Six ways to create a brilliant first impression

Contributors to this article (pictured above, clockwise from top left):

Martyn Dawes, founder, Coffee Nation
Andrew Bailey, founder and CEO, abrs
Linzi Boyd, founder, Surgery Group and M-idas
David Hathiramani, co-founder, A Suit That Fits
Dr Shamus Husheer, co-founder, Cambridge Temperature Concepts

Edited by Maxop

People make their minds up about you in seconds – making a winning impression stems from looks and body language. That’s the conventional wisdom. But in reality, there’s more to it than that. Much more. The five entrepreneurs (listed above) at the Maxop Insights Session barely mentioned clichés like firm handshakes and eye contact when talking about how to make a good impression.

Instead, the entrepreneurs said that although old favourites like punctuality and attire all played a part, it was the substance behind the suit they were interested in. All the entrepreneurs said they were looking for authenticity, passion and confidence. Founders are drawn to positive individuals who come across as genuine, who understand – and show – entrepreneurial spirit and who display confidence.

The challenge is how to communicate those characteristics in order to create a lasting impression. There’s no simple formula but it is possible to hone your approach.

Here are the six key pieces of advice from the five entrepreneurs…

1) Hone the clarity of your message
A clear, easy-to-understand story is critical to making a memorable impression. Can you communicate your offering quickly, in a listener-friendly way?

2) Cultivate your digital profile
Impressions are often formed or confirmed in front of the computer or smartphone and, as Linzi Boyd says, “many professional services firms are playing catch up in the digital age.” How impressive are your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles? Use social media to tell your story and think about using video as an online communication tool.

3) Avoid the hard sell
Entrepreneurs are short of time and do not want to be sold to during those first few meetings. Doing so immediately erodes trust.

4) Show you care
Bolster your potential client’s self belief from the word go, even if they only have a fledgling business. Show your genuine desire for their business to succeed. This was a deciding factor in Martyn Dawes’ choice of who to work with before Coffee Nation’s rise to success.

5) Be memorable
Think about how to make yourself more memorable. As Dr Shamus Husheer says, “being memorable is a trainable skill.”

6) Be genuine and dress accordingly
As David Hathiramani says, “We want to see authenticity and that should come across in your clothing.” Linzi Boyd agrees: “It doesn’t matter what you are wearing – I want to believe you are here to listen and understand me. That’s what’s important.” Also, dress according to your environment and the purpose of your meeting.


Entrepreneurs v professionals

Maxop asked the five entrepreneurs to rank six things traditionally associated with making strong impressions in order of importance. We asked the professionals to do the same…

1. Punctuality
2. Passion and confidence
3. Eye contact
4. Smile
5. Attire
6. Strong handshake

1. Passion and confidence
2. Punctuality
3. Attire
4. Eye contact
5. Smile
6. Strong handshake


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