A business contact that I have a lot of faith in sent me a link to a sales tip blog by a salesman who has been working in sales for decades and has influenced thousands of people with his sales tactics. I went to the blog site and there on the first page, before any text, before any sales tips, was a picture of the author – a man easily 56-years old but probably a lot younger, skin pale, hairstyle dated, wearing rectangular tinted eyeglasses and a plain white collared shirt. I saw a middle-aged science teacher from the 70s. I did not see a sales guru.
I kept his web page up to read for about a week with the intention of reading it but in the end, I just couldn’t do it. I just didn’t have faith in him. The man had absolutely no presence.
You only get one chance at a first impression
Now, some of you will be chastising me for not giving this man a chance, but this is exactly the point. We only have one chance to make a first impression, and to me, I saw a disconnect between what this man does for a living and the way he projects himself; the two together just didn’t add up. This man did not look like a “sales guru” let alone a professional, so I decided that his advice was probably as dated as his haircut. In other words, I felt that his credibility was questionable because his messages were confused.
When I’m talking about politicians to the media, we often discuss what visual cues promote believability and trustworthiness. I tell them that when there is a disconnect between what a politician says, how he looks, and his body language, he affects people’s opinion of him. The same goes for any one else – when we send mixed messages, our integrity is compromised and we become suspect.
In your personal life and in business, a fragmented image isn’t going to be doing you any favours. Here are some more examples to help you understand how this works:
–> I know a fellow in the insurance industry who insists that he is warm and understanding. He could very well be warm and understanding, but the sight of a thin, pasty-skinned man with long wiry hair and large glasses makes him look rather like a mad scientist, not anyone particularly “warm”. I’m not sure how many people could get past this first vision of him and accept him as a “warm” person because he certainly doesn’t project that feeling. The disconnect between what I see and what I hear throws me into confusion and I doubt what he says.
–> If I had a meeting with a person I only knew from his picture on the web, and he looked about 35 with a full head of hair, and the man I met was actually 55 and balding, I would certainly be confused and I might decide to not trust him (if you’re using a 20-year old picture, this could be interpreted as a little something called “dishonesty”). People recognize and trust genuine and honest people, and if people perceive that you’re not being open and honest with them, you may have to kiss the business/kiss the girl/boy good-bye. This happens a lot with internet dating. It’s in your best interest to maintain an honest and up-to-date online web presence.
–> I volunteer for a cultural organization in Toronto and we are in the process of updating our website. The woman in command and I met with a fellow who raved about the websites he’s created and was sure that we would be convinced that he was our man for the job. When we met with him, he was dressed in dusty clothes and his skin was rough. This vision was immediately confusing to us because we expected to meet someone who looked like a web designer, not a drywaller. On top of this, the man did not prepare anything for our meeting – I came to the meeting with more ideas than he did. What’s wrong with this picture? He looks and behaves opposite to the way he came off during telephone and email contact, and guess what? He didn’t get the job.
–> About 10 years ago, I was buddies with Andy. Andy was a computer geek and had a lot of friends. I got to know one of his friends who helped me with some internet something-or-other and we exchanged some friendly emails. I thought he was a nice guy. A couple of weeks later, I had a party. Andy and his friend were supposed to come together, but Andy couldn’t make it in the end. I suggested that his friend come anyway.
Party night. Andy’s friend buzzes in from downstairs. I open the door to a tall, scruffy man wearing a ripped Ren & Stimpy t-shirt, and reeking of body odor. I sensed something menacing about him. I was so thrown off by what was in front of me that I questioned his identity to make sure that he was Andy’s friend. He was. Dang. Being a polite Canadian, I let him in but I wish I hadn’t. He unleashed himself upon my guests, overpowered them with his stink, bombarded them with his conspiracy theories, and creeped them out by his general demeanor. What an awful experience.
Sending, or not being aware of sending inauthentic messages, might cause you to lose out. I’m telling you this, men, because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as the fellas in our examples. We’re looking for honour here, gentlemen, an awareness of who we are and the messages we send out to the world about who we are. Are you aware of the messages you’re sending? Are they true and balanced, or are they inconsistent and unclear? How do your messages affect your relationships?