First Impression

I am asked by a client to approach a potential investor to garner interest in an early-stage growth opportunity. The investor is but one of a thousand or more firms chasing diamonds in the rough. Calls to their Home Office reception for the mail, telephone and email address prove fruitless “Sorry Sir, I don’t have a listing for that individual or business unit, let me see if I can refer you to a colleague.” A public tour of their organisation’s website has a a one-page summary of their expertise and an “info@” email address where friendly emails go unanswered for weeks on end. A personal introduction from a friendly competitor falls on deaf ears. We are not talking about getting hold of Warren Buffett or Li Ka Shing. This is a small group of investment partners in a $40 billion financial services business, who are accountable for attracting world-class entrepreneurs with leading-edge business ideas and the volition to transition those ideas into large multinational businesses in return for capital support.

Speed is as important as the quality of your response. When you don’t hold yourself and your colleagues accountable for answering the door (in person, by phone, email or other means) in a timely and professional manner, why should I wait?

Is it little wonder that the most attractive clients and prospects move on and rarely return? “If the communication is so poor at the outset, imagine what it would be like working with/for these guys”.

More troubling, when this becomes a pattern, is it a surprise when others preface a referral or comment about your brand with “be warned, they aren’t good with paper or returning calls or emails” because they fear the embarrassment that you might create for them with the lack of respect shown?

Contrary to a lot of nonsense, we individually control the first impression with our prospective clients, peers and others. There is no one, who cannot answer a call, reply to a letter or respond to an email within 24 hours (my standard is 4 hours or less) anywhere in the world. Travel and holidays, I am sorry are not a credible excuse. Neither is volume of calls, emails and so on. I can achieve that standard without any additional help in a solo practice and basic technology. There is no reason a corporate manager in a mid or large sized business cannot organise themselves and their time appropriately. It starts with having the requisite enthusiasm, a willingness to hold yourself and your peers accountable (appropriate penalties), and the belief that my/our first impression is critical to my/our success. You need all three elements.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.


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