As a sales rep, you are one of the main contributors to your company’s sales success. It is your responsibility to sell products and services to clients. Due to your position as a representative, you also act as an extension of the company and can influence how clients perceive the business as a whole.
It is likely that through interacting with you, clients will form an opinion about you and relate it to the business as a whole. This first impression is important when meeting new prospects. A bad first impression may deter new prospects, while a good impression is more likely to lead to a fruitful relationship.
Physical appearances matter
Many believe that “we should not judge a book by it’s cover”, and yet appearances are important for first impressions. While a good book doesn’t need a good-looking cover to be interesting, a book with a good-looking cover is more likely to be read.
Part of this is pure psychology. When encountering new scenarios, we often associate small things in the new scenario with experiences in the past. It helps us as a species to navigate new environments and encounters. Therefore, people already have preconceived notions about what a reliable person looks like, what a lazy person looks like, and what a professional person looks like, and so on.
So, it would seem that the usual recommendations apply. Dress appropriately. Understand the kind of environment that your clients work in. Wearing very formal clothing while meeting in a casual environment may come across as incongruent and out of place. Meeting with a client should be done on the same level — if they are more formal, you should dress more formally. Grooming is also important. Physical appearance can have direct sensory effects on clients. Poor personal hygiene can potentially repel clients.
Self-presentation underlines all interactions
Your attitude reflects the way you deal with people and events. It can be something overt, but sometimes it can be subtle and still influence how others see you. Once you begin interacting, you shape a client’s first appearances beyond just your appearance.
Choosing to approach prospects with a positive, confident, and helpful attitude will leave a positive first impression. Heading in with a tired and annoyed attitude will most likely create friction between you and your client leading to a bad first impression.
People who are rude and impolite are generally disliked, so acting in a polite manner and using basic courtesy will generally score a few points in your favour. Confidence also lends itself to a positive first impression. Lack of confidence is often linked to unreliability and arrogance turns most people off.
Put your best foot forward. In order to lead with the right amount of confidence, leading with your strengths is more effective. If you’re a natural socialiser perhaps more small talk in the beginning can help your clients to feel more comfortable. If your strength is knowledge about your industry, then you can lead with your unique insights.
Active engagement instills confidence
How would you feel if you were to have an important conversation with someone, but they constantly fidgeted or were distracted? Now transfer this to the client. A sales rep who isn’t very engaged in the conversation does not instill confidence that they are there to solve a client’s needs or even care about the client.
Additionally, the more you know about the client, the more you are able to navigate conversations with them. Furthermore, this added effort will reflect nicely on their impression of you. Building this knowledge allows you to build a better relationship with your client.
Ask open-ended questions. Asking simple questions that you could have just learned on your own shows a lack of research instead. Doing your homework works to create a better first impression and to cultivate a stronger connection with the client.
Don’t neglect online interactions
When meeting prospects online, these “rules” still apply. It’s easy to get distracted in an online meeting, but resist the urge to scroll through emails. While clients may not be able to see your screen, lack of engagement can still show itself.
Often, online meetings can have a lot of setup complications in the beginning. “Can everyone hear me?”, “Who should speak first?”, and “When should we get down to business?” are all questions that are frequently asked. It is your role to sort out all these issues and to make things comfortable for your meeting participants.