First Impressions are Everything


There is an old adage in sales, “First impressions aren’t everything; they’re the only thing”. Many times this is true. Think about businesses that you love. If they had left you with a horrible first impression, would you still be their customer? However, those brands that were truly inspired to make every attempt to give you a great first impression were most likely the ones to keep your business.

We spend a lot of time as an industry working on first impressions. Developers try to strategize about the best spot to build, in order to create a great first impression on location. Communities are designed to provide a specific look to engage people upon first sight. We spend thousands of dollars a year on curb appeal and landscaping. Our marketing teams create inviting advertising to impress apartment shoppers. Many of our staffs are given direction on how to look and what to say when prospects come through the door for the first time. We create model apartments to leave prospects with a vision of how their new home can look. All of these things are done to create the optimal first impression.

But what it is that you can do? Sure, your company has a policy on how to look and what to say. And you probably cannot alter the landscaping, location, and how your model looks. But every time you interact with a customer (new and previous), you get a chance to create an impression. These customer interactions are your chance to create a unique customer experience. And it all starts with what you do to create a great first impression.

Be Prepared
This is the motto of the Boy Scouts for a reason. Being prepared is the only way to keep yourself ready for the challenges that each day will hurl at you. So many times, we get in an almost zombielike routine, in which we are just going through the motions. Often, we do not even realize that we are doing it. Make sure that you start each day fresh. Come into your day rested and energized. Create confidence in yourself by being to work a little early (no need to groan about it). This allows you to get your day and your area ready, and get focused.

Another key to a confident start to your day is looking the part. No one has ever said, “Boy, that George Clooney sure looks like a slob”. He always looks great. Wouldn’t you want to buy from someone who looks that great? After you wash your car, doesn’t it seem to drive just a little bit better? Looking the part is just as important a factor in sales successs as any other tools that you might use.

Make sure that any time spent with a customer is not an interruption in your workday. Often, we get so caught up in the need to get a report done or answer a phone or deal with an internal operation, that we miss an opportunity to engage with our customer in a meaningful manner. If I spent all day with potential clients and current customers, I would consider that to be a spectacular day. Your preparedness and energy is the key to generating the best chance for a great first impression.

Really Know Your Client
Being prepared does not stop with personal tasks. It also includes being prepared for your customer. You have communicated with most of them by phone or email, but have you taken the time to truly understand their story? Everyone rents an apartment for a reason. Whether it is financial, social, a temporary need, or a change in their family status; everyone has a story of what brought them to your door. It is important that you take the time to really know your client. Be truly interested in why that customer is coming to see you. What is their need and why do they need it? That level of sincerity cannot be faked.

How are you going to welcome your customer upon arrival? Will you have a sign outside welcoming them to your community? Will everyone in the office get up and welcome them to the office (I love the welcome I receive at Moe’s, Firehouse Subs, Waffle House etc…)? Handshakes are great, hugs are better (when appropriate), but eye contact is key when greeting your customer. When you are selling to them, are you selling to their needs or are you just spouting off the amenities and benefits of living at your community? Do you really understand your competition so that, when asked, you can speak about them in a knowledgeable, articulate way?

Emulate the Brands Your Customers Love
If you love your experience as a customer, you may tell a couple of people about it. But if you hate your experience, you will most likely go out of your way to tell the world. The most obvious form that these negative experiences take is reviews. The brands that you love are ones that have really great customer reviews. (I love Disney, Southwest and Apple!) This does not happen by accident. These brands have spent huge sums of money to get into the minds of customers, to learn what they really want and how they would like to be treated. They have spent the money and done the work for you; all you have to do is learn from their example.

Nordstrom has a reputation for excellence in customer service. The retailer has developed a company culture where management and employees express “A relentless drive to exceed expectations” and have the goal “to deliver the best possible shopping experience, helping customers possess style—not just buy fashion”. These goals are expressed by their staff, which is empowered to whatever it takes to make a customer’s experience feel special. You can achieve the same level of success by doing everything in your power to make your customer feel that you are there just for them.

Another notable company is Zappos. Their company culture is driven by a mission “to provide the best customer service possible. Internally, we call this our WOW philosophy”. Zappos prides itself on an ease of service and a worry-free environment. One of the most powerful statements you can make as a salesperson is, “I’ll take care of that for you”. When you are engaged with your customer and have taken the time to truly understand their needs, executing those needs seamlessly will leave them saying, “Wow!”

In all the things that you do each day, remember that the key to your success is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and provide them with not
just what would meet their needs, but exceed their expectations. If you are not the one who does it, your competitor down the street might be the one who does. Everyone wants to be able to brag that the place they live is the best. Make sure that your property truly is.