First Impressions – you had me at “hello” – you’ve got less than half a second to make a positive first impression
The clothes you wear, your voice and your handshake are just three of the many ways you’re judged against every single day as to whether you’ve got what it takes to list and sell someone’s property.
Here are 5 things you can personally adjust to give you the competitive edge in those first few critical seconds of first impressions
As Nicholas Rule, PhD of the University of Toronto says “we judge books by their covers and we can’t help but do it. With effort we can overcome this to some extent, but we’re continually tasked with needing to correct ourselves”.
Of course, this is all well and good for advanced souls like you and me; people who continually work to correct ourselves.
But what if Mr or Ms Vendor aren’t as advanced in their emotional cognition or intelligence and/or have had a bad hair day and just can’t be bothered in ignoring their first gut response to you?
Stack the first impressions deck in your favour
Here are 5 ways you can ensure the deck is always stacked in your favour so that you’re seen as a credible, professional and authoritative real estate agent.
An agent who’s got what it takes to get the best price for property owners.
A real estate agent who knows what s/he’s talking about.
#1 Gut feelings matter
You’ve more than likely felt it yourself. “Something” (you’re not sure what) about someone just doesn’t sit right with you. You call it a “gut reaction” or a “gut response”. Perhaps even “women’s intuition” or “feminine intuition”.
Whatever you refer to it as, your prospects are certainly experiencing it. And if there’s any part of you that’s out of synch with what you say and what you do, it’s going to be picked up by those you meet.
The 1994 Iowa Gambling Task research leads some researchers to believe that people do not always make decisions based on conscious awareness. In other words, people make decisions based on their gut feelings. (I’m sure that’s no surprise to you, like it was no surprise to me, but researchers need evidence and numbers, right?). Which they got with that research.
#2 Your handshake counts
In line with gut feelings, a student at the University of Toledo studying under psychologist Frank Bernieri wanted to determine whether people coached in non-verbal job interview techniques would get better ratings and be more successful in their job interviews than those applicants who received no coaching and behaved normally.
The original research was to determine whether natural body language could be overruled and feigned. In other words, whether artificial and contrived body language could be picked up by other people.
As it turns out the coached respondents didn’t get any better results in their interviews than non-coached students.
Perhaps this was because of the gut feelings we are all capable of, referred to above?
However, Tricia Pickett (a student of Bernieri) wanted to see whether she could determine the outcome simply from observing someone’s handshake. She requested copies of the interview tapes.
She didn’t want to watch each interview in its entirety. She just wanted 15 seconds on which to reach her decision.
From a mere 15 second “thin slice” of a videotape showing each applicant knocking on a door, entering, shaking the hand of the interviewer, sitting down, and the interviewer welcoming the applicant, Pickett was able to determine the outcome of the interview!
Wow – from just the handshake!
What is your handshake like?
If Pickett was tasked with predicting whether you successfully get listings from just your handshake what would her verdict be?
But wait – there’s more!
#3 – you have just half a second to make a good first “hello”
Research by psychologists from the universities of Glasgow (Scotland) and Princeton, (US) have shown a simple “hello” is enough for most people to make a judgement about personality type.
You’re seriously judged on your hello”!
The sound of your voice matters
One of the surprising things about this research was that people made this judgement on voice alone – they didn’t even need to sight the person doing the speaking.
A study showed recordings of people saying hello and asked test subjects to rank them according to 10 pre-defined personality traits including trustworthiness, dominance, attractiveness and warmth.
The study found that most of the recorded voices elicited the same response from participants and that these opinions were formed rapidly on hearing the voices for only 300-500mSecs.
#4 – you have about 3 seconds to make a positive impression based on what you wear
There are numerous studies and research demonstrating what someone wears (and how they wear it) affects outcomes and determines success (whatever “success” refers to in each study). The most famous of these studies is probably that published in the Evolution and Human Behaviour Journal in 2011.
Unfortunately, it’s a sad indictment on us humans.
Humans are social snobs
The research showed we humans are ostensibly (subconsciously it appears) social snobs who are extremely quick to judge. The results showed:
- A photograph of man wearing a polo shirt featuring a designer logo was rated as higher status as the same man with the logo digitally cropped out.
- A female wearing a sweater with a designer logo got a response rate of 52% (versus 13% of the female wearing a sweater without the logo) when asking passers-by to fill out a survey.
- Participants watching a man interviewing for a job on video rated the one with a shirt with a designer logo as more suitable for the job and deserving of a 9% higher salary than the same man without a logo.
- Wearing a designer logo resulted in twice as many contributions when soliciting for charity.
What does this actually “prove”?
The researchers explained that designer labels communicate subconscious quality.
This subconscious thought pattern is that because only the best can afford designer labels, this therefore leads us to subconsciously think the wearer of the designer label must be among the best.
As a real estate agent where listings are your bread and butter you need to be thought of by property owners that you are among the best.
#5 How dressing up affects you
What’s interesting to discover is that dressing up has a positive effect on you as well as others.
Apparently our behaviour changes when we make the effort to dress up. This behaviour pattern is called cognitive dissonance.
One study at a roller rink showed that on nights when a strict dress code was enforced there were fewer accidents and less noise than on nights when no dress code was applied.
In line with this is the study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology where researchers ran an experiment around a white coat. Students who thought they were wearing a doctor’s coat showed a heightened sense of attention than students who thought they were “merely” wearing a painter’s coat. It was the same coat but they didn’t know that.
What they thought about themselves while they were wearing it was what mattered.
You need to believe in yourself as being The Best (so that others also pick up on this subconscious belief with you).
You therefore need to ensure you always do what it takes to make sure you always feel the best by believing in yourself.
Presenting yourself as sharp starts before you get dressed each morning. Choose each outfit with care and pride. Dress with care and pride.
Your “First Impressions” Takeaway Action Steps
As superficial as it sounds, real estate is one of those professions where you almost always need to have your game face on.
This means that – even when you’re just popping down to the corner diary for a litre of milk – you need to look the part. You just never know who you’re going to bump into, or who will see you (even if you don’t see them).
If you think to yourself it doesn’t matter – it’s just a litre of milk and the corner dairy – you’ll get sprung and kick yourself for not caring enough about your professional image and reputation before you rushed out the door.
Look your best
Make sure that your clothes are always perfect (yes – I know – this takes energy and effort). You may find this Personal Presentation Checklist article helpful.
Sound your best
Given that we all judge people by the way they sound, listen to yourself. Record yourself (yes – I know – it’s cringe-worthy the first couple of times).
If your voice is quite high, see whether you can lower it (the research above states that lower-toned voices are easier on the ear). That was why back in the day, there were very few female radio announcers; because the female voice was considered too harsh for radio listeners to have to endure listening to!
Although the (untrained) female voice hasn’t changed much, equal opportunity means women can become radio announcers.
Today, no radio station could get away with not having female announcers. However, I’m sure you can relate: some voices just grate and hurt our ears. Make sure your voice isn’t one of those. Get coaching if necessary.
Similarly, if English isn’t your first language and you speak fast, s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. Some nationalities have a predisposition to speak fast. Indians speak very fast. Very. Very. Very fast.
If you speak fast slow down, regardless of your nationality.
The flip side of the coin is if English is your first language but it’s not that of the person you’re speaking with, again you’ll need to slow down.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got an awesome message and brilliant marketing strategy for selling properties, if your prospect can’t understand a word you’re saying you might as just as well be talking to your letterbox!
Here in New Zealand we favour a good, firm handshake. Nothing wishy-washy thank you very much!
Practise shaking hands firmly. In some cultures it’s not considered acceptable to have a firm handshake. However (with all due respect) you need to adapt. If you’re shaking hands with a culture that judges positively by a firm handshake (eg, Europeans, Kiwis, Australians, Americans, Brits) you need to have a firm handshake yourself.
You’ll be judged negatively if your handshake is floppy, sloppy and weak.
Likewise, if you’re a firm-handshaking kiwi meeting with a culture that favours a mere ‘touch’ of hands (or perhaps a bow) then you need to be cognisant of this.