First impressions count but here’s proof that they’re not enough and what to do to fix things

Jul 25, 2023 | Networking, Referrals, Sole practitioners

Some years ago I enjoyed a very long private business networking lunch. The whole group seemed to enjoy the event – perhaps because many of us had known each other for a while .

One of the attendees I had not met previously was a chartered surveyor.

After we’d spent a few hours together the group sought feedback from each other. Having heard me talk about the importance of STANDING OUT from the pack, the chartered surveyor, who was new to the group, asked what we would remember most about him.

He was surprised that two people (and then the rest of the group) spontaneously referenced his introduction to us. He had initially said he was a male stripper, before admitting he was joking and referencing his ‘real’ profession.

He then asked us to amplify our answers as to what we thought we would remember about him. Our views were all pretty similar. He had created a good first impression. We thought he was professional, fun, likeable, distinct and memorable.

I made some notes about the lunch on my way home as somehow I knew the conversation would be the basis for a blog post. This is that blog post but it’s not turned out to be what I had in mind at the time…..

Within 2 months of that lunch I made a private note for myself that I know had a real-life example to evidence my belief that creating a positive first impression is not enough. I remembered the conversation. I didn’t remember the individual.

At the time, if I had met someone who required the services of a chartered surveyor I might have dug out this guy’s business card. But within 2 months he was already just a distant memory and was quickly replaced in my mind by the next chartered surveyor I met. The same thing has happened a few times over the years.

Even just a couple of months after meeting this guy I could only vaguely recall that he told us, when pushed, about some specific type of work he did. But he spoke in language that made more sense to property professionals than it did to me. I thought I followed what he said when we met but I had soon forgotten it. So there was never much chance of me referring anyone to him.

In terms of the 7 key principles you can adopt to STAND OUT and to be remembered, referred and recommended, what did this surveyor do?

He tried to be clever and witty initially when referencing his business activity – but that simply detracted from what he really does. When he talked about his business he was insufficiently specific and distinct.

That still leaves many other actions he could have adopted to help him STAND OUT. The classic one of course is the 6th of my 7 principles: Follow up effectively.

My notes show that I did send him a quick note after the lunch and asked to connect with him on Linkedin. I don’t recall if he agreed. I don’t remember his name. My notes suggested I didn’t ever see any form of follow up from him. If that was a conscious decision on his part it’s fine. And yes, I’m aware that his memory of me may have been equally as fuzzy. I could have followed up better myself but chose not to do so as this was an experiment to facilitate a blog post.

I suspect that he hoped that somehow his first impression would carry him through. That is, he hoped he had done sufficient on the day to secure referrals from a varied group of business professionals who enjoyed his company for 4 hours. If I’m right then he was wrong.

How often have you done something similar and hoped it was sufficient – possibly after spending much less time with a new acquaintance? Even if you STAND OUT somehow when you create a first impression, it’s not always enough.

You must follow up effectively and without being pushy. If the people you meet don’t remember you, they won’t refer you or recommend you.

And if you’re letting that happen then you really are wasting your time when you attend networking events!

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