Fish HandshakeHave you ever had an unpleasant first time encounter with a brand and wondered how the owner of the company would react if s/he knew what you were experiencing? This tends to be more typical with larger companies where the owner or CEO is several titles removed (or shall I say insulated) from the interactions between customers and his or her company’s touch points. A poor first impression will generally spook a prospective customer away, crossing the brand off their list of considerations. When salespeople wonder why prospects go to sleep and are unresponsive for months after a first meeting, there’s a very good chance the prospect had a poor first impression of the brand.

For your benefit, I’ve made a list of 27 ways your brand makes a first impression – which includes everything that happens in the pre-purchase phase of the sales cycle. We all know how important these things are, and some organizations are taking them so seriously that they are now employing people adorned with the title, Director of First Impressions – and it’s not just the person answering the phone. It’s someone who is responsible for making sure the brand is delivered properly throughout all the brand’s touch points. Here they are…

  1. What prospective buyers hear or experience when they call the number on your website
  2. The content of your website’s homepage
  3. What prospective buyers see and experience when walking into the main entrance of your offices:
    • The appearance, friendliness and body language of the person greeting visitors
    • Signage
    • Awards
    • Cleanliness
  4. The punctuality of people showing up for meetings and phone calls
  5. The car your people drive and how clean or dirty it is (inside and out)
  6. Attire/clothing
    • Wrinkled vs. pressed
    • Scuffed vs. polished shoes
    • Branded clothing
    • Professionally appropriate
    • Over the top with bling
  7. Hygiene – enough said
  8. Firm vs. limp handshake
  9. Eye contact before, during and after conversation
  10. Trade shows:
    • Your booth – its messaging, size, and lighting
    • Staff at the booth, their titles, and what they are doing (Are they staring at their iPhones oblivious to people walking by?)
    • Cleanliness vs. dirty and/or cluttered
  11. The quality of your packaging and proper use of colors and graphics
  12. The office and shop tour experience
    • Is anyone smiling?
    • Is anyone talking?
    • Is it clean or dirty and cluttered?
    • Do people appear as if they enjoy their jobs (body language)?
  13. The quality and content of conversations (sales and service):
    • The questions your people ask
    • Active listening skills
    • Establishing and maintaining eye contact
    • F-bombing or cursing of any kind
  14. How quickly your people respond to customer inquiries
  15. Aggressiveness or laziness of salespeople
  16. Online profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.)
  17. Everything that comes up on a Google search of you, your company and your people
  18. Blogs and articles
    • Quality of content
    • Amount of content
    • Frequency
    • Grammar skills
  19. Advertisements: print and banners
  20. The quality and relevance of your sales materials
  21. Business cards
  22. Your email provider (aol.com and hotmail.com business email addresses are acceptable only for microbusinesses. Gmail is gaining more acceptance for small businesses.)
  23. Your networking and elevator speech
  24. Table manners at meetings and events
  25. Quality, content and interaction during presentations, workshops, seminars, events and panel discussions
  26. Mannerisms
  27. Ability to make the prospective customer feel important

Nothing here should be a surprise, and you might be able to add to this list. Everyone makes a first impression within the first few seconds of seeing, hearing or experiencing someone or something. Customers can be pretty judgmental – especially when your salespeople and/or your call to actions are asking for their business. Very few companies have all these covered, but they are also the companies winning the most business.