There is an old business saying, "You only get one chance to make a good first impression." There are many differing views on that statement - some people say it's true, others say it's false, and then there are some of us who feel that it can be both true and false. Everyone agrees that your body language is the initial indicator on how you will be perceived. Those indicators include; how you dress, your handshake, personal hygiene, vocal inflections, and your use of eye contact. I am not going to discuss those items because my friends Kevin Hogan and Tonya Reiman both have great books on Amazon that will teach you how to become an expert in body language.
Let's take a look at another aspect of first impressions. When you meet a client/prospect for the first time, you are representing your product or service - your package. As we just mentioned, your body language plays a huge part, but so do things like; your preparedness, timeliness of arrival, quality of your presentation, length of your meeting, and your collateral materials. If you happen to mess up on any of these items, there is hope to salvage a bad first impression. Follow these four steps to help you make a winning recovery:
How do they see you? The first step to recovering a bad first impression is to mentally take yourself back to that time and place yourself in their shoes. Imagine how they saw/perceived you. What do you think that they didn't like about you? Then, be HONEST with them! Say something like, "I think I seemed to come across a little too inflexible toward your needs." Or whatever you feel you lacked in the first meeting.
Be yourself. Don't try to fix a bad impression by going in the second time as someone you are not, and most importantly, be authentic in your first meeting. Everyone can see through someone who is being phony and trying to be something or someone they aren't - just to make a sale. Make sure your 'package' is appropriate for the setting of your meeting, i.e. don't go onto a construction site with a suit and tie on - wear your khakis, hardhat, and steel-tip shoes. You have to learn to adapt like a chameleon to your meeting surroundings, while still keeping your sense of genuineness and being authentic.
Don't overdue it. What is the old analogy, "don't hang a picture hook with a sledge hammer?" Don't go into a second opportunity gushing over with apologies! Make your statement and move on. Many people tend to over estimate and over compensate their behaviors when they are embarrassed. Be sure to discipline yourself to not overreact.
Take time to cool off. Give your client/prospect time to heal, remember - "time heals all wounds." Most people will try to jump right in and schedule a second 'make-up' meeting right away, if you do, that will just perpetuate the bad feelings from the first meeting. Both parties need time to re-group, forget, and forgive (good advice for dating too). Let time work for your benefit, keeping in mind that the intensity of feelings diminishes over time.
Also, remember this important lesson of persuasion - stupidity always wins over arrogance! It is best to play dumb and admit that you don't know something, versus being arrogant and trying to be right all the time. If you don't know something and have to go and research it in order to get an answer back to your client/prospect, that already opens the door for a second follow-up meeting.
So, if by chance you do make a bad first impression, these above tips will help you regain your winning edge. But remember, you can't please everyone, and some will dislike you no matter what. Take time to study body language skills, be yourself, be relaxed, be confident, be optimistic, and keep everything in perspective.