Wednesday, 01 October 2014
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What does your first impression say about you?

First impressions last, but don’t judge a book by its cover. You never get another chance to make a first impression. Etc. There are many clichés concerning your first meeting someone new; be it in a personal or professional capacity.

Steve Price

You may not remember what someone said, you may well forget where you were, but you will never forget how someone made you feel. This is what those ‘first impression’ clichés are really talking about. How did that person make you feel?

More importantly, how do you want to make people feel? As a creative and designer a large percentage of business is spent not designing (which probably takes up around 4% of your time) but liaising with clients, suppliers, colleagues, partners, etc. We’re selling ideas, managing expectations, motivating people and also trying to create great design.

I recently interviewed three tradesmen to quote to restore and refurbish the sash windows at my house and it sudden struck me that being on the client side I was having an unusual perspective; I would decide who would carry out the work. Suddenly you start making observations and mental notes about appearance, behaviour, presentation, hand-shakes, etc.

In this case it was a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears. I played Goldilocks (albeit with a beard). The first tradesman had a limp handshake, a vague disposition and no examples of his work. The second tradesman was late, mostly mumbled and didn’t really seem to look at the project required in any great detail. But the third trademen… On-time, friendly, good handshake, looked at all the various parts of the project in detail, talked about how they would approach each part, explained the process, how long it would take. They concluded by showing me lots of their previous projects; even apologising for showing (what might be considered) ‘boring’ pictures; details of hinges, the various coat stages of the windows, the window furniture.

Can you guess which tradesman I chose? Their passion, attention to detail, enthusiasm for their craft was evident, as was their eagerness to explain the process delivered with a friendly, easy tone.

The next time you are going in to a meeting with a client or supplier (especially for the first time) remember to consider how you want them to feel, what you want them to think when you have left the room and their earshot. Ideally you want them to think your porridge is just the right temperature and your bed is just perfect. Think about your entrance, tradesmen and women.

(N.B. Week two of the work with my chosen tradesmen – they turn up on the dot at 8am every morning, are fastidious, courteous, and tidy up before they leave everyday.)

Steve Price is founder and creative director at Plan B Studio.

Readers' comments (6)

  • I'm not sure I quite understand the point of this article...it offers nothing the clichés already cover.

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  • Hi Steve
    Great story, and a timely reminder for all design firms. Many spend a lot of time and effort on some superb visual branding for their firms, not to mention some powerful marketing claims, and then forget that they need to be continuously 'on-brand' and 'on-message' throughout the whole sales and implementation process if they are going to succeed. Can I just add 'last impressions count, too'? It's often the project closure and the follow-up that will get you those all-important recommendations, referrals and repeat work.
    Shan

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  • Superb advice, thank you for sharing this nugget of gold.

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  • I loved the 'Goldilocks and the three bears' metaphor. Will aim to be the third bear in meetings with clients.

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  • Speaking of being on time... I just went to the Plan B website. There's nothing there but a date: 31.07.2012 - Is your new design late? Or have you got the time wrong?

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  • The point of this article, Gary, is that it is a different take on what first impressions are; that there is a feeling element and that ultimately this is a deal breaker. First impressions usually mean something visual in design, the twist here is that design is about feeling too.

    Re. Anonymous (Wed, 1 Aug 2012)... I find this slightly irrelevant. A lot of successful design studios get by with in-progress websites or are slow to update with new work, perhaps because doing great work speaks volumes over a delayed site launch any day.

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