By Paul Reilly

Have you ever met someone and later realized you had food in your teeth or your zipper was down? These blunders are often obvious to others, but not to you. People are too nice (or too embarrassed) to say something. You only realize the mistake later on, when you look in the mirror.

In our training seminars, I often ask salespeople about their first impressions. And, most of the time, participants agree they do a great job of creating a first impression. But, how do you know unless you look in the mirror? The salesperson’s inability or unwillingness to look in the mirror creates a blind spot. Salespeople see what they want to see and miss opportunities to improve.

A first impression is a lasting impression. People seek out information that is consistent with their initial impression of someone or something. In psychological terms, this is called confirmation bias. Therefore, a positive first impression sets off a chain reaction where the other person is more likely to notice other positive things about you. Unfortunately, the same is true for a negative first impression.

In sales, the first impression is a perception created by the buyer. Although salespeople cannot control the buyer’s perception, they can greatly influence it.

At the center of the word impression (or close to it) is PRE. PRE- is a prefix meaning before, or previous to. What you do before the sales call greatly influences the success or failure of that call.

PREpare for the call. Our research shows that 95 percent of top-achieving salespeople routinely plan and prepare for every sales call. If you want to be a top achiever, prepare like one. Take a look at this article to help you prepare for the sales call: Answer These 6 Questions Before Every Sales Call. Preparation builds a positive first impression.

PREtend you are the buyer. It’s widely believed that you have seven seconds to make a first impression. You’d better be prepared to crush the first few moments of the interaction. Imagine the buyer is sitting across from you and role-play the first seven seconds. Better yet, sit in front of the mirror and roleplay the first seven seconds. How do those seven seconds feel to the buyer?

PREdispose the buyer to your message of value. In Value-Added Selling, this is called positioning. Before meeting with a prospective buyer, share relevant information that creates an image in their mind. By sharing this information, you are preparing the buyer to receive your message of value. In a recent seminar, a participant shared her positioning technique. She shares a testimonial video with a prospective buyer before their meeting. By the time she meets with the buyer, she has already created a positive image in their mind.

A first impression is a lasting impression. Although the buyer forms the impression, your preparation greatly influences their perception. What you do before the meeting is more important than what you do after. Prepare for the meeting, practice your opening, and predispose the buyer to your positive message. And finally, look in the mirror and identity those blind spots. You might be the one with food in your teeth.

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