With the brand new year comes the opportunity for fresh starts and reinvention. As a small business owner, you probably have a few resolutions on your agenda for 2016. I'll bet one or more of them centers on making changes that will help you put your best foot forward professionally.
And what could position you better for achieving that than making a stronger effort to make a great first impression?
Research indicates that often just the first few seconds of a first interaction will set the tone for the future of a relationship. That's significant on a personal level -- and it could mean the difference between attracting new clients and losing them to your competitors.
Fortunately, making a stellar first impression doesn't require a degree in rocket science or neurosurgery. It simply demands paying attention to detail and consistency in how you conduct yourself when meeting people.
So don't sweat it! Here are seven tips to help make your face-to-face first impressions memorable -- in a good way.
1. Don't be late! Nothing says, "I don't respect you or your time" more than showing up late to a scheduled appointment. While circumstances beyond our control happen occasionally, usually we're late because of our own disorganization or inefficient planning. If chronically arriving late plagues you, schedule "get ready" and "drive" time on your calendar so you can more easily show up on time.
2. Greet people with a warm, sincere smile. Doing so exudes friendliness and approachability. That makes others feel comfortable and at ease from the get-go. Plus there's an added bonus; according to research referenced in the book Smiling Success: Your Key For Success In Business, Love, and Life, 72 percent of people think of those who smile frequently as being more confident and successful.
3. Focus on the other person rather than immediately talking about yourself. By showing interest in what others have to say, it demonstrates humility and projects trustworthiness. Listening -- really listening -- sometimes seems like a lost art. Want to really impress those you meet? Follow up with them later by sending a personalized invitation or message on Linkedin, referencing something you learned about them when you first met.
4. Dress for success. Like it or not, what you wear matters. By dressing well, you'll project confidence -- and show respect for your business and the people you're meeting. That doesn't mean you need to be dressed to the nines at every function, but you should dress appropriately for the occasion and always, always, always exhibit good grooming and hygiene. If you struggle with style and want to amp up your professional appearance, consider hiring an image consultant for advice and guidance.
5. Don't interrupt. Suppress the urge to jump into a conversation between other people before you're asked to join the dialogue. Also, refrain from cutting people off when they're mid-sentence. While your reason may simply and honestly be the overwhelming excitement of participating in lively conversation, you'll appear rude.
6. Practice confident body language. Stand tall, keep your head up, and maintain good posture. Beware of moving your hands around too much, as it could make you appear nervous and fidgety. Holding yourself with confidence projects capability and strength of character.
7. Don't let your attention wander. When talking with others, avoid looking over their shoulders to check out who else has arrived at an event. We've all had it happen to us. It makes us feel unimportant or "second best," so don't do it to anyone else. Always politely excuse yourself from a conversation before moving on to talk with the next person.
As you set your sights on making 2016 the best year ever for your business, get it right from the start. With some extra attention to detail and self-discipline, you -- and your business -- will reap the rewards of making great first impressions wherever you go and with whomever you meet.