Dollars and Sense: First impressions will definitely last

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Gary’s eyes scanned the room. It was certainly a busy office. People were scurrying back and forth; the desks he could see were piled with papers. Phones rang, and nobody answered. The one word that popped into Gary’s head was &8220;chaos.&8221; He began to have reservations about doing business with this organization. When he finally met with the company’s representative, this first impression had predetermined his decision.

The company Gary visited might have been highly competent to handle Gary’s business, but by not paying attention to the little things, everything that followed was almost automatically rejected.

The Physical Facility

When visitors enter your place of business, whether they are customers, bankers, potential employees or government regulators, the impression made by that first sight influences their perception of you. Try looking at your facility through the eyes of a stranger. Would you feel comfortable doing business in this environment? Does your place of business reflect professionalism? Obviously, a machine shop cannot be as spotless as a doctor’s office, but it should be at least as neat as other machine shops.

In any facility, check to assure that it is clean and orderly, that tools and equipment are properly stored when not used, that desks are not overflowing with papers and in general, that there is a business-like atmosphere.

We cannot change our basic physical appearance, but we can make the most of our assets and minimize what may be perceived as defects. One does not have to have movie-star good looks to make a positive imprint. Good grooming, appropriate dress, a pleasant smile and proper manners are the first steps in making a good impression.

Perhaps the most effective way to make a good first impression is to follow Dale Carnegie’s advice: &8220;Become genuinely interested in other people.&8221; If you make a point to show sincere interest in somebody from the moment of initial contact, it will do more than anything else to develop instant rapport.

On the Telephone

Quite often, the first contact we have with an individual is on the telephone. To make a good impression on callers, answer the telephone promptly. If you know that the person will have to wait for any length of time, let that person know about how long and suggest that you will be happy to call him or her back.

In case the individual elects to wait, have somebody advise him that you are still talking so they have the option of either continuing to wait or request you return the call. Always let the caller talk until the complaint or message is fully explained. If you cannot help, give as much information as you can to enable the person to obtain the help needed.

Correspondence Creates First Impressions

When Warren attended a time management seminar, he was told that the time spent on writing business letters could be shortened significantly if the writer would just jot down the response on the bottom of the letter received and mail it back to the person who sent it. Warren put this idea into practice immediately. It certainly did save time, but in doing this, the image of his company suffered. In following up a sales lead that he had answered in this manner, he learned that the prospect decided not to do business with Warren’s company because their response to his inquiry was &8220;unprofessional.&8221;

Your correspondence represents you to the public. Your letterhead should be designed to represent the image you wish to the present. Spelling and typographical errors can be interpreted as indicators of a careless or inefficient operation. A poor choice of words or incorrect grammar is readily detected by intelligent readers. Reread correspondence before mailing.

Make sure all letters are error-free.

First impressions are hard to overcome. If a negative or undesirable impression is made on that first contact, it may permeate relations with that party for years to come. It takes a little thought and effort to establish the basis for making good impressions, but it is well worth the effort