Today let’s talk about first impressions. It was Yogi Berra who said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” And when you are selling, rest assured, you are constantly being watched. All my life I have heard the phrase, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Many folks try to argue that statement from both sides. Those who know have documented that approximately eleven decisions are made about a person during the first four to six seconds they are together with someone! That’s first impressions on steroids.

President Ronald Reagan understood first impressions and also knew the power that humor brings to communication and bargaining. Prior to his first meeting with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev at the SALT talks with the Soviet Union, there was a great deal of tension. This created a considerable coolness in the initial stages of their meeting. This was no surprise, since Reagan had often referred to the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire, so he decided to melt the chilly atmosphere at the meeting by telling Gorbachev this joke:

Moscow had been having a terrible problem with people speeding, so the local police were given strict orders to give speeding tickets to everyone caught driving over the limit. One day Gorbachev was late getting to the Kremlin, so he said to his driver, “You get in the back and let me drive. We’ll get there faster.”

They sped by a couple of motorcycle cops, and one of them took off after the car. He came back ten minutes later, and his buddy asked, “Well, did you give him a ticket?” “No, I didn’t.” “Why not, who was it?” “I don’t know, but his driver was Gorbachev.”

Reagan made a positive first impression on Gorbachev who loved the joke, and from that point on tensions eased. Additionally, considerable progress was made in their negotiation process. The shared laughter facilitated a more positive climate for debate between the two leaders.

Whether you agree or not, as a salesperson you are judged by things like your diction, vocabulary, body language, tone of voice, your walk, slang terms you use, and accents you may have.


Suggestions to Consider

Since all these and more are evaluated in such a rapid-fire manner, you must be prepared for virtually anything, so here are some tips to consider that will help you through these close encounters:

  1. Arrive on time; preferably early.
  2. Smile, offer a firm handshake and make direct eye contact.
  3. Project confidence and relax.
  4. Display friendly (open) body language.
  5. Pronounce your buyer’s name correctly and then use their name during the conversation.
  6. Dress professionally, but not above your prospects’ level of attire.
  7. Don’t make any apologies related to the prospect making time to see you.
  8. Use acceptable language and grammar, while avoiding controversial or divisive topics.
  9. Minimize small talk, as your prospect isn’t looking for a new best friend.

Now mentally put yourself on the buyer’s side of the desk and evaluate what he/she observes according to this list. I’m guessing that by doing these things, you will be given the benefit of the doubt more times than not by your buyers. Selling success always boils down to likeability and trust, so keep those two objectives at the forefront of everything you say and do.

Heck, even though they were miles apart on ideology, not only did Gorbachev soften, but Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill liked and developed a close friendship with Republican President Ronald Reagan!

————Two Thumbs Up————

Doug’s book, Sell is NOT a Four Letter Word really rang my bell. Over a hundred sales related topics and none were longer than 3 pages each! Concise, relevant, and sprinkled with humor. If you sell in a blue collar world you’ve got to get a copy for yourself! Dirk S., Port Orange, FL.


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