We control nearly every part of the first impression we make on others. Aside from height and age — which can be guessed within a broad range regardless of the amount of surgery and Botox — we control what remains. Professionals in the people business obviously want their first impressions to be positive. We spend time grooming ourselves and wearing clothes that fit correctly. Those who take first impressions very seriously study handshakes and ways to orient their body to everyone they meet so that they deliver a welcoming and friendly demeanor.
As the workplace becomes more casual and the next generation of client seeks more casual relationships and less formality, how have first impressions changed? Are advisors keeping up with the importance of first impressions to the next generation? And if advisors need to be aware of these changes, what should they do so that their first impressions remain strong?
There is much to study here but this column’s focus will be exclusively on first impressions delivered online. Yes. The impressions made at times and in places where you’re not even present. Like the in-person variety, they’re important and can be controlled entirely by you.
Imagine your baby boomer client has asked if you’d be willing to spend a moment or two with their son who recently began a business of his own. All indicators suggest that the business will be a success, and while the son isn’t affluent yet he does have strong cash flow and realizes he should be important to an advisor like you.
The son is an example of a “HENRY” — High Earner, Not Rich Yet — and HENRYs are bell cows among their peers; where they go the others follow.
You readily agree to meet and the parents reach out to their son and say, “We’ve asked our advisor to spend a moment with you and teach you how he can be of help. This person has been of great value to us and we hope you’ll listen to his advice; it will go a long way to helping you down the road.”
This son, likely of the millennial generation, will then immediately go online and check you out. His first impression of you will be made at a time and a place of his choosing, using his computer or handheld device, and his attitude the day of your meeting will have been formed based on what he found in his search. He’ll either be eager to meet with you based on what he found online or feel obligated to meet with you because he’s a good son and wants to please his parents. Another possibility is that he’ll simply cancel the meeting because the impression you’ve created online is dreadful.