Skip to main content

Five Essential Skills for Making a Great First Impression in Business

Five Essential Skills for Making a Great First Impression in Business

Knowing how to attract and influence people is critical to your long-term success. Business is all about relationships and this common saying is true:

You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

We all make judgements when we first meet someone. Think of the last time you were at a social event and you encountered an individual who talked non-stop about themselves, rarely asked about you, and constantly looked around the room.

I am guessing you tuned them out or looked for the first opportunity to escape the conversation. Even if you were interested in what they had to say, you lost all intrigue because they didn’t feel warm and engaging, or something about their communication style turned you off. They missed an opportunity to connect because their approach made them unattractive to you in some capacity.

On the other hand, there are people who have introduced themselves with a big smile, a confident handshake, and asked a lot of questions and you couldn’t get enough. You found yourself making plans with them before the party was even over.

It’s the same thing in a professional setting. How others perceive you can mean the difference between success and failure. The good news is that likability is a skill-set you can acquire.

Business is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics. —Tony Robins

Here are five strategies that will help you boost your likability factor and put your best foot forward when you meet a potential client.

1) Listen more, sell less.

The person you are talking to is more interested in himself or herself and his or her wants and problems, than he or she is in you and your problems. —Dale Carnegie

No matter what you do for a living, you are selling something, whether it be yourself or your business. Your natural instinct may be to quickly start talking about all your qualifications and what you have to offer, but that rarely leads to a positive image.

The worst way to introduce yourself is with a pitch. Listening to others is critical in building working relationships.

It’s human nature for people to enjoy talking about themselves. The longer you allow them to lead the conversation, the more likely they are to perceive it as an interesting exchange and give you more of their time.

It’s important to look for shared interests and be engaging, but don’t spend too much time on yourself. Ask them to expand upon their thoughts as much as possible.

One way to do this is to ask them a few questions about their hobbies or passions and be genuinely interested in their responses. Remember details and reference them later to keep them engaged. It takes discipline to talk less and listen more, but you’ll be amazed with the results.

[Related: Find Your People and Give Back at the Same Time]

2) Be mindful of your delivery.

It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it: There lies the secret of the ages. —William Carlos Williams

When we are stressed, anxious, or feel intimidated, our pitch tends to get higher, we talk too fast, and some of us may even raise our voices, which comes across as aggressive.

Taking a few deep breaths before the meeting will help you relax and be intentional in your delivery. To keep the other person’s attention, you need to maintain a pleasing voice. Otherwise, they could miss what you are saying simply because they don’t like how you are saying it.

Some research indicates that speaking softly encourages the other person to listen more intently. Try it out in your next meeting!

3) Embrace the power of eye contact.

This is difficult for a lot of people, but not looking someone in the eyes gives the impression you are dishonest or unsure of yourself. It may make you feel vulnerable to stare someone in the eyes, but it’s critically important, especially during your first interaction.

Numerous studies have shown that people who make high levels of eye contact with others are perceived as being:

  • Dominant and powerful.
  • Warm and personable.
  • Attractive and likable.
  • Qualified, skilled, competent, and valuable.
  • Trustworthy, honest, and sincere.
  • Confident and emotionally stable.

And don’t forget to smile! If you look someone in the eyes with a stern face, you might appear pushy or intense. The key is to be warm, respectful, and confident.

[Related: Networking While Face Blind: 3 Ways One New Yorker Does It]

4) Use “no” to your advantage.

Every no gets me closer to a yes. —Mark Cuban

Author Chris Voss states in his book Never Split the Difference that contrary to popular belief, “no” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it.

The answer “no" provides a great opportunity for you to gain more clarity on what the other person wants. He advises using this chance to slow down and analyze the situation, allow the real issues to be highlighted, and redirect the conversation as needed.

Hearing “no” might be scary, but it will ultimately help you adjust your presentation in a way that will appeal to that individual. The key is to ask more questions and make a sincere effort to provide something tailored to their needs.

5) Wrap it up.

Don’t sell your product. Solve their problem. —Mark Cuban

Avoid dragging out the conversation and make a conscious effort to notice when the other person is ready to end the meeting.

Summarize a few major points from your talk so they know you were listening, and then thank them for their time. If you overstay your welcome, it will be hard to get a second meeting.

Consider this the next time you meet someone who can help your business or career. They have to like you before they want to work with you. Charming people who are good conversationalists have better jobs, many meaningful connections, and are ultimately more successful.

[Related: How the Word "Networking" Negates the Value of Making Connections]

--

Farrah Smith is a Director at one of the world's top environmental charities and is an esteemed member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Corps. She also owns Farrah Smith Coaching, where she teaches a transformational course that helps teens reach their full potential with an emphasis on mindfulness, neuroscience, and positive psychology.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

{{playbook.title}}

Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook:

Start your day off with The Morning Boost, our newsletter with everything you need to take your career to the next level – all from members of the Ellevate community.

By sharing your email you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy

By sharing your email you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy

🎊

Thank you! Career advice and opportunities are on the way to your inbox.

Add your zip code, so we can invite you to our local events!