How to Make a Positive (and Provocative) First Impression

We all know that feeling of walking into a room in which we know absolutely nobody. You might think everyone is staring at you, and that could be true. In fact, they’re already forming opinions about you based on your posture, demeanor, attire, and overall appearance. That can be a harsh reality to face, especially if you’re looking back at a conference room full of expressionless members of the board of directors.

The same thing happens in networking situations, which is why you should enter a room of strangers with a minimum/maximum mindset. Develop a range of goals, which will help you survive in uncomfortable situations. For example, during a social function at an industry trade show, don’t set expectations so high (drumming up new business with everyone you meet) that you’re bound to wind up disappointed. Instead, determine that your minimum objective will be, say, to leave with at least one solid lead for a new client, while your maximum objective could be to set up a personal meeting or teleconference to hammer out details of the new business you just acquired.

To get to that point, though, you must exude confidence. So be prepared by researching your targets, developing three intriguing questions for any new person you meet  — Where are you from? How did you land in your current position? What’s your take on the new industry regulations? — and then be genuinely interested in what they say. In turn, your targets will take an interest in you and your business. Think of this counterintuitively: When they are talking, you are making a good impression.

While what you have to say and how you say it can trump the fact that you might have a pumpernickel seed stuck between your front teeth after that morning bagel, it still pays to practice sartorial persuasion. In other words, dress well. In most business situations, that means your attire when visiting an organization’s headquarters should be 10 percent more professional than what employees typically wear there to work every day. If the men dress in polo shirts and button-downs, you should wear a sport coat without a tie. If the women wear skirts and blouses, you do the same and add a blazer with a bit of jewelry. If you don’t know what the office attire is, better to err on the side of caution. Same goes for trade shows and industry gatherings.

Would you rather be overdressed or underdressed? Do you want people to think that you give your appearance thoughtful consideration? You better, because if you’re reliable in your attire, people will presume you’re also a likeable and trustworthy person to whom they can (and should) say “yes.” Remember the halo effect?

What Are You Drinking? How Senses Affect Persuasion


Did you know that the type of beverage you drink, the surface of the chair on which you sit and the color of your clothing all play a role in getting to “yes” (or “no”) faster?

Thalma Lobel, a Ph.D. and director of the child development center at Tel Aviv University, claims that decisions, judgments and values are derived as much from outside factors as they are from our brains.

In her 2014 book, Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence, Lobel provides scientific evidence of how targets respond to common situations that, on the surface, appear insignificant. Here are some of her key observations:

  • People drinking warm beverages such as coffee or tea are judged by their targets to be more generous, caring and good-natured than those enjoying cold beverages such as soda or iced coffee. The concept of “warm” and “cold” extends beyond the drink and transfers to the individual drinking it. While what you say is important, so is what you drink.
  • That “warm/cold” mentality is at play in other facets of our lives, too. Take the chair you opt to sit in while making your pitch. Studies suggest harder chairs make people tougher negotiators, while softer chairs reduce their aggressiveness. Hmmm. Maybe you should add a soft and comfy chair to your office for guests…
  • Researchers found that men consider women who wear a red blouse (opposed to a blue, green or gray blouse) consistently sexier and more attractive. That kind of social proof can easily transfer to persuasion situations. Red represents strength, power and energy, regardless of gender. Wear it when you need to hear “yes.”


Killer Credibility: 7 Ways to Achieve It, Keep It and Win It Back

What can I do to improve my credibility? It’s a question I’m asked a lot, and there is more than one correct answer. In fact, here are seven ways to build and keep — and, if necessary, win back — credibility:

1. Dress better. Let’s face it: We all are in the image business. If you want to be taken seriously, dress for success. That means you should look clean and neat, and wear shined shoes and clothes that fit well.

2. Speak better. The occasional colloquialism is OK, but if those are the only things that come out of your mouth, you could find yourself up for a role in the next season of Swamp People.

3. Know your stuff. Credibility starts with competency. Learn as much as you can from every verbal exchange. In my book, Accelerate the Sale: Kick-Start Your Personal Selling Style to Close More Sales, Faster, I asked executives about their greatest sale. The most frequent response I received? “My wife agreed to marry me.” (True story.) But the response that left the biggest impression on me was the guy who said, “My next one. Because I’ll know more, be able to do more and be able to help the customer more.” That’s a big idea.

4. Admit when you’ve erred. When you make a mistake, simply say, “I made a mistake. I’m sorry.” Then move on.

5. Channel Johnny Carson. Johnny Carson is one of my all-time favorite entertainers. When a guest would mention a piece of knowledge outside of Johnny’s realm, he didn’t try to take over the conversation or “one up” the guest. He simply said, “I did not know that.” That’s what I say now. You should, too.

6. Practice convergent validity. Make sure you have the correct information. Check with three different sources to get their take on a given situation. You’ll be shocked by how opinions vary. Doing this will help expand your network of contacts, better grasp the situation and make stronger decisions. And that, my friends, will give you greater credibility.

7. Guard your credibility. Your credibility is a precious commodity. Protect it with all you’ve got. Late in his baseball career, while playing injured, Joe DiMaggio still went all out during every at bat and every inning in the field. When a teammate said to him, “Hey, Joe, you’re hurt, take it easy,” Joe replied, “I can’t. There might be someone in the stands seeing me for the first time, and I don’t want to let them down.” Not a bad mindset for the rest of us.

Here’s to your credibility!

(Photo by Jared Erondu via Unsplash)