You get one chance to make a first impression. In business, this adage is even more significant.
Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, conducted widely recognized research that suggests what you say and don’t say impact people’s perception of you. His findings suggest words (the literal meaning) account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38% and body language accounts for 55% of an overall message. While what you say matters, the context is also important.
Here’s a look at five ways to improve the context of your initial business connections and build relationships with more ease.
Dress to impress
No, it isn’t vanity. Studies suggest “very subtle ways in which clothing influences all kinds of impressions about us… People make their assessments in the first few seconds of seeing another; assessments that go way beyond how well you are dressed and how neat and tidy you might look.” When potential clients and partners see you, do they see someone that aligns with their own image and someone that’s worthy of investment?
Respect everyone’s time
Punctuality can make or break your business relationships. Being prompt shows respect for another persons time. You’ve probably heard the adage: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.”
If your meeting is at 8:00 a.m., arrive at the venue 15 minutes ahead of time. Did you set a sales presentation for 30 minutes? If so, make sure to wrap up on time and leave a buffer period for Q&A.
How you handle another person’s time reflects your level of respect for them. When you show up on time or wrap up within an agreed schedule it also shows you honor your word of honor. If you want people to trust you with their business, show them they can trust you with their time.
Be an active listener
Listening skills are just as important as verbal skills. When a client is talking, make sure to keep natural eye contact. Nod to show agreement or to encourage them to continue without interruption. Wait for your turn to talk and put aside your phone or tablet. When people feel they are heard, you make them feel valued. When people are valued they go out of their way to support your cause.
Consider your body language
The way people feel around you has a lot to do with your body language. Do you want to exude confidence? Stop fidgeting and maintain eye contact when you talk to people.
Do you want to assure people you’re interested in what they have to say? Lean in and nod from time to time to let them know you’re into the conversation. Good posture and appropriate hand gestures (and even smiling from time to time) conveys self-assuredness and will put people at ease around you.
Identify what makes your brand a cut above the rest. Listen to how customers describe your business and why they are proud to do business with you. What does your business offer that others don’t? You are worth remembering, but it takes some branding savvy to stand out from the crowd.
Catherine vanVonno, the author, is the President and Executive Director of 20Four7VA, a global virtual assistant (VA) service provider. She holds a doctorate degree in applied statistics, research design and program evaluation from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and over 10 years experience in facilitating evidence-based strategic planning, product development, brand management, legislative communications, and medical policy. She is married with four children. Connect with @20Four7VA on Twitter.