Master the Art of the First Impression

You have only a few seconds to impress someone you've just met. Here's what it takes to make yourself (and your business) stand out

Written by Robert Gold

The voice of the guest of this week’s podcast is a familiar one: it’s that of Andrew Brown, president of business writing and communications consultancy Write On The Money, and the former co-host of the PROFIT BusinessCast.

Brown dropped in to the BusinessCast studio to talk about an issue that is crucial for entrepreneurs and business leaders alike (especially those involved in business development): making a good first impression on the people you meet.

“First impressions are something that either set a wonderful tone for relationships, or they plague us, they come back to haunt us in our business and professional lives,” Brown says. “You have only between five and 30 seconds to make a difference. It’s hard-wired in the human brain to assess a person in those first few seconds of meeting them… And in most cases, an unfavourable first impression is enough to cause us to not bother to look more deeply at a person, a product or a company.”

Read: Avoid These Common Networking Mistakes

But good first impressions aren’t necessarily made of what you think they might be. Yes, it helps to be friendly, clever and/or funny, Brown says. But there are more potent elements at play. Here is his list of the three things that make for a really great first impression:

1. It stirs up an emotion

…And, hopefully, a positive one. “It’s too easy to forget that emotion plays a huge part in business success,” says Brown. “There’s an old adage that people buy on emotion, justify with reason. Well, that happens on a personal basis, as well as on a product or company level.”

2. It must be memorable

“A good first impression should be unique, and, ideally, short,” says Brown. “Quite frankly, people don’t remember an abundance of technical information from an initial interaction.” In a world in which people are inundated with advertising, email, social media and other people, they’ll only spend a few seconds assessing whatever or whomever it is they’re encountering: “The message really has to be memorable and concise.”

Read: Why Sales Reps Screw Up the Initial Call

3. It has to accurately reflect who you are

“If the first impression shapes how and when people come to deal with you, and whether they will or won’t engage with you, authenticity is absolutely critical,” Brown explains. It comes down to “knowing what is really true about your business,” he adds. This is essentially another application of the elevator pitch principle. “You must be able to articulate what is core and unique about what you do and the value you provide,” he says. “This is not something that’s done overnight; it takes time to boil down what is truly you in a very short and succinct way.”

For more of Brown’s thoughts—including four ways great first impressions are created—check out this week’s BusinessCast, which you can listen to by clicking the button above or download by clicking on the iTunes logo below:

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For more BusinessCast podcasts, click here.

Read: A Smart Leader’s Guide to Networking

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com