First Impressions – be a Receptionist

We form impressions of people in the first few seconds that we meet them and it takes a lot to overturn first impressions. The same is true of our impressions of companies – the first few seconds are very important. This is why the receptionist has such an important role in a company. Very often she or he is the first person in the company that a visitor will meet face to face and the friendliness and professionalism displayed will form a major part of the visitor’s impression of the company.

Yesterday I was reminded that everyone has the role of receptionist from time to time – the first person seen by a visitor – and so we all need to make sure we are giving a good impression of the organisation we are representing. In my case yesterday I was manning the barriers where the road was closed for the carnival street market in our local village, Mayfield. So I was the first person many visitors to our village met.
It rained heavily for a while so I was wet and I was at the barrier for over three hours, often with periods where no-one new needed help or directions. So at times it was difficult to stay as helpful as possible to people asking about parking or how to get round the closed portion of the road. My respect increased for receptionists who have greet visitors all day every day however they are feeling.
In any organisation we need to work out how we can support those who are meeting and greeting visitors (as their regular job or just from time to time), remind them of their critical role and structure their work to help them make that vital great first impression.

Porous to Pitch

Yesterday I attended a very interesting workshop run by Business Link South East – “Your Games, Your Business” about business opportunities (and concerns) arising from the London Olympic Games in 2012. It showed how many opportunities there were for business and how the games, although based in London, would have an effect that spread widely across the UK, particularly with games venues outside London, training camps for competitors, visitors not all staying in London and the torch relay round the country.

As well as food for thought on business opportunities, I also picked up one phrase I really liked, from Rob Lewtas of UKTI (UK Trade and Investment) when he talked about making people “porous to pitch”.

It highlights the fact that whenever you are pitching to people, trying to sell products, services or your own talents, you need to do your best to ensure that they are in a receptive mood. If your audience is distracted or bored, then even the best arguments and most convincing benefits will have difficulty persuading them.

To make people “porous to pitch” you need to use timing, tone and listening

  • timing: if someone is hurried, give them brief details, explain that you would like to speak to them at some more convenient time and book a better time when they will be more relaxed and you can do your message justice. Similarly if the location is making someone uncomfortable, find a better place and time
  • tone: when meeting someone in an informally, such as a networking meeting, do not go into a hard sell but explain briefly but enthusiastically your offering. You can even talk business in a purely social setting if it fits well into the conversation, but do not push it or you will turn people off (make them ‘impermeable to message’). Also some conversation on a shared interest or some light-hearted talk can make your audience more receptive
  • listening: ask what their needs are in the areas where you have products or services to offer. What they say will help you make your pitch relevant to them and so make them more receptive to it. How they say it will help you work out the first two points: whether the timing is right and what tone to adopt

We all ought to practice our techniques for making our audience “porous to pitch” since this is as important as the message itself in marketing and selling