The Power of First Impressions


1…2…3…That’s how long it takes to make a first impression. In brokerage, first impressions often make a lasting impact and greatly influence future relationships. People make snap judgments about others and those judgments influence, and perhaps dictate, interpersonal perceptions.

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First impressions are powerful because they create a mental filter through which all subsequent interactions travel. If you make a positive first impression, your actions will be judged positively; if you make a poor first impression that will cast a negative light on your image. First impressions are judged not only by what you say but how you dress, groom, walk, gesture and speak. Stated differently, people judge others based on both what they say, how they look and how they behave.

The good news is that first impressions are not an innate skill but come from preparation and practice. You only have one chance to make a positive first impression and these tips will ensure you make a positive one.

Arrive on time. Never be late for a scheduled appointment. If you’re inescapably delayed, call well before your appointment time. Tardiness demonstrates a lack of respect for the person you are meeting with and in the high-paced world of NYC real estate is inexcusable.

Dress well. Clothes are the first thing a person sees and they help project a professional image. When a broker is poorly or unprofessionally dressed, it opens the door to thoughts about what else the broker fails to pay attention to or neglects. Buy the best clothes–suits, shirts, ties, etc.–you can afford. It is better to have fewer sets of higher quality business clothes than more sets of poorer quality. Also, be sure your shoes are shined, especially in this winter weather.

Be well-groomed. Men should be clean shaven, or if you have a beard it should be trimmed. Woman should have their nails done and wear an appropriate amount of jewelry.

Move with a positive sense of purpose. Brokers with a spring in their step and a faster speaking pace are perceived to be more successful and energetic. Smile enthusiastically. As you approach someone for the first time smile broadly and sincerely and make good eye contact. A warm smile is inviting and friendly. It also expresses enthusiasm–and that sells. An upbeat and positive nature is contagious.

Provide a great handshake. Do not overlook the importance of a handshake. I will not consider a broker candidate who offers a limp handshake because I know that it will not resonate with owners. Some traits of bad handshakes include being too strong or weak, too much or too little shaking or an inappropriate hand angle.

Here is how to deliver a great handshake:

First, as you approach the other person make good eye contact, smile and extend your right arm. Hold your palm perpendicular to the ground to send the message that you are equals and the dealings will be positive and fair.

Second, as you grasp hands continue looking the other person in the eye and enthusiastically state their name and that it’s good to meet them. For example, “Hi Susan, it is great to meet you!” Your grip should be firm but not overwhelming. Shake no more than three times and do not use your left hand to cup theirs–it will be deemed overly friendly.

Finally, pay attention to proxemics, or the science of interpersonal spacing. Do not enter the other person’s personal space or step back after the handshake, as both will be viewed negatively.

All of these principles will help you make a great first impression at your next meeting.