The 5 golden nuggets for aspiring entrepreneurs
In today’s economy, where over 1,500 people are being made redundant on a daily basis, is it any wonder that more and more people are deciding to start their own business? Corporate life can feel like a bit of a treadmill; if you’re committed to working hard it can be more fulfilling to steer your own course and set up on your own. According to Barclays, over 470,000 new companies started up in the UK alone in 2011.
Great news for entrepreneurs but one that comes with a note of caution – how do you make yourself stand out if competition is so fierce? Is it just a matter of putting your best foot forward every single time you come into contact with a potential client? Well, yes but we are now in the era of the ‘experience economy’ and making sure your potential client’s first impression of you is a positive one often takes place way before you meet them in person.
This article examines what entrepreneurs need to take into consideration when trying to create a memorable first impression that impact successfully on their business.
Do first impressions count?
Yes, they do, it’s as simple as that. If you create a bad impression then it’s an uphill struggle to change that person’s perception of you and your business. A bad impression isn’t limited to rubbing someone up the wrong way. It is equally damaging to make no impact at all. Blend into the background and you’ll be forgotten.
People make judgments in order to help them navigate through the minefield of choice when comparing suppliers. Often people want to work with people they feel comfortable with or someone with whom they’ve made a connection. We know that professionally we should be assessed on our ability to get the job done, the value we bring to the table, our skill sets, experience, competencies and the fact that we are great human beings. However, often your potential client will know nothing about the qualities you have and will not have the time to find out – that’s why creating a memorable first impression is so important.
Five golden rules all entrepreneurs should consider on a daily basis:
Golden nugget 1 – Be authentic
Being true to yourself and confidently demonstrating who you are throughout every element of your business; whether it’s the content you put on your website or the language you use when having a conversation will set you aside from the competition. Clients know when you are passionate about their business because they will hear it in your voice, sense it in what you say and see it in your actions.
Golden nugget 2 – Be present and listen
Silence is golden and when you listen to your client and respond to their questions it makes them feel that you care about their business. There is no greater compliment than to give your client your full attention. The most successful entrepreneurs spend the majority of their time listening in meetings not talking. When engaging with your clients, whether it’s by telephone, Skype or face-to-face, clear your mind of distractions, including what you are going to say next, because it helps you to stay in the moment. Only when you are in the moment can you ask those powerful questions that make all the difference. Asking powerful questions creates more than a good impression – it creates a lasting impression.
Golden nugget 3 – Look the part
Business image is an important factor in creating a great first impression and dressing according to the standards of your industry is a must. The most important thing is to be clean, tidy and presentable but remember to stay current. This doesn’t mean being at the cutting edge of fashion but it does mean taking a regular look at your clothes, wheedling out those comfortable pieces that have probably seen better days and updating them with a smart streamlined wardrobe that you can get a lot of wear out of – it’s anti-waste. If shopping for clothes is too time consuming or just not a favourite job then consider engaging the services of a stylist.
Golden nugget 4 – Stay on your mettle
Creating ways to add value is a must if you want to land that important client and there is no better time to demonstrate that than when you first meet them. Successful entrepreneurs are continuously learning and expanding their knowledge, that’s how they stay innovative and creative. Whether it’s attending training courses, (like those run by Women Unlimited), which are full of the latest thinking, or something as simple as reading a book or having a conversation with other business owners; entrepreneurs soak up information. Then when the time is right they are able to join the dots. The most nimble of businesses invest in themselves – what is your training and development plan for the year?
Golden nugget 5 – Follow through
The most important thing you have in business is your word. If you do what you say you are going to do then you will be known for your reliability. Of course, when it comes down to an exchange of products or services you need a contract in place that is legally binding. However, for this golden rule we are talking about how you position yourself for success in the run up to landing that client contract you’ve been chasing. For example, if you have a sales meeting follow-up with a thank you email, if you are making a presentation don’t forget to tell them how excited you are to be there. It may sound cheesy but clients like to hear that you are thrilled to get the opportunity to present to them. If you met a potential client at a networking meeting and made a referral follow through by sending them the details of the individual. If you promised to send some information, an article or a link to a website – do it. You will be remembered for your generous spirit.
A first impression means setting the tone; it governs how you want to be remembered, how you want potential clients and contacts to think of you in those first days and weeks of the business relationship. However there’s little point in putting all your energy into the first meeting and ignoring all those that come later. Remaining consistent is key. Brash, confident talkers who fail to follow through on their promises will be seen as all style and no substance. In becoming a successful entrepreneur your greatest strength is you and what you bring to the table. You must show attention to the detail and always appear calm. Never let the client see you sweat. Remember to be honest with yourself and if you lack a skill in any of the above areas you should undertake the relevant training. In doing so you will be creating lasting impressions which will have your clients wanting more.
Do you think first impressions are important and how so? Have you made business decisions based on a first impression, or perhaps you feel that you don’t make a very good first impression? I’d love to hear your comments.