How to Say a Lot Without Opening Your Mouth

April 9, 2008
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Did you know that every person you meet makes as many as 11 immediate assumptions about you before you say a word? They judge how successful you are, whether you know what you are talking about, whether they can trust you, and much more. All people do this.

Be aware of this the next time you meet someone. Notice how your mind automatically begins to make assumptions based on your experience. These are hidden, pre-programmed assumptions that happen automatically.

In a networking environment, you are challenged to make a big impression in a very small amount of time. And you want to make a big impression, because the person you meet may hold the keys to your future. The next person you meet may be able to change your life.

To have a positive impact on someone in 30 seconds or less requires some planning. The impression you make when you first meet someone – assuming that your reputation hasn’t preceded you – will determine whether they will want to pursue a conversation with you or not, a conversation that could begin a relationship that can mean positive, profitable things for your business and your life.

I was recently with my best friend Dave DeBlander and his wife Kate. Kate is a national sales director for Mary Kay, and I attended a Mary Kay leadership conference with them. Mary Kay has more than one million consultants worldwide. Only directors were allowed at this conference, and there were 5,000 of them; 5,000 screaming women who are motivated and inspired by each other (unfortunately they weren’t screaming for Dave and me). I met a lot of people that day, including the president of the company. Could that be significant for me one day? You bet.

Last year I attended the National Wood Flooring Association convention in Denver. I met the woman who is in charge of all the speakers for Surfaces, one of the largest floor covering shows in the world. Guess what? I was a featured speaker at that show in January. This opportunity came only as a result of my doing intentional networking. I went to that conference for only a few hours with the specific intent on meeting the right people. It worked. The point here is, if I had not intentionally set out to connect with this group and made a good impression, it would have been a waste of time.

So, when you meet someone and have short amount of time to have a big impact, you want to be prepared in advance to make a good impression.

Great Impressions = Confidence
Confidence = Action (having coffee to see “how we can help each other,” a phone call, etc.)

If people are not “wowed” by your presence, they will not have the confidence in you that is required to take whatever action is needed to begin that relationship.

Studies have shown that the majority of communication is nonverbal. Your body language and tone of voice can make up as much as 93 percent! So, your unique (and hopefully powerful) message begins with your image. Your image includes how you dress and groom yourself as well as your body language.

Your body language includes how you stand, your movements and your expressions. All of these can be managed to communicate the best message possible. Although the words you speak are the smaller part of the whole, a powerful verbal message on top of a powerful non-verbal message gives you a huge advantage.

I want to share how you should dress, act, and speak to get the most out of this phenomenal process – that is terribly underused in our wonderful industry – called networking.

The Carpet Cleaner's "Modular" Dress Code

As a professional that wants to set himself (or herself, but for this example, we’ll be using a male) apart in the service industry, you want an image that communicates trust and experience. The trouble here is that today’s society doesn’t seem to understand what “dressing for success” really means. And “Casual Friday” has certainly gone way too far! So, here’s a specific dress code for you.

When you attend a networking group, I would like to see you wear a sport coat and a tie. Don’t have one? That’s your next goal. Write it down. Get a navy sport coat and a tie. You can wear professionally pressed khakis (notice I said professionally pressed). The impact of the professional crease really does make a difference believe it or not. Don’t get the khakis that have the big pockets. Wear an Oxford shirt and loafers with a belt to match. Your shirt can be embroidered with a logo, so lose the coat and tie and you are ready for a consultation appointment. On the cleaning job you have a pair of tennis shoes and a polo shirt with your logo. And maybe an extra pair of khakis on the truck for cleaning.

It's a Bird, It's a Plane

You may be thinking “How can I possibly maintain that kind of dress code and clean carpet every day?” You may want to review my “Superman” routine that I did when I was on the truck (in fact, I didn’t even have a truck – I worked out of the trunk of my car).

Believe me, looking good is worth it and is something most people completely underestimate. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to engage in a conversation with someone who has the potential to give you what you want and need.

And for those of you that have staff, I never go to my office in my casual attire. I know that sounds kind of severe. It gets better; I rarely go farther than the grocery store in casual attire on a weekday. You never know who you are going to meet. At my office, I will always have on my embroidered Oxford shirt at a minimum, and possibly a suit if I am visiting clients. I expect my technicians to have their shirt tucked in and be in full uniform at the office, so I have to set the example. Now, fortunately for me, I don’t have to be there much, but it wasn’t any different when I was there six days a week. Work is theatre and every business is a stage. Every impression that is made should be managed in advance. When we are at our office and there is a slight chance that a client, vendor, or associate may stop by, we are ready.

Here’s a bonus: When you dress up, you feel better about yourself. You feel more confident. You feel more successful. I have to admit that I hate wearing a suit. I hate getting dressed at all, to tell the whole truth. My favorite outfit is a bathing suit and that’s it – scary, yes, but that’s another subject!

But I have learned that successful people do what unsuccessful people don’t whether they feel like it or not.

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