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First impressions are quick to make and hard to change, which is a stressful thought when preparing for a new client meeting.

You want to make a great first impression that wows clients and tells them you’re the right business for the job at hand. But when impressions form in a tenth of a second, it’s more about the psychological cues you create than anything you say.

The psychology behind first impressions is a fascinating topic and spans years of research and studies. You can use these insights to create the perfect setting for a client meeting that makes a great and lasting first impression – let’s show you how.

The importance of first impressions

First impressions happen in the blink of an eye, with an initial determination made in 1/10 of a second and a more complete conclusion formed in around three seconds.

During those seconds, a person is seeking the answer to two questions:

  1. Can I trust this person?
  2. Can I respect this person?

And you don’t need us to tell you that the answers to these questions can win or lose a client.

If a client forms a negative opinion in those seconds, you have a difficult task ahead. Humans will rationalize subsequent friendly behavior in a way that supports the initial impression. For example, “he’s being nice now so I’ll give him the contract.”

If a client forms a positive opinion in those seconds, don’t get too complacent. Humans will quickly change their impression for the worse, regardless of how great those first three seconds were.

In essence, a first impression can be formed or changed at any point during that first client meeting – meaning you have to do everything possible to make it great.

Psychology tips to making a great first client impression

When you meet a client for the first time, you must be prepared to make a killer first impression. To help, we’ve put together a list of psychology tips to help you get off to the right start.

1. Do your research

If the meeting is planned in advance, take time to research the client, their business, and any other relevant information.

When you show knowledge about the client and their business, you make the client feel valued, and you come across as knowledgeable and invested in the business opportunity.

However, don’t get too personal. It’s ok to mention that you saw a LinkedIn post about their love for abseiling, but it’s not ok to mention that you know what they ate for dinner last night!

2. Welcome them warmly

A warm welcome subconsciously tells the client that you appreciate their visit, you’re excited about the opportunity, and you want them to feel relaxed. It sets you up for a great first impression before you’ve even made it to the reception area.

Ways to warmly welcome clients as they arrive at your business include:

  • Reserving them a parking space at the front of the building.
  • Using corporate digital signage to welcome them as they enter the reception area.
  • Having an efficient sign-in procedure.
  • Quickly making your way to greet them.

3. Dress the part

Your clothes are the first thing a person sees when you’re walking up to them, so make them count.

Always make sure you dress neat and tidy for client meetings while dressing to a formality that matches the occasion and sends the message you want to project. For example, a client might expect an architect to dress business formal when meeting at the office but smart casual when meeting at a building site.

Dressing the part also means dressing to your personality too. If you want to wear a memorable tie, quirky socks, or a conversational piece of jewelry, do it as long as it’s suitable for the occasion.

4. Have a well-equipped conference room

There’s a lot to be said about the impact a well-equipped conference room has on a client’s first impression.

By fitting your conference room with quality tech and audiovisual equipment, you exude:

  • Seamlessness: helping the meeting flow, making you feel easy to work with.
  • Professionalism: investing in the right tools for the job, making you appear knowledgeable.
  • Dedication: creating an outstanding client experience, making your clients feel valued.

For example, a Bose speaker system ensures clients can hear your audio, shows that you know about high-quality brands, and demonstrates your dedication to the client experience.

If you create an interesting and stimulating environment by combining tech, comforts (such as drinks and snacks), and visuals (such as plants and artwork), the meeting will feel interesting and stimulating too.

5. Don’t skip the small talk

Research shows meetings that begin with just five minutes of small talk get better results than meetings that jump straight into the agenda.

Small talk allows you to establish a personal connection while subconsciously showing clients you care about them as people, not just business. And it doesn’t have to be a complex topic – something as simple as the weather, traffic, last night’s score, or even your client’s bright socks.

6. Consider your body language

Your body language is a massive giveaway to the type of person you are and the importance you place on the meeting and client. Beyond a straight back and firm handshake, look to:

  • Keep your posture open to show you welcome feedback and conversation.
  • Learn in when talking to show you’re actively listening.
  • Use hand gestures to show passion and excitement.
  • Make eye contact with everyone in the room to engage interest.

7. Let the conversation flow

Finally, let the conversation flow by allowing the client to speak and by asking open-ended questions. If you dominate the conversation, you make clients feel defensive and unheard. If you open up the conversation, you signal trust, warmth, and collaboration.

They say that you don’t get a second chance to create a first impression. But these tips show that you have multiple opportunities to make sure the first time you meet someone won’t be the last.