Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 14, 2019 @ 08:06 AM


Most salespeople don't take first impressions seriously enough. If they did, their first impressions would be much more favorable.

I can still remember my first (unintentional) lesson about first impressions.  My family was gathered at my grandfather's house to watch the debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show.  It was February 9, 1964 and at 8 years old, I was one of seventy-three million people watching the show that night.  I was as excited about this show as I would be later that same year when I attended my first Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park.  That is pretty excited! 

Sitting on the carpet, I was completely focused on seeing and hearing The Beatles play five of their hit songs, but my mother was doing color commentary from the plastic covered sofa behind me.

She said, "He's cleaner than the other 3", referring to Paul McCartney, who had straighter teeth, and a face more suitable for the mop top hair style shared by the four of them.

There it was, my first lesson in judging people by how they looked, and more specifically, what "clean" did and did not look like.

We were all exposed to unintentional lessons like that when we were young and those lessons stay with us today.  My father was an optometrist and around a quarter of his patients were on welfare.  While they were entitled to the same eye examination as everyone else, they were not allowed to choose from the same selection of eye glasses  and were not allowed to wear contact lenses - unless they could pay the difference.  Therefore, I assumed that anyone I saw wearing "those glasses" must be on welfare.

15 years later, when I was in the music business, a man who looked like he spent the night sleeping on the side of the road, bought the most expensive guitar I had in stock.  He paid cash.

Enough for the trip down memory lane.

When you are in sales, your first impression has been made the moment a prospect sets eyes on you, and based on how that prospect reacts, you, in turn, create a first impression of them.

Objective Management Group (OMG), which has evaluated or assessed 1,869,505 salespeople, has a finding I haven't written much about called Sales Posturing.  In a nutshell, Posturing measures first impressions, how memorable you are, and how effectively you differentiate yourself from the competition. In the table below, you'll see scores for Posturing,  as well as Relationship Building which is one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies. 


While there is a correlation between both sets of scores and the overall effectiveness level of salespeople, the difference in scores is minuscule in comparison to creating urgency, The 21 Sales Core Competencies, Closing, and 5 Scores Related to Money.  This proves my point that most salespeople, even the great ones, do not pay enough attention to the quality of their first impressions.

How much focus have you given to how you make your first impression?  Here are 10 things you can control to assure that you make a great first impression.  For a lot of these, Goldilocks and  the Three Bears will be a good guide.  Not too much, not too little, but just right:

  1. Your smile
  2. Your handshake
  3. Your confidence
  4. Your outfit
  5. Your hair
  6. Your first words
  7. Your tonality
  8. Your trustworthiness
  9. Your approach
  10. Your authenticity

Thirty-three years ago, when I was far less experienced in the sales development space, my first impressions were not very good and it was represented by the quality of my clients at the time.  Fortunately, thirty-three years provides a nice, long runway for improvement!

Selling, and especially consultative selling, is difficult enough without having to dig out of the hole created by first impressions gone wrong.  You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression so remember, every encounter provides you with your last chance to make a good first impression.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, relationship building, assessment, omg, the beatles, objective management group, Ed Sullivan

Sales Effectiveness - IDC and CEB Draw Conflicting Conclusions

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 @ 21:02 PM

relationshipThe latest IDC Study says that of the customers who changed vendors last year, 65% did so because they either had a poor relationship with their vendor or a better relationship with the new vendor.  One of their conclusions is that companies need to do a better job teaching their salespeople how to develop relationship building skills, especially in the C-Level.

The latest Corporate Executive Board study starts out with this headline:  "Most companies are betting that reps who focus on building stronger customer relationships will rebuild sales.  They’re wrong—here’s why."

So why are these two studies coming to two different conclusions?

If we look inside the CEB study, they polled 450 first line sales managers and asked them to assess their salespeople in 44 different areas.  There are three huge problems with this:

  1. 44 is far too large a number; 
  2. Most first line sales managers don't possess the ability to recognize what "good" is supposed to look like because good on their team could be the equivalent of poor on any other team;
  3. Objective Management Group's data on more than 100,000 sales managers reveals that 52% of all first line sales managers shouldn't even be in the role and only 7% are elite.  How can we place any value on a study that doesn't limit its participation to the top 7%?

The IDC study fared no better. They polled customers who then rated salespeople in various areas.  How many customers are aware of how the salespeople performed compared to sales expectations?  It was more likely that they rated salespeople in areas like responsiveness, relationships, attention to detail, ability to provide lowest prices and knowledge. These aren't sales competencies, they're professional competencies and they come with an agenda.

Both studies are really nothing more than surveys and surveys are only as good as the design, criteria, objectivity and demographic of the audience being surveyed. 

Do companies need to develop their salespeople in the area of relationship building skills?  Yes, of course.  Our data shows that 74% of the salespeople we have assessed are not as effective as they need to be in that area.  But relationship building skills alone won't get the job done!

Companies must also develop their sales team's selling skills, formalize and optimize their sales processes and significantly develop and improve their sales management skills.

And even more important than all of that?  You absolutely must have the right salespeople in the right roles and nobody can survey their way to those important decisions!  You must evaluate your sales force to determine whether you have the right people, whether they can execute your strategies, whether they can sell the way one must sell to be effective in this new economy, to know how much better they can become, what it will take to get them there and how long before they'll arrive.  Listen to me discuss the reasons to conduct a sales force evaluation.


Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales force evaluation, sales training, sales management, relationship building, Corporate Executive Board, Relationship Selling

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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