First impressions, second impressions, lasting impressions

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Timetohire.com has been effective, but not quite in the way I originally expected.

time tohireRecently, the owner of TimeToHire.com invited me to write a guest post on his blog. This is a refreshing change from the so-called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts who frequently ask if they could write guest posts here. Their goal — to embed links back to the site which they are really promoting, to boost the site’s SEO.

Founder Chad Bronstein got it right, on several levels, by turning the tables and asking me to write the post on his site, rather than offering to write a “free” post here. I’ve used his service (designed to facilitate the discovery and hiring of commission-based sales representatives), and while we had limited success the first-time around, I’m satisfied his organization delivered the promised experience. We certainly received many more inquiries, in a much shorter time, than any other methodology we’ve used.

In a recent posting, he reminds businesses seeking to hire commissioned representatives of the importance of first impressions.

The year is 1993.  Meet John. John owns a small merchant services company near Hartford Connecticut. Since the Time To Hire service hasn’t been invented yet, John uses the local newspaper to look for commission-based sales people.

John gets quite a few calls and is able to set up quite a few meetings; however, he can’t seem to find anyone who wants to come back for a second meeting. Concerned, John pores over every aspect of his process. John is offering a small draw against commission of $500 per week, medical benefits, a retirement plan and even paid training – much, much more than most companies. What could be the issue?

John’s assistant gingerly offers an explanation. “The office could use a touch of paint, and possibly a new sign.” John hadn’t considered the condition of the office up until this point. He’s done everything himself in terms of the decor. The office is in a professional building, however John used the local “Quick Sign” company, and it really looks like he got what he paid for. Instead of a steel, professionally designed sign, he chose a vinyl one which is now covered by a thick coat of mildew. The office conference room where John meets new recruits is devoid of any character. The conference table was purchased second-hand and the chairs are cheap and falling apart. There’s no art on the walls or potted plants. Just an old dry erase board and a lectern.

No wonder candidates failed to set up a second meeting. First impressions are incredibly important.

Bronstein suggests that today the website serves as a first impression, but I would also agree that you still need to be careful about your interview setting, dress code and the like, when you conduct your first face-to-face interviews. (You can turn the tables on this as well. I remember my first interview with the person who is  now our company’s best salesperson — in a less-than-elegant coffee shop. But he had already proven himself, closing a significant order on a one-day trial evaluation, the most effective and immediate sales results I’ve ever seen from a new candidate. He had already earned enough in commissions to pay for many coffees. We had no trouble, in this case, offering him a salary guarantee to start.)

But what about the second, third, and successive impressions? Undoubtedly, you will only achieve lasting marketing and business success if these are in order as well.  Shortcuts in quality won’t help (unless you are accurately representing yourself as cheap and crappy, an odd but not entirely invalid market segment). Failing to respect client complaints and really resolving valid problems won’t help either. (See yesterday’s posting about our roofing contractor’s botched job.)

Finally, it is generally better to give than to take; to be generous than to sell.  And remember, people can quickly see through fake generosity. Like offers from SEO experts who want to write guest columns here. Instead, Bronstein is getting what he really wants, by giving, instead.

(And I’ll write a column for him within the next few weeks.)

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