You only get one chance to make a first impression. I remember how my dad used to tell me that over and over again. And as anyone who makes his living in sales knows, right or wrong, once that first impression kicks in, it can be pretty tough to change. For example, if you choose to meet a new client in your garage wearing your favorite Speedo, you may have a hard time getting a second meeting, let alone any business. That’s probably why most advisors wear conservative suits when out prowling for new clients. This look says, “I am capable of both handling your investments and recommending a good dry cleaner.”
That brings me to the point in this column where I reveal a little too much about myself. When I first became a financial advisor back in the early 1980s, my firm required me to go door to door and make 1,000 face-to-face cold calls before I could open an office. The importance of first impressions hit me early on in this adventure.
During my very first week of cold calling, I approached the owner of the largest car dealership in the area, and, much to my surprise, he agreed to meet. As I was driving to the meeting, I had a major sneezing fit, though I managed to avoid crashing into the guardrail or any oncoming traffic. I remember thinking how fortunate I was that I didn’t have this sneezathon while sitting in front of my prospective client.
Mr. Car Dealer was a very nice older gentleman. And we had what I thought was a nice, long chat. Whenever I brought up investing, however, he would change the subject. Something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Still, I thought it was a pretty good meeting. As I walked to my car, I began calculating the commissions on various products I was going to try to sell to Mr. Car Dealer in the coming weeks. When I opened the car door, I happened to look down at the snappy little tie I was wearing. What I saw was so horrific, it is still burned into my brain a quarter of a century later.
There’s no delicate way to describe what I saw and if you’re easily grossed out, you should stop reading now. As my lower jaw hit the ground, I found myself face-to-tie with a (gasp!) booger. Smack dab in the middle of my red power tie, was an equally powerful booger staring right back at me. Right then I knew Mr. Car Dealer was never ever going to do business with me. After all, would you ever give your money to a man with a booger on his tie? I know I wouldn’t.