Making a good impression is something we all hope to do but certainly for the introverts, standing up and trying to ‘make’ a good impression can feel extremely uncomfortable.
Talking about yourself is not the same as bragging.
Bragging is when you cannot stop talking about yourself
Asking the question, “What do you do for a living?” is a perfectly normal, polite thing to do.
There is no right way to make a good impression, just like there is no right way to raise a child but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do the very best you can. There are things that you can do to make a better impression and it is easier than you might think. In fact you probably do a lot of this anyway but with friends not business contacts. With no need to impress the pressure is off though isn’t it?
You see each of us is unique in our own right and the best thing about being your own boss, is that you can be yourself. No pretences, no facade, just you. It is easy to feel a little insecure when you first start a business. After all, we are learning as we go aren’t we? Trying to make a good impression doesn’t transform you into one of those people everybody avoids, if you follow these simple rules.
1. Be Yourself
It is your experience, your unique often quirky facial expressions & your personal style that make you who you are. Those of you that have met me will know that I have silly curls that have a life of their own, I have a dirty laugh, quite a black sense of humour.
I also have a very British accent when I speak German – a guy on the phone today was clearly very taken by it but for me, well – depending on my mood, I can find it soooo frustrating when people immediately ask me if I am English. The paranoid Corinne takes it personally, “Is my grammar really sooooo bad?”. The regular Corinne who has slept well and has had her sport fix is more relaxed.
I’m over beating myself up about it to be honest. That’s just me. Not everybody has to love the way I am because there are plenty of experts to go around.
I love it.
Being yourself doesn’t mean that you will appear less professional, as a rule, it just means that people know who they are dealing with. No reading between the lines or working out what people are really trying to say.
Less complicated. I like to keep things simple and honest.
Plus, the more authentic you are, the more of your favourite clients and customers will find you. Why pretend to be something we are not, only to find that you are working with a bunch of people that you don’t really relate to.
We buy from people we know, like, then trust. It’s not rocket science, but for those of us that have come from the corporate world of make believe personalities, you’ll know that it can be tempting to slip into old communication habits. Cringe. I find myself doing it too sometimes and it is often when I am nervous. On reflection it makes me cringe but I guess it is a bit of a safety net.
The problem with staying in your comfort zone is that you rarely achieve anything brilliant to be proud of. The ladies I work with don’t do average as a rule and my job is to help them communicate like a queen in English because what you say and how you say it can move the world you operate in like nothing else.
2. Be Prepared.
Ultimately, though, what it comes down to, is confidence isn’t it?
The more you know your stuff, the easier it is to hold yourself proudly, maintain strong eye contact, and speak authoritatively.
It pays to be really clear about what you do.
What problems do you solve. For whom?
I know that the idea of an elevator pitch sounds corny but you really don’t know where your next business champion will show up, so having your one liner ready in your head will give you that confidence.
Elevator Pitch Formula
I (solve this problem) for ….(target market) ….(USP)
But really making a first impression should be all about asking, not telling.
3. Find out about their business.
You see there is nothing worse is there, than someone that comes bounding in like Tigger, dishing out business cards like some 5% discount vouchers , is there?
You see networking often gets mistaken for some kind of sales orgy whereas really good networkers; the ones you enjoy spending time with, are there to establish ‘business friendships’.
Someone who is good at networking is looking for a way to help you build your business, so they want to hear your story, they want to know how it will help someone in their network. It’s fun seeing someone else’s business thrive and really rewarding if you can do something to help make that happen.
For me the best news of any day is a success story from a business friend of mine.
After all in business we need like-minded sparring partners from time to time and the person you are speaking to might never buy anything from you. That’s TOTALLY ok!
They might know someone who only yesterday was talking about exactly the problem you solve. You just never know what skills, contacts, know-how and ideas that people might have, so you need to get them talking by asking questions and resisting the temptation to talk about yourself and your business. It’s fascinating finding out about other women’s business world.
4. Listen Carefully
How can you make a good impression if you don’t know what they are interested in. To make a good impression on someone you need to know a little bit about them. Ask questions but be sure to listen really carefully to the answers (that doesn’t mean that you are planning what to say next in your head!)
It doesn’t have to be an interrogation and German speakers might want to be aware that their English can sound quite harsh to a non-German speaker. If you are feeling nervous, it is tempting to use as few words as possible, for fear of making a mistake, but actually, that tends to make the questions very direct. That, in turn, can make you come across as being less approachable, which would be a shame.
Good listeners remember names too. That’s important and a skill that everyone can learn if it is a priority.
5. Make yourself Approachable
There is a fine line between boasting and telling me about yourself. It isn’t a sin to share what you do, ranting on and on is.
Introduce your questions with information about yourself or your business so that it doesn’t sound like an interview and remember:
- Address people by their name (it’ll help you remember it too)
- Smile (not like a Cheshire cat, just enough to be friendly)
- Look at the person/people you are talking to
- Use indirect language
- Use contractions like, “you’ll love Sarah’s business idea, I’ll introduce you”, or “you’ve got a great logo.”
What do you do? (minimalist German approach)
What do you do for a living Ulrike? (correct version)
So tell me a bit about yourself Ulrike, what do you do? or
Ulrike, what is your business all about? (correct, polite version)
I love working with self employed women and start-ups, what about you?
6. Keep on their radar
Making a good impression is actually only the beginning.
Now you have to find a way to stay on their radar. It is easy to forget about people if you don’t have some kind of system.
Having spent much of my marketing career setting up relationship marketing systems for clients, I am passionate about this. But of course it isn’t just the software that you need, part and parcel of that ‘system’ or ‘process’ is investing the time, consistently to manage the system and building on the relationships that you already have.
Think of it as a sociable way to do marketing, people will love you for it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to be brilliant at what you do but emotions play a big role here, never underestimate that.
Start-ups need to make a good impression from the word go.
It’s about people and relationships, not your dream, product or service.
Many start ups make the fatal mistake of disappearing into thin air once they have finished the crowdfunding campaign – what kind of impression does that make?
If you are a start up you would be recommended to get relationship marketing sorted ASAP.
Why? If you build it from the word go you’ll be
a) fostering a CRM culture in your organisation and
b) save yourself time-consuming set up and administration once you are really at the stage when you need to invest your time in selling.
Those of you that have read “Cityboy” by Geraint Andersen will know that even an ego centred stock broker worked out that having a good system or process in place to keep in touch with people made the difference between you being an arrogant nobody or someone people enjoyed being with. It got him into trouble and debt but it also made him hugely successful and rich before the … hit the fan.
The trick is not to see it as selling, you are not selling them anything, you are being there for them.
How can I keep in touch without feeling like a stalker?
Well, one of my personal favourites is sharing information, referred to as curating content. So every time you read something interesting there should be a little voice in your head saying
“Ohh Johanna from … would enjoy reading this!” copying and pasting the url and whizzing it off in an email or sharing via email is a no brainer 2 minute job, yet the person receiving it will be touched that you thought of them.
A blog post, newspaper cutting in the post (real mail gets double points believe me) or a phone call can go a long way and as simple as it is, most people don’t do it.
Why doesn’t everyone do this? It’s easy.
Are they too caught up in their own careers to think about others?
If so then that is a great opportunity for the rest of us! Remember, that ultimately we work with people who we enjoy being with and who are looking out for our interests. It might seem like back scratching but with authenticity that soon fades.
If you discover a great restaurant, reach out and tell someone else who enjoys great food and appreciates good service.
Telling them about a restaurant might not seem like a big deal, but these things all help to keep your name on their radar. Even if now is not the right time for them to work with you, when it is, you are going to be the most obvious, possibly only name that they think of. How cool is that? Not bad for a bundle of two minute thoughtful moments to be friendly, helpful and interested.
Offering your support and sharing contacts, ideas and lunches with business friends is enjoyable and you know what they say “what goes around comes around”. So if you do something great for someone else, your time will come to be on the receiving end. Not necessarily from the same person or organisation but believe me givers are a pleasure to give back to. The curious thing is that nobody knows when, where or how. Your job is to spot the opportunity and run with it.
So those are my top six tips for making business friends that will help you take your business to the next level.
I would love to hear which of these you are going to focus on this month? It should take no longer than 15 minutes a day.
If you focus on one a month you WILL notice a difference, when you see it, make sure that you come and share your tips and tricks and the impact of this turnaround on the Professional English for Women FB page.