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Important First Impressions

Furniture World Magazine


You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!

Nine to thirty seconds - that's it! That's all the time you have to make a good first impression! What's even more scary? If someone's first impression of you is negative, it will take them three times as long to change their mind about you!

What happens during those first crucial seconds?


55% of this impression depends on the way you look!

How did you put yourself together today? We are in the "fashion business," aren't we? Uh, huh! The effort you put into "putting yourself together" speaks volumes about you. You are a walking billboard for your company, "Me, Inc." How you look signals to the consumer, "I care about you and the way I present myself to you. You are special to me, so I made an extra effort for you today."

Joe Girard, the author of "How To Sell Yourself To Anybody," says he keeps a note on his mirror that he reads every morning before he goes out the front door, "would I buy me today?"

If you're not going to buy you, turn around, go back up those steps and start all over!!!

At some seminars I'm asked the question, "shouldn't I dress down to make my customers feel more comfortable?" The answer to that question is "no, no, & no!" They are stopping into your showroom to conduct business with a professional. They want to find someone they can trust to assist them. The more professional you present yourself, the more efficient and "expert" you appear to this person. Remember, They have to buy "you" before they buy anything!

If they're embarrassed by their appearance they'll blurt it out! I had clients who stopped in wearing shorts. They used to say, "Cathy, I'm just dropping in to say 'hello.' please excuse my appearance."

I would just laugh & say, "are you kidding? I'd give anything to be dressed like you. You look great! Pantyhose and four inch heels in 95 degree heat are not my idea of fun!" (gentlemen, you can point out wearing a jacket and tie!) This immediately puts them at ease. Now they're smiling and laughing!

After your wardrobe, next comes your body language. How do you carry yourself? How do you use the space around you? What is your bearing or your presence. We give more power to people who take up more space!

Ladies, we're at a distinct disadvantage here. We are taught growing up to sit up straight, cross legs at the ankles with hands folded on our laps. We are taught one word about taking up space... don't!

Welcome to the 90's. Those days are over. I want you taking up space! Stand up! Gesture more! Stake your claim! Move!

Gentlemen, why do you wear that jacket? Why do you feel more comfortable, more authoritarian in this outer garb? You look more finished. You look "broader." You take up more space. It gives you more width across the chest. Your attire is complete. You look ready to take care of business. One gentleman at my seminars told me that when he puts on his jacket, "he is putting on his armor!"

OK, you're 'together' and you're taking up space! Now there is one more part of this 55% that is absolutely essential. Are you smiling?

We get on what I call "cruise control." We fall, stumble, and get into a "rut." We start to do this job by rote. We go to greet this "up" and we're thinking about that date last night, what we're going to have for lunch, and a zillion other things!

First of all, let's get down to the "net-net" of this situation.

Are you doing what you love and loving what you do? If you're not "glowing," you're not "growing!" In other words, if you're not having a good time, then your customer's not having a good time. If they are not having a good time they are not going to want to own anything that you have to sell. It can't get any simpler than that! When you're excited about what you do, they know! You can't fake this stuff!

Your enthusiasm affects everyone around you. Think of yourself and your friends. Don't you like to be around people who are "up," who are happy, who are glad to see you? Then there's that person who just tolerates your existence and you're an interruption in their already busy day?

Think about it. How do you treat your customers? As friend or foe? When you're around happy people it's more fun! When somebody smiles you smile back. Endorphins are released, your metabolic rate increases, your heart picks up speed, you're "pumped!"

Ladies, you'll appreciate this! When you smile you only use 7 facial muscles. However; when you frown you use 48! You decide. My face already looks like a "Goodyear radial!" I, for one, am going to keep on smiling. An added bonus is that it also drives grumpy humans crazy!

Remember, your professionalism is showing. That's right, when you're enthusiastic it let's them know that you enjoy what you do and you enjoy them. You are a pro. Your professionalism comes shining through.

People react to what you reflect. If you act like you are the best person around to assist them, are they going to sense this? You bet. Go ahead, walk around like you own the place. You are the best, aren't you?

I told all my people when I was in management, "you can lose all your senses in this business, but, never, ever lose your sense of humor. Once that's gone, turn off all the lights and lock the doors. Keep on smiling and laughing. Oh, and ladies, never suppress giggles. If you do, they go straight to your thighs!

In his book, "how I raised myself from failure to success in selling," Frank Bettinger says when you're in sales, it all comes down to one thing, "enthusiasm!"

You are there to help them make this important decision and they need your expertise.

This is all a part of that 55% of how they're sizing you up in those crucial first 9 to 30 seconds of the first impression!

What's next? Your voice. How's yours? How do you sound? That's 38% of the first impact! This is one particular area that you may not have thought much about until now... and it is crucial.

If you sound like "Minnie Mouse" ladies, are they going to perceive you as competent? Gentlemen, if your voice is loud or booming you may terrify your customer in those first few seconds. Remember, she doesn't want to be here to begin with.

This fact really came to light for me a few years ago when I was on a plane. The "voice" came over the intercom.

"Hi-i-i-i- everybody, I'm Cind-deee! I am here-re-re-re for your safe-tee-ee-ee and-d-d-d your comfort!!!!" (think "bee-bop" of a "valley girl" and you've got the picture, "totally!")

It was the funniest thing you ever saw. Do you remember how little "E.T.'s" neck went straight up in the air when he was scared? Well 200 passenger's necks shot straight up! The people on the left pivoted to the right, while the people on the right were facing them with the same frozen expressions on their faces! All thoughts registered the same S.O.S., "can we Abort this mission now?" How safe would you feel in "Cin-dee's" hands?

This is something you must always take into consideration. Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on your answering machine? Scary, huh? Who is that person? I don't sound like that!

Please do not think, "I was born with this voice. There is nothing I can do to change it." Not so!

Ladies, we tend to talk from the throat, which raises the pitch of our voice. This is where the "squeaky," and "shrill" sounds are produced. Practice lowering your voice by talking from the diaphragm. Slow the pace down if you're a fast talker. By lowering your pitch and speaking more distinctly, you sound much more professional, credible, and someone that they "want to do business with."

Gentlemen, if your voice is loud, booming, and bordering on intimidation, turn down the volume, slow down, and smile. When you smile it takes away the "fear factor" for the consumer, and lets her know that she is "safe."

I know that I am very conscious of this. My speaking voice is low, but when I get excited it goes up, and up, and up. It's very attractive. It sounds like a mouse with it's tail caught in the door! I'm always watching to keep it in low gear!

This does not mean that you need to be "phony!" It means that by just modulating your tone and pitch you can come across as more proficient. It makes your job, and your life easier. It works!

If you are talking to someone on the phone whom you've never met, that 38% of the first impression just skyrocketed to 70%! Scary, isn't it?

The way you look and sound accounts for a whopping 93% of the first impression. The last 7% are the words you use. Your customers are so busy taking in how you look and what you sound like that the words do not register during those first crucial seconds!

Remember that's only the first thirty seconds. After that the words... what you say and how you say it become all-important! (if you missed them, check out the February, March and April issues of FURNITURE WORLD or view them in the Sales Skill index on http://www. furninfo.com). Now you've got it all covered!

Have a good time out there... Play... and, oh, "would you buy you today?"

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates and "T'NT". She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer and management consultant. She has just produced an audio management tape series called "pass the power please." 10 audio tapes plus an instructors manual that has been receiving rave reviews. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com