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Using first impressions to build a credible reputation

You know first impressions are important, but have you thought about whatelements affect your credibility when you meet someone? There are four keyfactors, says Tom Hinton, president of the Customer Relations Institute, aninternational training and consulting firm in San Diego:

Location. Consider the place you plan to meet important customers orassociates. Your credibility is greater in a business environment than it is,say, at a local bar. "My favorite places are chamber of commerce functions,Rotary meetings and the first-class sections of airplanes," Hinton says.

Who introduces you. The person who actually performs the introduction isanother critical credibility builder. Ideally, Hinton says, the person whoperforms the introduction should be at least a peer of the person you want tomeet. "Someone who already has credibility with that individual enhances yourcredibility," he says. But even with this in mind, never miss out on a chanceto meet someone just because there's no one around to introduce you; there'sabsolutely nothing wrong with introducing yourself.

Bonding. Once the introduction is made, you need to say something tohelp you bond with the other person. If you've met before, mentionit--especially if it was in a particularly credible situation. Hinton saysother bonding themes include mutual acquaintances, magazines or books, sports,shopping, and items of apparel. "To compliment somebody is a nice way to starta conversation, but be sure the topic is appropriate to the situation," Hintonsays.

Your identity hook. If people remember your name, you have automaticcredibility, so give them a tool that helps them. If your name is the same orsimilar to that of someone famous, come up with a clever line to capitalize onit. If your name is unusual, offer a brief explanation of its background; ifit's hard to pronounce, give people a way to help them say it.