4 rules for making a good first impression in business
Destination Manager, Olivia Matis, spends her days meeting and building relationships with new partners. In this post, she compiled all she's learned from these interactions into 4 rules to follow to make a good first impression.
Every interaction in life is an opportunity to practice, learn and grow - if only we believe it is!
I embarked on my incredible GetYourGuide journey 6 months ago as a Destination Manager in Australia, and I’ve never looked back! As part of my role, I develop and nurture relationships with our wonderful local partners. Our partners offer customers incredible experiences: from the biggest cruise on the Great Barrier Reef to a Segway ride around Uluru (and everything in between).
A career in Sales means I talk to people…a lot. This works well for me because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a talker. Through my work, I encounter many people from all different walks of life, who have unique and sometimes surprising personalities and communication styles.
As far as first impressions go, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve encountered those who wouldn’t let me get a word in as well as those who struggle to get a word out.
So why are first impressions important? For me, my career depends on it! A good first impression paves the way for a strong future partnership (and so much more).
I’ve met hundreds of people in the past 6 months, had hundreds of chances to make a strong first impression and, in that time, I’ve learned what makes a difference when meeting someone for the first time. Here are my learnings:
Rule #1: Really, truly listen to what the other person has to say
'You may have heard this advice on listening: look the person in the eye, think of interesting topics to discuss in advance, look, nod and smile to show that you're paying attention, repeat back what you just heard or summarize it...
So I want you to forget all of that. It is crap. There is no reason to learn how to show you're paying attention if you are actually paying attention.” These are the wise words of Celeste Headlee in one of my favorite TedTalks of all time.
Have you ever spoken to someone and could tell they weren’t really listening? Did their eyes glaze over and the information seem to pass right over their head? If this has happened to you, you know how it feels. It makes you feel unvalued, unheard, and unimportant. Certainly not the ideal first impression!
When I first started working at GYG, my manager gave me great feedback: I was listening to respond, not listening to listen. I was so focused on how I was going to respond that I wasn't properly listening to the other person. People can tell when this is happening! So avoid it.
Rule #2: Ask many questions: this is the true magic.
There is a certain art to asking great questions - with amazing results! It shows you are genuinely listening (enough to be able to ask a considered question). It brings clarity to your learning, assists the brain in processing, and adds depth to information. In the business world, it can expose hidden opportunities you didn’t know existed. Asking simple, probing questions like: ‘and why is that?’ allows you to delve much deeper into a topic and uncover that person’s own understanding and opinion.
For some reason, when I first started this role I was simply not asking enough questions. Was it due to a fear of sounding dumb or that I should already know the answer? The desire not to waste time, to maximize efficiency and jump onto the next thing? I’m not quite sure, but I do know that this approach didn’t get me very far and led me to re-examine the magic of asking questions.
In my role, it is my goal first and foremost to uncover the challenges and obstacles a local partner faces. Questions are crucial. Some I have found helpful are: ‘what do you wish to see more of in the next year’ or ‘what is your biggest challenge?’ Or even ‘Other partners are finding X difficult- do you see this also?’ From these questions, they know we are working with their specific needs in mind.
Questions like these are vital to the business relationship. The more we know, the better. It allows us to deliver tailor-made solutions. Furthermore, the person on the receiving end knows you really care about them and have a deep interest in their business.
Rule #3: Do your research
To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. At a Trade Show such as the Australian Tourism Exchange, each of our Destination Managers has more than 90 appointments over 3 days - yikes! These 10 minute (yes-10 minute) appointments are with regional tourism boards, existing and new local partners.
Most delegates bring along a standard, printed 100-word company bio. But not us. Our Australian Sales Team takes preparation to another level. We research the company and the person in detail (hello, LinkedIn!) We can understand many things about a person before we meet them. Do they have a long corporate background? Have they always worked in tourism? What can you infer about them from their company website? We ask ourselves: what can I learn about this person and how can this inspire the topics we discuss? With this information, we then tailor our approach and style of communication.
Our preparation also involves examining data and summarising what is most relevant to the partner individually. We then set a goal for the meeting, think about desired outcomes, predict action points, and develop an agenda. Having this prepared before the meeting means we are already 10 steps ahead.
People want to feel special and know that time is scarce. To feel that someone has dedicated their precious time to prepare so intently for your meeting shows the utmost respect. At the most basic level, it’s a kind and flattering gesture. And, on a larger scale, it shows them you mean business!
Rule #4: Make sure you can talk about what you do in a compelling way
‘So tell us... what do you do Olivia?’- This is the most stock-standard way to start a conversation. And, quite frankly, it’s pretty boring depending on the answer. Would responding: “I’m a destination manager” necessarily drive the conversation forward? I think not.
Instead of simply stating your job title and company, try giving the person you’re talking to a little something more to work with. Such as: ‘I ensure travellers to Australia absolutely love where they’re going’ or ‘I cure chaos for travellers booking experiences online’ or ‘I help connect travellers with incredible experiences’.
Have the person you are talking to in mind. For a tech whiz- include some numbers or technical jargon to blow them away. This will also give them a chance to show off what they know. For your grandma, do the opposite and bring it right down to the very basics. Find something relatable to help explain what you or your company does and show rather than tell- it’s far more engaging.
All the above are necessary to build a good first impression in business and especially within the tourism industry. Remember to be yourself, treat people how they would like to be treated and
And don’t forget to ask: ‘And what about you?’.