Impressive First Impressions

So check this out.Recently I received an email from someone who found me on LinkedIn. The person wasn’t a connection of mine, so I had no idea who he was or where he worked.

Let’s go through some of the items on the email (indicated by red letters A-F) and how it influenced my impression of this person. I changed personally identifiable information and will call him John Doe.


A – John’s email in the “from” line is from what I call “CompanyName1.” All good so far.
B – The subject of the email is “Offer for Thensetta Group of Companies.” This seems all fine and well except my company name is “Consetta.”
C – In his signature line he identifies himself as working for “Company Name 2,” which is different from the company in his email address
D – His website is listed as “Companyname3.com,” which is different from both the company names in his email address and signature. What’s even more interesting is that the underlying URL is different from the listed company name. When I copied “Companyname3.com” into my browser I got a “Page Not Found” message. When I clicked on the hyperlink it took me to a parked webpage.
E – The portfolio in Vimeo has yet another company name which is different than all the others.
F – John tells me that if I want to stop getting emails from him I need to reply with “remove.” I presume that means to put the word “remove” in the subject line. Any reputable company uses an email service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp with a structured unsubscribe process.

Needless to say, there’s no way in heck I’m going to do business with John Doe. The first impression he left was so abysmally bad that I could never imagine entrusting him with helping me resolve a business problem.

I suspect that if you’ve been in business for any period of time you’ve heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Despite this saying being as old as dirt, I’m amazed at how frequently I’ve seen professionals, both seasoned and newbie, create a negative perception in a first interaction. It’s even worse when, like the John Doe email, a negative first impression is earned through careless and reckless mistakes. The way John Doe bungled his first interaction with me told me volumes about what he might be to work with. While it’s entirely possible he is a competent professional, I’ll never know because he’ll never get a second chance with me.

If you think you might need some help on creating positive first impressions, give the following six tips a look before your next meeting with someone new.
  1. Learn all you can – Take the time up front to learn about the person. With all that’s available on LinkedIn and through general web searches, there’s simply no reason to go into a meeting not knowing anything about the person. But balance this with point two…
  2. Don’t look like a stalker – Just because you learned a lot about someone doesn’t mean you have to bombard them with your research. I’ve met with eager first-timers who, in an effort to impress me, started rattling off articles I’ve written, companies I’ve worked for, and things about my family. While on one hand I was impressed they took some time to learn about me, I was also creeped out with how much they appeared to obsess over me. This leads me to point three…
  3. Look for a couple of connection points – Many people know of my passion for helping the autism community and their loved ones. I’ve always appreciated when someone has asked a genuinely sincere question or related a personal situation about autism. It shows that they not only took a bit of time to learn about me, but also lets me know the other person is passionate about something I am. Just make sure you follow point four…
  4. Be genuinely interested – I can smell a mile away when someone talks about a connection point only to try to warm me to the relationship. I don’t want to talk about my passion area with a disinterested party. When looking for connection points, make sure it’s a topic in which you are genuinely interested. A good test is to ask yourself: Would I talk about this connection area with this person even if there were no underlying agenda? Wrap up the meeting with point five…
  5. Take the initiative to summarize actions – Summarize the meeting with specific actions you and/or the other person will take and when the action will be taken, then include the summarized actions in a follow-up email. This underscores for me that they see our meeting as important enough to take action to keep us both aligned. Just don’t drop the ball on point six…
  6. Do what you say you’ll do – It drives me crazy when someone commits to something by a due date, then doesn’t deliver. Even if something comes up which prevents you from meeting your commitment, send a note prior to the due date with a revised date. Avoid the “My dog ate my homework” explanations; just a quick note telling when the commitment will be completed.
Positive first impressions matter. Creating negative first impressions through carelessness or being unprepared is just shooting yourself in the foot. Take first impressions seriously and do all you can to make your first impression impressive.

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Lonnie Pacelli

Lonnie Pacelli has 35 years' experience including 11 at Accenture, 9 at Microsoft, and 15 as an independent strategy consultant and author. Independent director at Northwest Center, a $60m disability inclusion non-profit that operates 7 businesses that fund services provided to people with disabilities. Held key positions at Microsoft including managing $6b in spend as director of corporate procurement and leading the worldwide corporate planning and budgeting group. Lonnie Pacelli is passionate about helping leaders help themselves. See more at LonniePacelli.com.

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