A day in the life of every businessperson is made up of a series of meetings and greetings. When you are making the initial contact with a client or a colleague, you want to get off on the right foot. Doing so will make the first encounter and subsequent ones go smoothly and easily. Getting off on the wrong foot can make for a difficult recovery. Save your energy for later and use these simple strategies for a successful start.
1. Stand up when you meet someone. This allows you to engage the person on an equal level - eye to eye. By remaining seated, you send a message that you don't think the other person is important enough to warrant the effort it takes to stand. If you find yourself in a position where you can't stand up (such as being trapped behind a potted plant) offer an apology and an explanation. You might say something like, "Please excuse me for not getting up. I can't seem to get around the foliage."
2. Smile. Your facial expression says more than your words. Look as if you are pleased to meet the other person regardless of what is on your mind. Put a smile on your face for the person standing before you.
3. Make eye contact. Looking at the people you meet says you are focused and interested in them. If you are staring off somewhere else, you may appear to be looking for someone more to your liking to come along.
4. Introduce yourself immediately. As soon as you approach people you don't know or are approached by them, say who you are. Don't stand around as if someone else is in charge of introductions.
5. Include a statement about who you are when necessary. It is not always enough to say, "Hello, I'm Mary Jones." Give more information. "Hello, I'm Mary Jones. I work for XYZ Corporation."
6. Offer a firm handshake. Extend your hand as you give your greeting. The person who puts a hand out first comes across as confident and at ease. Make sure that this physical part of your greeting is professional. Don't offer bone-crushing grips or wimpy limp-wristed shakes. If you are confused about men and women shaking hands, don't be. There once was a time when women didn't shake hands with men. We are past that. Everyone in business shakes hands with everyone else.
7. Learn how to make smooth introductions. In business you always introduce less important people to more important people. The way to do this is to say the name of the more important person first, followed by the words "I'd like to introduce..." and then give the other person's name. Be sure to add something about each person so they will know why they are being introduced and will have some information with which to start a conversation.
8. Know who the more important person is. The client or the business prospect is more important than your boss. Just hope your boss agrees.
9. Pay attention to names when you meet people. It is all too common to be thinking about what you are going to say next and not focus on the other person. If you concentrate and repeat the name as soon as you hear it, you stand a better chance of remembering it later.
10. Use first names of people whom you have just met only after they give you permission. Not everyone wants to be addressed informally on the initial encounter. It is better to err on the side of formality than to offend the other person right off the bat.
Your goal within the first few minutes of meeting other people is to make them feel comfortable and to put them ease so they will want to do business with you. When you are confident of the rules for those critical initial encounters, you will have a solid start for long-term profitable relationships.
(c) 2004, Lydia Ramsey. All rights in all media reserved.