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Six Secrets to Stellar First Impressions

Make those first seconds with your prospects count with these tips.

By Jack Perry

Everyone formulates first impressions of others upon meeting them. We notice a person’s clothing, hairstyle, posture and other physical features, and then decide whether we like the person or not. In fact, many studies show that we form these impressions in mere seconds.

First impressions are not always fair, but people often base their subsequent interactions with others on these initial impressions.

Everything people see, hear and smell contributes to how they perceive you. But just as important as how you dress and groom yourself and what you say are your nonverbal cues, such as posture and eye contact. Where your words and your body language contradict each other, body language always prevails.

First impressions aren’t always fair or accurate, but people often base their subsequent interactions with others on these initial impressions. The first impression you make is crucial to your success, so work on it, polish it and practice it.

How can you make a winning first impression every time?

  1. Focus on your prospect.
    During your first meeting with your prospects, you want to be right there, in the moment. Don’t look over their shoulders or scan the room for someone else to talk to; look them in the eyes and focus on what they are saying. If you are at a large function, don’t try to meet everyone. You’re better off meeting one or two people and focusing on them rather than making casual contact with many people.
  2. Establish a presence.
    Confidence comes across in the way you stand, move and handle yourself in a group. When you’re confident and calm, you create a positive presence. So the next time you enter the boardroom or a sales meeting, put your nerves and insecurities aside and walk in as if you own the building. But keep this in mind: Confidence is very different from arrogance, which creates a negative presence.
  3. Use a firm handshake.
    Especially in business settings, handshakes are often used as greetings, and as such, they are the first thing a person will notice about you. A University of Alabama study established that a firm handshake, coupled with eye contact, communicates that the person is sociable, open and friendly. By contrast, a weak handshake communicates that the person is shy and introverted, or indifferent.
  4. Get organized.
    If you see a salesperson’s car and it’s a filthy mess, you probably won’t want to sign his contract. Or, if you meet with a lawyer whose briefcase is so jammed with loose papers that it takes her five minutes to find a pen, you probably won’t feel comfortable with her representation. Lack of organization conveys that a person doesn’t pay attention to detail and might produce sloppy work. Take the time to stay organized and tidy.
  5. Consider your prospect’s environment.
    Consider the people you’ll be meeting and the environment you’ll be in. In certain settings, you must tailor your style of dress and behavior to fit in. For example, if you’re meeting a prospective client on his Idaho ranch, a custom-made suit and shiny Lexus might look out of place. Likewise, a dusty truck and cowboy boots could alienate a prospect in Beverly Hills. To relate to people and make them feel comfortable about you, you can’t seem like an outsider.
  6. Don’t scream success.
    If you want people to think you’re a big shot, never announce you’re a big shot. Don’t brag about your fancy toys or pricey clothes. Let your appearance, body language, voice and listening skills communicate your success.

Successful first impressions … every time
Great first impressions are the key to success, so consider how your prospects will see you before you meet them. When you use these tips for creating a winning first impression, you’ll secure more sales and achieve higher levels of business success.

Jack Perry, author of Jack, You’re Fired, is senior vice president for a division of John Hancock. A renowned leadership coach and speaker, he has four decades of experience in sales, motivation and retirement planning. For more information, visit or call 800-334-4437.


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