Here’s How to Win the ‘First Impression’ Game

Here’s How to Win the ‘First Impression’ Game

It’s generally recognized that we only have around 7 seconds to make a good first impression. I believe this varies from one person to the next. However, in business, it’s up to you to be the one doing the work.

You’re not a beautiful girl, or drop dead gorgeous man sitting at the bar in the hottest night club in town, waiting for men or women to approach you and try to impress you. You’re running a business and need to go out of your way to make a great first impression.

Here’s a bunch of ways, all of which you need to use, to win the first impression game.

Acknowledge clients/customers the minute they enter the store or meeting

Would you open the door to your house when someone rings the bell and look straight over their head until they said something to you? Guaranteed, that’s how you’re making a customer walking into your store, or a client meeting you for a first time consultation feel.

If you’re not with another customer, approach people and let them know you’re there to help right away. A retail store could be crazy busy, and you can still go out of your way to keep an eye on the door, and greet people with a smile and nod. They’ll proceed to browse around, or continue to wait in line until you have time to attend to them.

Make eye contact and smile

The importance of both eye contact and a genuine smile cannot be overstated in making a good impression with potential and existing customers. Both acts completed simultaneously immediately garner trust and openness when two human beings cross paths.

We’ve all encountered grumpy store owners and staff. They’re always a turn-off, regardless the type of personality the person you’re dealing with has. The likelihood of making a deal or sale is cut in half the minute you fail to look someone in the eye and flash them a smile.

Waitress taking order over the phone

Answer the phone immediately

Just like all aspects of good customer service, you have seconds to respond to customers calling your business. You need to acknowledge them in person right away, the phone is no different. While few will have a phone book with a competitor’s number to call, they likely have a browser window open on their phone with clickable phone numbers at the ready.

If you can’t answer the phones quickly, consider a call answering service. Even if you or your staff aren’t available, a service can answer the phone, take a message or politely place customers on hold and keep them updated until you can get to them.

Every team member needs to be knowledgeable about the company and industry you’re in

The minute there’s a hiccup between you and a knowledgeable customer, the sale is more than likely lost. Some will come to a store, know what they want, ask for it and buy it. Others will have limited knowledge, require you to help them make the right decision, and if they feel they know more than you, they’ll go somewhere else, guaranteed.

In the service business, particularly B2B, things can get even dicier, since many of the people you deal with will know how to assess your knowledge and skills quickly.

Don’t allow employees to loiter near the store (especially to smoke, vape, or talk on their phone!)

This is the worst possible way to make a good impression with customers and clients coming into your brick-and-mortar. Many people are turned off by smoking, and this can be particularly a turn off if you’re running a food service business. Those smokers may end up finishing their break, and then serving customers who just walked past them smoking and chugging back a coffee in front of the store.

Regardless of what they’re doing, including talking on the phone, you don’t want employees taking breaks in the customer’s view. They may have inappropriate conversations that get overheard. Also, consider how it feels for a customer when they have to wait excessively for service when they just walked by two or three of your employees with uniforms on…

Appertizers typo
photo credit: Loozrboy / Flickr

Avoid misspellings and grammar errors on signage, website, catalogs, menus, promotional materials, etc.

No… Just don’t allow for this. Multiple people, up to and including an experienced copywriter need to go over each and every word that goes out with your company name attached to it. Spelling and grammar errors don’t necessarily mean someone is stupid, but it makes for a poor first impression that can be hard to overcome.

Sure, it might not matter if the guy cooking burgers knows how to spell “musturd” properly, but it will annoy and turn many customers away. It makes an immediate negative impression (Ie., you’re dumb, you don’t care, don’t pay attention to details).

Optimize website for speed and overall use-ability

Your website needs to load quickly, it needs to be optimized for mobile. Mobile ordering systems need to be easy, and shopping carts need to be seamless and fast. This not only makes a great first impression of your business, it increases sales and makes people more likely to come back to your site.

Once people find something that works and doesn’t aggravate them, they’ll generally stick with that option. Use these website optimizing tips and focus on keeping clutter to a minimum. “Less is more” is a smart strategy for keeping your site loading quickly, and allowing customers to focus on the most important advantages to doing business with you.

Engage on social with good content and respond to comments

In this day and age, it’s more and more likely that you’ll be making a first impression over social media. Your current clients and customers will follow you, post about their experiences with your busines, and share your awesome content when you post it.

Posting content keeps you on the customer’s mind. Engaging in the comments, good or bad, and responding professionally will show anyone new to your social channels that you’re serious about service, and most important, that you listen and care about your customers and reputation.


Winning the first impression game is anything but easy. Each and every person you encounter will be different, some easy and some terribly difficult — some will fall somewhere in the middle of the difficulty spectrum. Regardless, do everything you can to win customers and clients by employing the advice above.

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