The Norman Transcript

Local Business

September 19, 2009

The importance of creating great first impressions

First impressions matter, especially in the areas of sales and customer service. First impressions can inflame or disarm a dissatisfied customer, resulting in a severed or strengthened relationship. The choice is yours. Here is some food for thought.

We often refer to the brain as having two hemispheres: the left, largely responsible for logic, and the right, predominately responsible for creativity. This description fits what we know to be the cortex. However, there is a third dimension, the hypo-thalamus, which is in fact the brain stem and is solely responsible for instincts.



First impressions -- fight or flight

Bruno Catellani, of the Institute of Communication, Management and Sales in Switzerland, refers to the hypo-thalamus as the "Guard" or "Gatekeeper." The "Gatekeeper's' sole function is to decide whether you are a friend or a foe. It is incapable of thought or rationalization and reacts purely on instinct by how it perceives your approach. If your initial approach stresses the "Gatekeeper," it will switch on the fight/flight response. Part of this process includes shutting down all other message receptors, which means any opportunity you had to communicate has just been totally closed off.



Build trust immediately

It's absolutely true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Building the language of trust is the first step to successful customer service, which translates into building sales. What would your business look like today if every customer who ever did business with you was still an active customer? What if 20 percent of those were raving fans? See my Norman Transcript article published Aug. 24, 2008: "Developing the Ideal Customer Experience."



Instinct kicks in first

Think about this next sentence. If the "Gatekeeper" doesn't think, does the initial "language of trust" have to be verbal? The answer is no. The first impression you deliver is based on instinct alone. The signals that you need to give out in the first 10 to 20 seconds are instinctive, i.e. your body language, which is translated by your movements, gestures, facial expression and eye contact. Is your body language open and relaxed or is it closed and tense? If you are sending an open relaxed message, your voice modulation and tone are calm, the speed of your speech is controlled and gentle. And finally, you must not invade the customer's space.

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