Rule #4: One Impression – Three Outcomes
Only three things can happen when you come in contact with people:
(1) They feel better having met you;
(2) They feel worse having met you; or
- Having met you, they really couldn’t care less about the experience one way or the other.
After years of observation, I’ve concluded very few people have a strategy when meeting strangers. Most people automatically stick out their hand, mumble their name while glancing around the room, utter something without much confidence, conviction or personality, and in general, wing their way through the often times uncomfortable introductory encounter.
If you believe the old saying that “first impressions are lasting,” then you will find it logical to evaluate just how you score when it comes to making a first impression.
Do you leave new acquaintances feeling better, neutral, or worse? Those are the choices. And in virtually every instance, you are in control of the outcome.
Once you realize that the ball is in your court, you can easily establish an approach where people respond favorably to your presence. How? Don’t try to make them feel you are important. Instead,
Make the people you meet feel better about themselves.
Try this idea on for size. Picture everyone you meet wearing a giant sign around their neck that says, “Make me feel important!” Go ahead, try it. This actually does work to help you focus on this new goal.
Once you adopt this strategy, meeting people becomes an honest form of entertainment, and a challenge. You will start looking forward to mingling at cocktail parties, attending Bar Mitzvahs and even attending your boss’s nephew-in- law’s graduation party (which kills a whole day as it is scheduled for 3 pm on a Saturday).
The number one reason people shy away from public gatherings is their fear that people won’t treat them well . . . that no one will take the time or have the interest to speak to them. You have this backwards. Make others feel important. When you become the facilitator or the host in your mind, good things will result.
Having a strategy when meeting new people, and saying and doing the right things in often uncomfortable environments, is not being wish-washy. It is being mature, polite, creative, bon-vivant and considerate. This approach is also a major part of being the consummate sales professional.
Your goal, from this page forward, is to enter the introductory stages of a relationship with the notion that you are going to do everything within reason to cause an “I liked that person” outcome.
Here are some key steps to insure your success.
The Eyes Have It
Acknowledge the impact your “eyes” have. Few people get this one straight without a great deal of effort. By looking people in the eye you are saying two things: (1) you are confident in who you are; and (2) you are interested in, and not intimidated by, the person with whom you are speaking. Both of these are very positive signals.
The obvious danger of eye contact is when it is overdone and appears that you are staring. It is okay to allow your eyes to drift off your subject, just don’t wander for too long. Be sure to reconnect within a few moments. This will tell your “audience” that you truly care about them. If you find looking people in the eye difficult (and some people do), try looking between their eyes, in the center of their forehead just above eye level. To them, it will look like you are indeed holding eye contact.
Shake ‘n Take
Next comes the handshake. This simple maneuver, if not deployed properly, can all but kill your successful first impression. Firm yet brief. There is nothing worse than having your fingers crushed by a Hulk Hogan wanna-be or having the right side of your body shaken half to death by some young, eager, over-ambitious glad hander. The handshake is a sign of peace . . . of trust . . . of welcome . . . and of safety.
On the other end of the spectrum is the wet fish handshake. The major consideration here is if the shake takes the mind of the person you are speaking with off of you and down to your finger-tips. You don’t want people thinking: “Is this guy flat lining as I speak? Maybe I should spring for the phone right now and dial 911!”
If either of these responses cross your prospect’s mind, even for a moment, he is unlikely to remember your name, the name of your company, or anything else about you for that matter.
So, follow good eye contact with a decent handshake. If you aren’t sure how you come across, ask a friend or associate or family member for some honest criticism.
The Name’s The Game
Are you so busy thinking of what you are going to say that you never pick up the name of the person you are meeting, or you instantly forget it? If so, you are in good company. The good news is that this habit has an easy fix.
You can correct this less-than-attractive practice by repeating the prospect’s name as soon as you hear it. Try to repeat the name of your new acquaintance again during the early stages of your first conversation. This will help cement the name in your mind. As soon as it is practical, add this new name along with a key reminder phrase to your Palm Pilot, address book or database for future retrieval. What works for me is to connect the person’s name with something or someone else I am very familiar with — a TV personality or celebrity who looks similar, is in the same line of work, etc.
Don’t sell this name thing short. People place trust in people they feel comfortable with. People take notice and are flattered when others remember their names. Call someone by their name after a period of separation and you will see that it truly does make a positive impression.
Follow The Leader
The person who speaks first is in position to lead the conversation. All things considered, this is where you want to be. I strongly recommend when you do lead, lead with a question . . . and then wait for, and pay attention to, the answer.
People who get the question part right but aren’t interested in who they are speaking with, often fail to hear the answer. People know when you aren’t following along. And you can bet that they are resenting you for your lack of interest in what they have to say.
Cut this one off at the pass by actively listening to the answers to your questions. If you want to cement the relationship in the mind of your prospect, give them what I call the limp leg move early in the conversation. This is what you do: When you are following the conversation intently, politely interrupt them in mid sentence to confirm the fact that you are hanging on their every word. For example, here’s what I might say:
MM: “Whoa! Time out. Back up a minute. When I heard that appetizer tray coming I think I missed part of your point. Could you repeat that?”
You can also try saying something like this if it comes more naturally:
MM: “That is a very interesting point of view. Let me see if I am hearing you correctly. Are you saying that . . .?”
Sometimes an interruption will kill the flow of an important message. Even though they may be totally lost, some people feel that it would be impolite to fess- up. So, they continue to stare, nod and grunt, not knowing what the speaker is talking about. They are not fooling the speaker. If this happens to you, just stop the speaker and get back into the conversation. If you don’t, you will lose.
I can hear some of you saying, “This is beginning to sound like manipulatory audio antics.” Quite the contrary. If you think so, you are missing my point. I’m suggesting that if you are interested in getting other people to like you, you had better learn to get into their world and move at their pace. I’m also saying that you must communicate in a way that is sincere, honest and appropriate. You accomplish this by doing your best to be genuinely interested in what other people have to say. There is nothing manipulative here. This is a key step in advancing from amateur to professional status.