When First Impressions Go Wrong: Why You Lost the Sale Before You Even Had a Chance

When First Impressions Go Wrong: Why You Lost the Sale Before You Even Had a Chance

You’ve heard the adage about having only one chance to make a first impression. When it comes to sales in the 21st century, having a toothy grin and a firm handshake is not the way you’re going to be making first impressions in the vast majority of cases. In today’s world, your reputation precedes you and your website defines you. If either of these are lacking, you’re losing potential sales you never even knew about.

Cyberspace: There Are No Secrets Here

With approximately 86 percent of Americans using the Internet, chances are excellent that your potential customers are taking advantage of technology by putting your name, or the name of your company, into Google or one of the other popular search engines. Twitter bird icon If you log out of your Google account and type your own name into the search bar, you might be surprised at what pops up. (Go ahead and do that… I’ll wait for you right here.)

What did you come up with? Just look at the first page or two; there’s no need to delve further, because your average information-seeker only looks at a handful of results. If you’ve found timely and relevant information that make you look like the professional that you are, go ahead and pat yourself on the back! People searching for you will likely take the next step and go to your website, call you, or place an order.

On the other hand, did you find any of the following?

  • Embarrassing photos
  • References to situations and activities you’d rather your customers not know about
  • Negative reviews
  • Strongly held opinions that could alienate or offend a percentage of your potential clients
  • Random information about you that is not embarrassing or negative, but is irrelevant to what you are doing now
  • Nothing at all

If your Google search turns up any of the above, you’ve likely already lost some potential sales.

So, what can you do about it?

If you have embarrassing, negative or otherwise undesirable information floating around out there, you are not likely to have much luck having it removed from cyberspace, as the Internet is forever. Instead, what you want to focus on is getting enough positive information out there so it crowds out the negative stuff. Twitter bird icon

First, if you haven’t already done so, make your personal social media pages private. Open up appropriate professional social media and business networking accounts. Use sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. If your industry has its own networking sites or web forums, go ahead and set up accounts there, too. Use your real name (or the name you want associated with your business), and remember: Keep it professional! Here are a few quick tips:

  • Make sure your skills take center stage.
  • Proofread! Your grammar and word usage says more about you than you might think.
  • Keep your opinions neutral, or just leave them out. You can debate your theories on politics, religion and conspiracy theories over dinner with unsuspecting family members (or at the very least, on web forums under a different name).
  • Join groups or “like” other pages within your industry and in those industries that are complementary to yours.
  • Participate in discussions. Again, grammar, punctuation and reasonable opinion-sharing is important.
  • Never, ever badmouth former clients or customers online.

Another step you’ll want to take is to create a website, if you don’t already have one. A website is a must when it comes to reaching your potential customers. If your company isn’t Googleable, it’s likely that many Internet searchers are just going to go elsewhere.

Now wait a minute! Don’t just run off and slap together something in a panic; you’re going to need to keep some considerations in mind.

Your Website: If You Build It, They Will Come

While not having a website will almost definitely hurt your sales potential, having a sub-par website is not going to have the effect you want it to. When a potential customer opens your site, they will make a snap judgement about you and your company. Twitter bird icon The question is, are they getting the right impression?

First, what’s in a name? Most of the time, using either your own name or the name of your company is a reasonable plan. Other times, though, it’s either not possible or not feasible. Before you automatically decide to use your company’s name, take a look at these tips on choosing a domain name, courtesy of GoDaddy.

Once you’ve settled on a name and purchased your site, it’s best to work with a professional website developer to design a site that will meet your customers’ needs. If that’s just not in the budget at the moment, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you build your own site (or update the one you already have):

  • Avoid annoying your client at all costs. What is annoying? Music on autoplay catches people by surprise and irritates many. A jarring color scheme or a hard-to-read font will prompt your readers to just look elsewhere. Forget about the excessive use of flash. If you’re designing your own site, stick to neutral colors for the background and a plain font in a size large enough to read easily.
  • Make sure you have the right to use any images that you’re considering. You can use your own images, purchase the rights to images from stock photo sites (such as photos.com or gettyimages.com) or, with proper attribution, use Creative Commons images.
  • Do not duplicate content. You cannot steal other people’s content, and you should not duplicate content from your own still-active pages.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. The latest Google algorithm update has touched on this; you can analyze your site here, then take the appropriate steps to be sure that your smartphone-using clients are able to easily access your site.
  • Remember that spelling counts. So do grammar, syntax and proper English usage. Try not to use industry jargon, but if you do, explain in reader-friendly terms what it all means.

By making sure your website is user-friendly, attractive and professional, you can help your potential customers feel comfortable trusting you to meet their needs with your service or product.

Remember, first impressions are key. In this day and age, the way you portray yourself online can make or break a deal before you are even aware that the potential client exists. Keeping that in mind can help you make more sales and boost your bottom line.

Michelle Kulas
[email protected]