Favorable First Impressions —Farquharson/TedescoOctober 2010
Many moons ago, back when the doors to companies were unlocked and you didn't have to go through a security background check and DNA sampling just to gain access to the lobby, there used to be an employee called "The Receptionist." If you're under the age of 30 you might want to Google it or watch TV Land for actual examples. We salespeople would drive up and park at the front door, strut inside, and shamelessly flirt in order to get the name of anyone in power. The first impression was as important back then as it is today, but since we WERE the first impression, personal hygiene and fashion sense were critical.
Today, bathing is less of a priority and beauty won't get you as far as it once did, for in-person sales has given way to remote contact. Why? The door is locked. Aunt Bea lost her receptionist job in a downsizing and the powers-that-be are inside, hiding behind electronic blockades such as voice mail and Caller ID. But we, the American sales reps, are up to the task. We are strong and resilient. We will not be stopped, and we don't need no stinking badges. So cue the fight music and let's look at some options for creating a new first impression.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink," the author talks about "thin-slicing." That is, he suggests that we all make, in our words, educated first impressions. We get a gut feel for a person or a situation. Have you ever taken an instant liking to someone you meet? You can't explain it, but that person has a certain, as the French would say, "I don't know what." Part confidence, part friendliness—there is something attractive that you can't describe, but is definitely a factor.
Planning the Plan
In the new world of sales, there remains a need to create a plan for putting your best foot forward. Since we don't have the face-to-face option like we used to, we offer three options for creating a first impression, circa 2010:
1. The Introductory Letter—Think for a second. How many personal letters do you get in a year's time? No, invoices don't count.
Your first option for a good first impression is to send out introductory letters. Use company letterhead, keep it to one page, and have someone proofread it before it goes out the door. Typos and poor grammar are deal killers, especially when you boast about your "explicit attention to details" and misspell "explicit" (Don't laugh. I've seen it). You will also want to stay away from the "I, me, my" story. In other words, don't rail on about your capabilities or equipment list.