The first step in connecting with your clients is the very first moment of initial contact. Don't confuse this with the first conversation; initial contact doesn't have to be verbal, or even in person. If a potential client comes across your flyer hanging up on a community board, this is initial contact. Other initial contacts are the first time a potential client accesses your website, visits your social media profile, picks up your business card, leaves you a voicemail, or makes eye-to-eye contact with you. Basically, the very first moment that the potential client is aware that you exist counts as the initial contact.
Initial contact is so important because it is in this moment that the potential client forms their first opinion about you, and chances are that it will be difficult to change that first opinion (either good or bad). With so many types of initial contact, it may seem overwhelming to try to always have the best initial contact ever. The truth is, there will be bad initial contacts through your direct sales career. No one is perfect and trying to be perfect will only stress you out. For those other moments, the ones that can be good initial contacts, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
In-Person Initial Contact
For in-person initial contact, the first and probably most important thing to remember is to smile. Smiling and frowning is a sign of being approachable or not. Many people don't understand their face--some people naturally look mean or have a natural scowl on their faces. Although they may be in a perfectly good mood, their face says otherwise and people will be automatically turned off. Smiling is a simple way to not have to worry about this problem. It signals to people that you are friendly and open. "MRI studies have shown that the human brain responds favorably to a person who’s smiling, and this leaves a lasting positive impression" (Bradberry, forbes.com).
Other tips for good in-person initial contact are:
- Good eye to eye contact (but not too intense as to make the person uncomfortable)
- A firm handshake
- An enthusiastic voice (but not over enthusiastic as to make the person uncomfortable)
- Professional looking clothes that don't show any parts of your undergarments and that aren't too tight
- Well groomed hair and nails
- For women, fresh makeup that doesn't look clownish (with the correct shade of foundation--so many women make this mistake)
- For men, a nice, fresh shave or a well groomed beard and moustache
- Great hygiene (even if you do everything else perfectly, bad hygiene will kill your initial contact experience)
- Don't interrupt people who are on their cell phones unless you absolutely have to. They will not give you their full attention and will most likely forget about you the moment you part ways.
Follow these steps and you will have a great in-person initial contact experience most of the time.
Initial Contact Through Other Methods
You may think that you can't control initial contact when you are not physically in front of your potential client, but this isn't true. However your potential client may make initial contact, there certain things to be aware of when advertising yourself and your product. Photos, website design, flyer design, and business card design are a few areas that you should be aware of when making initial contact.
Using Photos for Initial Contact
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is their choice of photos. Photos can be placed on business cards, flyers, social media profiles, websites, etc. Your photo needs to be friendly and professional. You should not use glamour shots, pictures taken with a low-megapixel camera or cell phone, photos that have other people besides yourself in them, photos of other people or things (like your pets, for example), photos of you where you are not dressed appropriately, old photos, photos that are overly sexual, etc. Your photo should look like you would look at an in-person initial contact: dressed appropriately, well-groomed, and smiling. Try to avoid distracting backgrounds and colors. You don't have to use a professional photo, just make sure your photo is approachable. In fact, using a regular point-and-shoot camera gives you the ability to update your photos at any time without spending a lot of money on professional shots. Just remember, when using these types of cameras, to have good lighting.
A Great Initial Contact Photo
A Good Initial Contact Photo
Not-Good-Enough Initial Contact Photo
Initial Contact on a Website
Having a nice, professional website is important when your potential customers are making their initial contact online. Using a professional, pre-made template is usually a safe bet when it comes to the design of your website.
If you are designing on your own from scratch, don't over-design the site. This is the equivalent of having a distracting background in a photo. When you over-design, people don't know where they should focus their attention on the website. Too many links, photos, videos, animated elements and ads can slow down a site's loading time and customers can get frustrated with this. Too many bright, bizarre colors can be hard to look at on a screen and too many animated gifs can make your site seem childish. Don't put things on your site that aren't relevant to your business and don't put every single thing that is relevant to your business on your homepage. Make sure your site is broken down into navigable sections and that all of your links work.
Most importantly, have an easy way for potential clients to contact you, and have your contact information easily accessible on the site. This extends a hand of trust to a potential client when they know that they can get in contact with you when they need to. One other good practice is to add your hours of contact. This helps you as well as your clients because they know the best time to contact you and you won't receive calls at weird times that you aren't available.
Initial Contact From a Flyer or Printed media
Many direct sellers use flyers, business cards, catalogs, and other printed media to contact clients. The layout of the printed media that you use can make a huge impact on clients. Many companies offer pre-designed printed media for their direct sellers. Although using these materials may be a little more expensive than creating your own, it is very beneficial to use them anyway because the companies have professional designers who've researched the best designs that make a positive impact on clients.
If you use catalogs, make sure to buy a stamp to put your contact information on the catalog. Don't write on the catalog, no matter how neat you think your handwriting may be. Stamp the catalog straight, not crooked. Another option is to order stickers that have your contact information on them. Stickers are great for catalogs and for placing on bags.
If your company offers pre-designed flyers, use them. If you decide to create your own, remember the advice for website designs--don't over-design. If there are too many elements or bizarre colors, clients won't know what to focus on. They may get annoyed and simply throw the flyer away. With this being said, you also don't want to under-design. A plain, boring flyer is just that--boring. You need to have a healthy balance of elements on a flyer to draw your clients in. That doesn't mean that you need to enroll in a graphic design class. Simply use common sense. A great way to get ideas is to pick up a magazine that relates to your industry and look at the ads. What color schemes are being used? What shapes, images, themes, ideas? Look at how they've placed the elements--left, right, center, top, bottom. After studying a few ads, you'll be well on your way to creating impressive flyers.
Initial Contact With Business Cards
When you begin introducing yourself to potential clients, sometimes they will ask for a business card. If you use business cards, you should put a lot of thought and effort into finding a business card that will best represent you and your business.
Just like a lot of companies offer pre-designed catalogs and flyers, they may also offer pre-designed business cards. The best bet is to use them, because they've most likely been designed by a professional designer and are a really good match for your industry. The down-side is that they may cost more than ordering them from other places.
There are a lot of companies that offer business card printing services, and most of these companies have several templates that you can use. They also have very economical prices, and if you are just starting out, this may be a good idea until the money starts rolling in. Vistaprint is a great company to order business cards and other printed materials from. They have great prices, great turnaround times, and many templates to choose from.
The most economical business cards that you can order are cards on plain white card stock with black words. If designed nicely, they'll at least get the job done, but in general they are cheap and they look like it. That is exactly the impression that your clients will get when you hand them a card like that. It's boring and it isn't memorable.
There many different types of paper that can be used to make a business card. Opt for anything besides the plain white card stock with plain black words. You can choose a semi-gloss, a textured paper, raised letters, or anything that gives the card a little "umph".
With so many types of initial contact, it can be a little overwhelming for the new direct salesperson to get everything right. Don't stress, just practice your initial contact until it becomes a habit. Remember that initial contact is very important in determining the success or failure of a future relationship with a client. First impressions are usually lasting impressions, so you'll want to make the best of it. Follow the tips in this article, and look forward to better initial contact with your clients.
Advice from One of My Favorite Sales Directors
Bradberry, Travis. "15 Body Language Blunders Successful People Never Make". Forbes.com. Mar 12, 2015. Web. Sep 25, 2016.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.