By Lori DeRoche

Sitting in the coffee shop recently I realized I scope out everything about the place – the people, the smells, the music, the lighting, the baristas and the type of seating available.  This all happens internally within a matter of two minutes.

As I thought about this, I recalled a book that I read a few years back. The title of the books is Blink, and its author is  Malcolm Gladwell, who stresses that we make judgments about the world around us in the blink of an eye.

In the book’s introduction he refers to a study performed by a psychologist Nalini Ambady.  Students are asked to pick out who they believe to be the most effective teacher by viewing a video tape of them teaching, with the sound turned off.

The psychologist split the students into three focus groups and each focus group had three opportunities to observe the teachers on video. The first group observed the teachers for 10 seconds, the second group observed the teachers for five seconds, and the final group observed the teachers for two seconds. The results showed that the same teacher was favored at every interval by the students.

Students who had the same teachers in class for an entire semester wrote evaluations based on the effectiveness of the teachers. The results were consistent with the study group individuals.  This surprised me and, after some thought, caused me to conclude that people make judgments about a person’s ability to be an effective communicator in a matter of two seconds.

Does this intimidate you?  It sure intimidates me!

If people are making judgments about you in a blink of an eye and are right about it, how do you even have a chance at proving yourself in front of a prospective client?

How can you get them to notice you, become intrigued with what you have to say, and not fall victim to the 2-second opinion?

Here are some simple ways for you to make a great first impression and leave the client looking past the first few seconds you have with them.

Dress for Success: If you’re selling landscape maintenance to your neighbor, jeans and a t-shit may be just fine. if you’re selling maintenance to an executive of a large commercial company, your attire will have to be more professional looking. It may seem like common sense but shower, be clean-shaven, and wear a wrinkle-free shirt.

Smell good but go easy on the cologne or perfume:  A very light fragrance is fine but don’t overdo it. People associate smells with memory and many smells will trigger a memory, good or bad.

Do your research: With whom are you meeting?  What’s their position in the company? Are they the decision maker? What exactly does the company do and find valuable?

The answer to these questions should be written down in your note pad before you even get to the meeting.  Read through the company website prior to your meeting. Search LinkedIn for the person with whom you’re meeting, and Google their name to see if you can find out their hobbies or interests.

Don’t go into the meeting without knowing something about that person and the company with whom you are trying to do business. You can never be too prepared but you can be underprepared. Be prepared to let the prospect know how you can help make their job easier. Obviously, you won’t know this unless you know something about them and about their job.

Arrive a bit early. The key word word here is "bit," meaning not too early:  I cannot imagine anything more detrimental to a first impression than someone who arrives to a meeting late.  If you are aware of being consistently tardy, plan extra time whenever you are going to a meeting.  Chances are if you are late the client will still meet with you, but they have already made up in their mind that they will not choose you as their new landscape maintenance provider.  Property managers are managing almost every aspect of the property and usually managing multiple properties.  Making them wait shows them that you do not respect their time.  If that is so, why should they care about giving you an opportunity to present them with proposals for any of their landscape needs?  Do not put yourself out of the running before you even get in front of them. 

How will you make a positive first impression that leaves the client excited about doing business with you? Be aware how the world my perceive you and try to make those impressions positive to everyone around you.

Making that initial good impression gives you a much better opportunity to use your gift of selling. Don’t sell yourself short in the first two seconds of any meeting someone because you forgot to iron your shirt or (heaven forbid!) use deodorant.

About the author: Lori DeRoche is a co-owner of Tandem Landscape Services, LLC with her father James DeRoche.  She received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing.  Lori and James are available for consulting services.  Please contact Lori at or check out Tandem’s website at