You’ve probably heard the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression”. Various studies suggest that a first impression is cemented within the first few minutes or even seconds of interaction. This implies that if you make a mistake or if you’re perceived negatively through no fault of your own, there’s nothing you can do about it. Is that true?

In many cases, the answer is no. Bad first impressions can be corrected with a little skill and effort. As a salesperson, it’s important that you learn and practice these skills. Why? For one thing, they can help you to recover and salvage your good image when there’s a hiccup in communication. For another, you can also prevent many mistakes.

Consider five things you can do to master first impressions and strengthen your interpersonal skills overall.

1. Practice naturalness

Though it may be difficult to do when talking to a stranger, try to be natural. This applies both to your speech and your mannerisms. There may be a few awkward moments at first. However, any tension should ease up as the conversation progresses and you both get more comfortable.

Try to enjoy the moment. Relax. Converse with each person as if they are an old friend. Of course, that doesn’t mean being too informal, which could make you seem unprofessional. Instead, the key is to be or to seem comfortable and unintimidated as you interact.

If you appear tense, nervous or uncomfortable, it can be offputting. You may then seem less than trustworthy as if you’re trying to hide something. Even being too enthusiastic could come across as forcing your products or services on people, while not having their best interests in mind.

2. Don’t appease

As a salesperson, you interact with individuals who are looking for solutions or, at the very least, information. These people want your honest advice, recommendations and expertise. Give them what they want, even if it means that you have to respectfully disagree on some points.

Many salespeople fear that disagreeing when there’s good reason for it will work against them. But should you agree 100% of the time out of fear? No way! You’d be surprised how much honesty is appreciated, especially when the alternative is dishonesty. People will be able to tell when you agree halfheartedly or just for the sake of doing so. That will do far more harm to your sales and your reputation than stating what you know to be true.

3. Show real interest

Your main focus when talking to people shouldn’t be to get another sale under your belt. That will come across in the way that you interact and deter potential leads. That’s the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do! Instead, try to show genuine interest in each person that you deal with. How can you do this?

  • Ask questions to encourage open, relaxed conversation.
  • Make eye contact to show that you’re listening to their responses.
  • Avoid fumbling, looking around or getting distracted. Show that you appreciate the individual’s time.

Showing interest and encouraging two-way conversation can give you insight into your target audience. Such valuable information will help you to more effectively present your solutions to the people that need them. At the same time, they’ll be received more enthusiastically by potential leads. Win-win!

4. Pay attention to how you carry yourself

The key words in the above heading are “pay attention.” Sometimes, without even realizing it, you can give off a negative vibe or impression with your posture, body language and speech. In order to avoid that, pay close attention to how you carry yourself. By being more conscious of your habits, you can make any needed adjustments. If you want to appear confident and knowledgeable:

  • Make sure to stand up straight and tall. Avoid slouching.
  • Be warm and friendly. Smile like you mean it.
  • Speak at a pace that allows your message to be understood clearly. Avoid filler words such as “um,” “like” and “er.”

5. Try to have an impact

Make it your goal to leave something better than you found it. Leave a person more educated, more interested in what you offer or, at least, leave them smiling.

Of course, not every conversation will result in a sale or even a new lead. However, if your conversations are beneficial in some way and have a positive impact, that’s perfectly fine.

Conclusion: Make good first impressions and correct bad ones

Why not try these five suggestions when conversing with potential leads at trade fairs and similar events? If you do, you’ll gradually see improvement in the quality of the relationships that you form.

Aim to go into each interaction strong, which will set you up for success. But even if you do start off a little rocky, you can use these same tips to recover quickly. This will increase your chances of capturing leads and, ultimately, making sales.