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What First Impression Are You Giving?

What First Impression Are You Giving?

Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A.

The other night my husband and I met a prospective financial advisor and I was stunned by the first impression he made. The old adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” couldn’t have been more relevant.

The meeting began ten minutes late because he arrived late. While I have to admit I’m chronically late in my personal life, I’m always on time for my professional appointments. However, on those rare occasions when a natural disaster prevents me from arriving on time, I always begin by sincerely apologizing for being late.

This guy said nothing.

In retrospect, I should’ve appreciated the moment of silence.

For 60 minutes of the 90 minute meeting, instead of sharing his credentials, expertise or rationale behind his recommendations, this financial advisor over-shared about his personal life. While I appreciate the value of establishing rapport, this guy definitely went too far when he shared about his sister’s bout with repeated teenage pregnancies, his penchant for gambling, and his routine of watching 8 to 10 movies a week. Therefore, instead of focusing on the 30 minutes of financial advice he did provide, I kept thinking about his anecdotes, personal judgments and the insinuation he wasn’t very bright when he said he didn’t know where his daughter got her smarts from.

I truly believe this guy wasn’t trying to sabotage his chances of landing our business. In fact, I would assert he thought he was doing a good job trying to sell us his services. So it occurred to me after our meeting that people have different perspectives on how to make a good professional first impression. Here’s my perspective.

How to Make a Good Professional First Impression:

Arrive on Time

Arriving on time shows potential clients you respect their time, want their business, and plan your time accordingly. On the contrary, arriving late gives prospective clients the impression that they are not a priority and that you don’t manage your time well.

Make a Strong Introduction

My mom taught me to look people in the eye, say my name clearly and give people a firm handshake when meeting them for the first time. These simple actions portray poise, self-confidence and credibility. And I can attest that these efforts at making a strong introduction have always served me well, especially when I began working for the Governor at age 22 and needed to establish credibility with the various agency heads I was assigned to work with.

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