The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Meeting new business contacts, expanding personal networks, promoting a reliable, trustworthy Brand You are the basics of business. What’s more, even if our job title doesn’t explicitly mention sales and marketing, we are all in sales and marketing.

In modern commerce, even professionals in non-traditional sales roles—such as accountants, lawyers, dentists, engineers, architects, analysts, and consultants—all need to pitch their expertise to get new clients.

When we try to influence a decision—buy my widget, fund this project, open a new market or, even, where shall we go for lunch—we are engaging in sales and marketing efforts intended to persuade others.

First impressions are so critical. When I ask my participants during sales training how long it takes to form an impression of someone, the range of answers is usually between two and five seconds. Think about that. We are so quick to form a judgment; we are shockers!

An opinion is formed immediately, and if it is a negative one, it takes quite a bit of effort to unwind it.

Given that our first interactions with strangers are so important, are we getting the best result for our organization and ourselves? Can we succinctly explain what we do, in a clear, informative, impressive, and memorable manner?

Based on my experience and observations, there is room for improvement. An excellent formula is called the wow and how. When we meet someone for the first time, after examining their business card, we should get the ball rolling and ask them about their business.

Why don’t we rush in and start impressing them with our information? We know that people love to talk about themselves, so don’t deny the potential client that chance. We also learn more by listening than speaking and so having them lead off is a win-win situation.

Hearing what they do also assists us in considering how we explain what we do. We can emphasize certain aspects that we believe would appeal to them, based on what they have just told us about what they are doing. Listening to them speak, we can gauge their personality type. We can then adjust our communication style to best suit their preference for interaction.

If we notice, for example, that they are a very detail-oriented person, we might add in more concrete detail than usual to explain what it is we do. If you are speaking with an accountant, three decimal places when quoting numbers is always appreciated!

The opposite tack is best applied to big-picture people—don’t kill them with minutia. If they are fast-paced, speak faster and with more energy than normal. If they are very calm and considered, drop your voice and energy to mirror theirs. We like people who are like us.

When it is our turn to explain what we do, we use a three-step approach. We start with a proposition that they can easily agree with. For example, “You know how companies often really struggle with training their staff. They get really frustrated that the training doesn’t produce the results they require.”

The listener by this time is nodding and voicing their agreement, because they can mentally picture the problem. We then add, “Well, we fix that completely.” Their immediate thought is “Wow; sounds amazing.” Then the skepticism kicks in and they ask us, ”Alright, how do you do that?”

This allows us to lead with our differentiable advantage in the market. This answer is more what than how. We do this because we want to explain the precise how—in their office rather than in a noisy, crowded networking event. The explanation is under a minute, so each word is vital. The delivery must be practiced and perfected beforehand.

At the next business soirée, roll out the wow and how formula, delivered in the potential client’s preferred communication style, and see the results. Remember, first impressions count; so let’s not leave that creation process to chance.