First impressions matter. Period. End of story.
With that thought in mind, I ask you to ponder these two questions:
- How much bigger would my business be today if my team always made a stellar first impression?
- What areas in my business are creating negative first impressions?
The answer to the first question should motivate you to solve the list of answers you come up with for the second question. If you’re successfully able to do this, you’ll be miles ahead of your competition. Why? Because customer service is becoming a lost art in business.
Real Life Examples of First Impression Failures an Why they Matter
Recently I started researching digital marketing firms. I spent several hours reading online reviews and looking through portfolios before making a list of seven finalists to call. Thinking this would be an easy feat, I picked up the phone and started calling. Out of seven companies and 16 call attempts in a four hour period, I spoke with a total of FOUR people and had only TWO in-depth conversations.
As I pondered this experience, I realized one of two things was happening. Either these firms were so overrun with business there was a shortage of time to take on new clients, or they were so lackluster in their ability to create a good first impression that they truly didn’t care about taking on a new client.
The jury is still out o what’s going on. But there are a few lessons I learned from my experience that can help your business, too.
1. Use a Catchy Automated Answering Message
If you really want to make a great first impression, have a live person answer the phone from the start. It is rare in the era of digital everything to speak with a real human from the onset. We have grown so accustomed to having to listen to a plethora of menu options before ever finding a live human to talk to that I can assure you a real person answering the phone is almost always a stellar way to standout in a crowded marketplace.
Nonetheless, most businesses have long moved past this level of customer service. So, if you’re going to use an automated phone operator to greet your prospects when they dial your number, make the voice and experience standout.
Of all the marketing firms that I called, only one stood out for this reason. The automated voice that greeted me had an Australian accent that was full of pep. When I finally reached the receptionist, I was thrown off. It was the same fun voice from the automated process. It was a great first impression.
Tip #1: If you want to standout, you have to be different from the status quo.
2. Answer the Phone with Energy
The next agency I called did not come close to the level of energy I had just experienced. After reading more than 24 positive reviews for them online, they had been at the top of my list, until I’m pretty sure the person I was talking to was awakened from his nap at 9:30 in the morning.
A groggy voice mixed with several long pauses, a lot of fumbling around, and no real answers did anything but exude the confidence needed to ensure me that I wanted to spend thousands of dollars with this company. As the torture of listening to the grogginess and lack of organization drug on for nearly five minutes, I found myself drawing a huge X over the agency’s name on my list and writing “Hell No!” beside it.
Tip #2: Energy is everything. How you answer the first phone call with a prospect sets the stage for your relationship.
3. Answer the Phone. Period.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of my entire day was the inability I experienced attempting to engage five of the seven companies I had hoped to talk to in any type of conversation.
As a marketer myself, I understand the value of a hot lead. I get excited when someone is motivated enough to simply request a resource off of our website. If someone takes the time to actually call me, you’d better believe I’m going to bend over backwards to take their call.
Of the seven firms I called, only one firm took my call immediately. They are now at the very top of my list. My first impression tells me I’ll be able to reach them throughout the project I need completed.
Tip #3: People do business with people. Show your prospects you value their time by taking their phone calls and answering their questions.
4. Skip Obvious Profile Questionnaires Until You’ve Had a Conversation
Let me start by saying I believe properly profiling your prospects is the key to making a sale. But I also believe there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Rewind a moment and picture Mr. Bedtime. You remember the man I wrote about moments ago who sounded as though he was probably still in his pajamas, wishing he was holding a warm cup of coffee instead of a warm lead in his phone receiver?
To add fuel to the extremely awkward fire, before ever learning why I was calling, he said…
“I think you need to speak with Aaron. I’m not sure, but it will probably be Aaron. Okay, so what’s your name? What’s your phone number? What’s your email address?”
I was waiting for my social security number to come into question. I honestly felt a little violated as he started asking questions about how to contact me, though he was completely unaware as to what my needs were and a bit uncertain as to who he should share the information he was gathering with.
Tip #4: Take the time to train your team on where to transfer calls and how to gather information.
5. Return Messages Promptly and with Confidence
Out of four voicemails, a peppy Australian accent, and a groggy receptionist, I received only two returned phone calls. Surprisingly, one of them came within an hour from the company where Mr. Bedtime worked.
The other returned call went to my voicemail while I was at lunch. It was from the owner of the company.
“I’m returning your call. After listening to your message, I believe we … probably … ummm maybe … can help you. We’ve done things sorta like that in the past. Call me back if you want to talk more.”
I probably, maybe, sorta, don’t want to call you back. You’re the OWNER of your marketing agency and you’re uncertain if you can help me. Yet you want me to call you back and discuss the opportunity to discuss handing over the future of my business’s digital success to you?
Tip #5: Exude confidence in the services you offer and you’ll instill confidence in the mind of your prospect.
The reality is behind each case I just highlighted are successful companies who have glowing reviews online. But only one out of seven companies stands out miles above all the other ones based off of first impressions. It is the company who answered the phone when I called without an automated service. The company that spent nearly 30 minutes on the initial call with me before rearranging their week next week to hold a free in-person consultation. The company that understood people do business with people.
Where does your business fall into this story? Again, I challenge you to ask the question, “How big would my business be today if my company could knock it out of the park on every first impression?”
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