How to Make a Good First Impression on Your Sales Clients

By Tom Hopkins

Your prospective sales clients make many decisions about you in the first ten seconds when they meet you for the very first time. That’s right. Within ten seconds, you can be either chopped liver or Prince or Princess Charming.

Take a stopwatch or check the second hand on your watch right now and find out what ten seconds feels like. When you’re watching your clock, it seems like a long time — but when you’re walking into a room or chatting online and meeting someone for the first time, it passes by in an instant.

Your job is to come up with a way to help the people who meet you for the first time see that they made a good choice in agreeing to see you. Your clients must immediately see some benefit from investing their time with you.

Knowing how to maximize those first ten seconds allows you to make the impression you really want to make, so you can comfortably move forward in your selling.

Dressing for success

Before you meet with your potential client, consider the way you dress. Your goal is to ensure that your prospects like you and see that you’re similar to them. So how should you dress to accomplish this? Dress like your clients dress. Or, even better, dress like the people they turn to for advice.

Use good judgment and common sense when it comes to the way you dress. If you sell farm equipment and show up at a client meeting dressed like a banker, the farmers you’re selling to aren’t likely to feel very comfortable around you.

After all, in the past, bankers have foreclosed on farmers, so you want to dress less like a banker and more like the farmer herself. This doesn’t mean you have to show up at your client’s farm in a pair of dusty overalls, but more‐relaxed clothing is probably in order — maybe khaki pants and a casual shirt or blouse. Of course, if you sell to a corporate purchasing agent and you show up in casual clothes, you won’t make the impression you want to make. Know your clients, and you’ll know what to wear.

If you’re new in sales or new to a particular group of clients, pay attention to what the other successful salespeople at your company wear, and then dress like they do. If your company has a dress code, there’s probably a good reason for that. Be sure to abide by it.

Paying attention to your body language

In addition to the message you communicate to your clients with what you wear, the body language you use also expresses something. Your carriage, your facial expression, the placement of your hands, the speed, volume and tone of your voice, how much you lick your lips as you talk . . . all of these govern first impressions just as much as what you wear.

Being aware of your body language may require some time in front of a mirror or video camera, or you may need to spend time with someone who truly cares about your success and is willing to give you an honest opinion. Dress for work and walk your normal walk. If your normal body language doesn’t present an image of success and confidence, watch someone who does and emulate her. Basically, you want to do the following:

  • Walk with your shoulders comfortably back. Your arms should be at your sides (no hands in pockets!).

  • Make good eye contact with the people you meet. Don’t stare them down or eye them as if you’re assessing their clothing.

  • Smile warmly — with both your mouth and your eyes.

  • Keep your tone of voice confident. When you rehearse, if your voice sounds shaky, keep rehearsing until you’ve got it down.

  • If you’re truly nervous when meeting new people, take a few slow, deep breaths to calm yourself before beginning the meeting.