Friend or Foe, the Importance of Creating Great First Impressions

If you are looking for good business advice for your company, one of the best places to start is in terms of better communication.

We often refer to the brain as having two hemispheres: the left, largely responsible for logic, and the right, predominately responsible for creativity.

This description fits what we know to be the cortex or new brain; however, there is a third dimension, the hypo-thalamus or pre-historic brain, which is in fact the brain stem and is solely responsible for instincts.

Bruno Catellani of the Institute of Communication, Management and Sales in Switzerland refers to the pre-historic brain as the “Guard” or “Gatekeeper.” The “Gatekeeper’s” sole function is to decide whether you are a friend or a foe; it is incapable of thought or rationalization and reacts purely on instinct by how it perceives your approach.

If your initial approach stresses the “Gatekeeper,” it will switch on the fight/flight response and part of this process includes shutting down all other message receptors which means any opportunity you had to communicate has just been totally closed off.

It’s absolutely true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Building the language of trust is the first step to successful customer service, which translates into building sales.

So, if the “Gatekeeper” doesn’t think, does the initial “Language of Trust” have to be verbal?

No, the first impression you deliver is based on instinct alone.

The signals that you need to give out in the first 10 to 20 seconds are instinctive, i.e. your body language translated by your movements, gestures, facial expression and eye contact are open and relaxed.

Your voice modulation and tone are calm, the speed of your speech is controlled and gentle and finally, you must not invade the customer’s space.

Other factors, which will influence the “Gatekeepers” decision whether you are friend or foe, are:  your appearance, clothes, smell, enthusiasm and posture.

Once you’re past this initial first impression you can get on with developing a relationship with your prospect.

Professor Albert Mehrabian of UCLA broke communication down into three “V’s” as follows:

•    Verbal: The message itself; i.e. the words you use.
•    Vocal: The sound of your voice, intonation, projection, pitch and speed of your voice.
•    Visual: The posture and gestures, facial expression and eye movement that people see.

The Thomas Gordon Institute added another dimension to this research and came up with:

•    Words: Verbal
•    Voice:    Vocal
•    Face:    Visual
•    Body:    Visual

Both institutions measured the effectiveness of each component of communication and the contribution to believability.

Here are the results of their respective research:

UCLA            Thomas Gordon
Verbal    7%        Words    7%
Vocal    38%        Voice    23%
Visual    55%        Face    35%
Body    35%
TOTAL:    100%            100%

So, the first step in delivering Great Customer Service to Create Great Sales is simply to approach and greet your suspect/prospect with open, friendly body language coupled with soothing, gentle voice modulation.

Our total focus in this step is to get past the “Gatekeeper” so that we develop and build rapport and open the prospect’s message receptors.

The words themselves are not that important, a simple “Hi, how are you today,” is a good ice breaker.

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