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5 Tips on Creating a Positive First Impression for Startups and SMEs

So, you must have heard quite a few things over the years about first impressions but in selling it is real – the way that you are perceived by a person or people who you are meeting you for the first time.

Here are a few interesting ‘facts’ that I’ve heard:

  • When meeting somebody for the first time, they will form the first impression of you in less than 7 seconds
  • The First Impression of you is the most lasting
  • First impressions are nearly impossible to reverse
  • They set the tone for the relationship that follows
  • More than 50% of the message in face to face meetings is transmitted by the speaker’s appearance and body language

Given these important facts about why making a positive first impression during business obviously, every sales person thinks about it a lot. Wrong. In my experience, it’s seldom discussed and almost never practised. 

Here are 5 tips for always creating a positive first impression. 


Nothing is worse than being late for a first meeting – even just a few minutes late is a complete first impression destroyer. Yet in my experience, consistently being late for appointments is probably the biggest performance issue that exists with salespeople.  However, as most clients don’t sit them down at the end of the meeting and let them know just how they feel about them being late, the salesperson thinks it wasn’t a problem and doesn’t learn from it. Does it have a negative impact though – yes, every time.

Imagine the client checking their watch to see that it has just turned 9 am and the sales person who seemed very keen to meet has not turned up. They will be thinking of little else as the time become 9.01, then 9.02 and so on. They will be thinking – their business is not valued, they are not being shown respect, they are not being treated professionally and much more. An extreme example? Maybe, but why risk it. Selling is difficult enough; don’t cause problems that are easily avoidable even before you meet the client.

Salespeople always have a ‘reasonable’ excuse for being late. Mostly excuses I hear are linked to bad traffic, not being able to find a parking space or getting lost!  No matter how politely the client accepts the excuse when you meet him, trust me it hasn’t worked. He just immediately mistrusts you.

There is traffic on our streets, there are parking issues, we must know about these and take them into consideration. There are sometimes one-off issues but we should anticipate these and arrive early. What is the downside? None. Being at a client’s 20 minutes early means you can get your laptop out, catch up with some work or do final preparation for the meeting.

Many sales people say that if they are late they call ahead. Well, I really hope you do. But calling 5 minutes before the meeting is due to start just demonstrates that you are disorganised at best and not taking them seriously at worst. There will be very occasional times when you are late for a genuine reason – if this happens, let’s you customer know as far in advance of the meeting start time as is possible.


Firstly, I’d like to say here that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to always wear a suit and tie nor does it mean that you pay no attention to what you’re wearing and dress in anything you feel like on the day. It’s simple really, wear what you think the client you are meeting with would expect you to wear.

It is always best to mirror your client as much as possible. If you are a sales engineer selling to engineers in dirty industrial plants, then a suit is most likely not appropriate. Similarly, if you are meeting with a bank or insurance company then clearly suited is the way to go. The industry and client base you have will often make what to wear relatively simple, but as a rule of thumb for the first meeting, you should always make sure that you ‘overdressed’ to show respect, rather than assuming what is OK. Once you have a relationship it will be easy.

And it’s not just about what you wear. A lot of times you may have been rushing around so you may need to allow for a quick check from top to toe in the mirror before you go into the client just to give yourself the thumbs up. It will make you feel good about yourself ahead of the meeting.


Sometimes you have been working hard to get the meeting you are attending and you really appreciate the time you have been given. However, don’t be bending over backwards with thanks when you meet the client. Otherwise, you are saying that your time is not really that valuable and what you have to discuss isn’t that important.

When you go into any meeting you need to be confident in yourself and your product. Your time is important and they should also appreciate the time you are taking. This will be clearly noted in your body language.

If you head toward your contact with clear eye contact, walking tall and a firm handshake, you will be somebody they want to meet and give up time for. However, this is not a skill, you need to believe in yourself and your product or service and then be conscious of your actions.

Handshakes – Just a quick point on the reference I made to a ‘firm’ handshake. Firm means firm, not trying to break the other person’s hand. Nobody is impressed these days with an overly strong handshake. It might have been important in the past but not now. Likewise, a weak, soft handshake, can also create a terrible impression early one so stick with a sincere, firm shake. 


Watch your manners. This is a simple one but important. Avoid any kind of arrogance and just be led by the client. Stand up if you are sitting down, wait till they invite you to move toward a certain area, don’t push by through the door first and so on. I’m sure we all know what good manners are so again all you need to do here is just be aware of the impression that you are making.


Your mobile phone vibrating or making sounds during a first meeting is almost as bad as being late in creating the first impression. Turn if fully off and put it in your bag or case. Your objective is to make it clear that you are paying full attention to your client, that you are interested in what they have to say. This is impossible if you are fiddling with a phone.


Clearly, there is no rocket science here, making a good first impression should be straightforward but just take a couple of minutes to go back through the last 10 first contact meetings that you have attended. Did you ALWAYS fulfil ALL the 5 items listed above? They’re not exclusive, you must do all of them all the time.

Challenge yourself. Think back were you presentable? Were you confident? Were you ever two minutes late? If you cannot put a check by everyone then you have missed a chance that you can never regain.

I’m going to be tough on sales people here, but many times I hear a sales person say their product or service is too expensive. Could this be an excuse? Maybe somewhere along the line, maybe at First Impressions, they let themselves down and never recovered and maybe, just maybe, the price would not have been such a big deal.

As the client does not give you a score out of 10 the first time they meet you, you need to challenge yourself and check if you are doing everything possible to create a good First Impression. 

Peter Heredia
 Article supplied by Peter Heredia of Max Sale Solutions. Max Sale Solutions is a consultancy firm helping companies cut through the issues that are limiting increased sales. Unlike traditional sales training companies, they know that it is as important to increase the efficiency of a sales team by managing activity as well as improving their sales skills.

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