Strong First Impressions: How to Get Them, and Why They Matter

04/10/2017 09:15 am ET

When meeting a potential new business partner or client, first impressions are always hard to manage: It's far too easy to damage your cause by presenting the wrong approach or broaching a subject too early. Luckily, you can take some simple steps to improve how you're seen, from appearance and manners to research into a company's needs and goals. Here's how:

A. Set the Tone You Want to Maintain During the First Meeting

Be confident in what you can bring to the table and come to the meeting prepared on the topics you will be discussing. The first meeting will set the tone for the rest of the relationship, so it’s important to let them know that you’re serious about the business and your ability to take it to the next level together. - Bryanne LawlessBLND Public Relations

A. Be Both Punctual and Prepared

Be on time and be prepared! Punctuality and preparedness are key to a good first impression. Do your research and be ready to ask the right questions. Knowing key details about a potential business partner or client, such as where they went to college, shows diligence and gives context when you kickstart the conversation saying "Go Tarheels!" And just like a first date, find some common ground. - Samantha FishbeinBetches LLC

A. Dress Well

Dress up! Wear a suit if you have one and it's not too over the top. This immediately indicates you're taking the potential new relationship seriously. - Brian David CraneCaller Smart Inc.

A. Start With a Firm Handshake

The handshake is usually the first physical contact you will have with someone. Therefore, it's important to leave a good impression with a firm handshake. A handshake should be neither so weak that it feels like a limp fish nor too strong that you crush the other person's fingers. A good handshake is strong, confident and welcoming. - Adelyn ZhouTOPBOTS

A. Ask "How Can I Help You?"

Proactively think of ways to help the potential new business partner or client. Instead of asking for something right out of the gate, first ask, "How can I help you?" You will be amazed at how much you help yourself by thinking of ways to help the potential new business partner or client first. - Doug BendBend Law Group, PC

A. Don't Interrupt

It boggles my mind how often people interrupt others — it's one of the fastest ways to become unlikable. The best way to be likable, and to make a great first impression, is to listen more than you speak. Ask questions and let the other person do much of the talking. And above all else, don't interrupt them. I've closed millions of dollars worth of deals by listening and not interrupting. - Andrew ThomasSkyBell Doorbell

A. Share Your Long-Term Vision

Make a strong first impression by sharing your long-term vision to your new partner or client from the outset. It shows impressive thought on your end before entering into the relationship, and they will be confident they made the right decision to work with you. Discussing the long-term shows you are not a myopic thinker, and that you have a vision to create value over time for both sides. - Charles BogoianKenai Sports, LLC

A. Know More About Their Business Than They Do

Do your homework. Learn everything you can about a new business partner or client, so that when you meet with them that first time, you can talk intelligently about what's most important to them. People are interested in what you can do for them, so do your due diligence and have an answer ready. Identify challenges they may be facing and have solutions to help them meet and resolve them. - Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

A. Talk About Your Story

People aren't interested in hearing you talk about your product or service, or listing your accomplishments. People like stories. Tell your story to them in a way that is relatable. If you pull off something incredible, act like you almost cannot believe it either. It's going to be a subtle brag, but will leave a great first impression. You will be authentic and relatable. - Ryan ShankPhoneWagon

A. Embrace Self Confidence

When meeting a new client, I always think, I ended up here because of who I have been in the past. So I stick to that. You have to be yourself and be proud of who you are. You're the best at what you do right now and you should own that. If you're uniquely yourself and confident in who you are, your clients will love it. - Cynthia JohnsonIpseity Media

A. Focus on What No One Else Can Offer 

I like to get right to the point when working with new clients and partners. When I do, it's important to me that I identify the importance of our relationship as soon as possible by leading with the thing that I can do for them that I don't believe anyone else is in a position to offer. With partners, I like to emphasize what we both bring to the table and what's created when we work together. - Adam SteeleLoganix

A. Don't Sell: Solve Their Problems

When it comes to leaving a positive first impression on a potential new client, I use the metaphor of a doctor and patient relationship. If you have a stomach virus and go to your doctor, your expectation is that your doctor will treat your stomach virus. Similarly, when a prospective client approaches you, they assume you are the expert and your goal must always be to solve their problems. - Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

A. Be Ready for Every Level of Talks

You never know how far the first meeting is going to go. Some clients don't want to talk business at all at the first meeting; they use it to get to know you. Others want to be ready to sign that night. You should be ready for either when you show up for your first visit. Have any details, plans or proposals on hand, but don't bring them out unless that's the way the conversation is going. - Matt DoyleExcel Builders

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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