Recently I was told a story about a traveler that went to LA. He arrived at LAX and called his hotel to arrange the shuttle to come pick him up. 15 minutes later, nothing. 30 minutes later, nothing. 45 minutes later, STILL nothing.
About this time a driver from another hotel, which happened to be next door to the traveler's hotel, noticed the traveler and asked if everything was ok. The traveler told him his dilemma and expressed his frustration over the situation. The driver grabbed his phone and called the other hotel and found out the status of the shuttle, time of arrival and current location. Never once did he try to scoop the traveler for his hotel. After he told the traveler the information all he said was "Next time you travel to LA, please consider trying our hotel."
What impression did this driver, who didn't have to help, leave on the traveler? Did he create credibility for his hotel? Absolutely! As we go about our day and interact with numerous people, what impression are we leaving them with?
In sales, networking is a key prospecting activity. Creating a good first impression that facilitates a follow up discussion focused on the product we are selling is key to making plan on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, there are too many sales people that are creating horrible first impressions when they are networking.
Dr Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI, the world's largest networking organization, along with David Alexander and Brian Hilliard authored a book called Networking Like a Pro. In this book they talk about how we have three opportunities to create a positive impression on the people we interact with. They call it the 12 x 12 x 12 rule. It involves three questions.
The first is "How do you look from 12 feet away?"
How do you look to the other person? Are you dressed appropriately for the situation? Are you disheveled or well put together. If you are attending a morning event, do you look like you are all there?
It is important that you look the part that you are trying to play at the event. This doesn't mean that you should try to deceive the people you are meeting but that you fine tune the message that you are sending so that you don't derail your networking.
The second is "How do you look from 12 inches away?"
Are you as good up close as you are from across the room? Even if you look like the quintessential professional you can still ruin your image when you get up close. What is your body language conveying? Are you portraying a positive and inviting attitude? Are you organized. Having your papers flying everywhere and fumbling around to find your business cards or a pen is the fastest way to tell someone "Look at me! I don't know what I am doing", even if you are the most qualified person in the room.
The third is "What are the first 12 words out of your mouth?"
So you've made it this far, but it is still possible to mess it up. When someone asks you what you do, don't say something nondescript such as "I'm a consultant". Develop a unique selling proposition (USP) or mini-commercial that tells people what you do and how you help. You need to keep it short and to the point. This isn't the time to break into a full sales presentation though. The goal is to keep them interested so you can find out more about them and how you can help them.
Perception is a big part of building credibility the first time you are meeting people. What are you doing to build credibility when you meet people? What are you doing after you make first contact? Make sure that you aren't letting little things you do make up people's mind for them before they even to get to know the real you.