you complete your appointment. By having the next steps laid out for you and your new acquaintance, both of you will on your way to building a successful future together.
Every encounter you have, from meetings to conventions, to business lunches, presents an opportunity for you to meet people, network and expand your professional associations by making a positive first impression. You’ve only got about seven seconds, but seven seconds is all it takes to make a great first impression.
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