How Do You Perform against the “Power of the Glance?”
How long does it take for you to shape your first impression of a person? Though most of us would like to consider ourselves more open-minded than this, three facts are daunting:
- You draw your first impression of a person in less than TWO SECONDS.
- Once you’ve created an impression of someone, it’s unlikely that impression will change significantly.
- Most of the time, your first impression is correct.
I recently dusted off my well-worn edition of Blink, the fascinating, seminal work of Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Gladwell spends a great deal of time talking about “thin slices,” the “blink of an eye” in which people draw conclusions.
“Snap judgments,” says Gladwell, “are, first of all, enormously quick: they rely on the thinnest slices of experience.” He likewise says that “Snap judgments and rapid cognition take place behind a locked door.” People – your clients and prospects included – use “unconscious reasoning,” not logic or methodical reasoning, to make sense of everything in the world around them.
The implications of thin-sliced impressions on small businesses are profound. You’ve heard the saying that “no one ever got fired for hiring IBM.” The idea is that a person put in a position to make a choice between two competitors is likely to select the safer option, the one that puts them at less risk when problems surface down the road. When the project fails 12 to 24 months and blame is being distributed, that moment already had put that in that into the decision-making calculus: “She hired IBM? Well, you can’t really blame her for THAT decision.”
So, if you’re up against these two formidable forces – snap judgments and CYA decision-making – as a small business or organization, your ability to create a strong first impression is not just important, it’s the ABSOLUTE DIFFERENCE between success and failure.
Think about your website. Think about your marketing collateral. Think about your client presentations. Think about your e-newsletters and social media presence (or lack thereof).
Subject lines. Headlines. Images (and captions). Logos. Taglines. Color schemes.
It all matters.
It’s all part of your story and the difference between a prospect immediately dismissing you from consideration or engaging a little more, giving you a chance to show them why you’re worth the risk to consider over their equivalent safe choice of IBM.
I know. I know. You’ve gotten this far and you haven’t even had the opportunity to open your mouth and tell your story (we’ll get to that another time).
But if you know all this – you know the deck is stacked against you – how do you turn the odds around and beat “the House?” By really understanding how your clients and prospects make decisions. By aligning your story (your messaging) and imagery with those realities. By getting a deeper understanding of what differentiates you from other choices in the marketplace. By using those first two seconds to overwhelm your prospects with your authentic story.
And if you’re not convinced of the power of those “thin-slice” impressions, let me tell you the story of Kelly.
Kelly was our friends’ black-and-white sheltie. A sheltie, if you’re not familiar, is a smaller version of a collie. They also look quite a bit like a border collie. As dogs go, they’re pretty calm. Kelly, likewise, was a sweet-tempered and quiet. Kelly was never a dog that was going to cause trouble.
Inevitably, though, when Kelly went to dog parks or otherwise was around other dogs, she would get into fights. Now the term “fight” might not be exactly correct because it was always one-sided: Kelly would immediately be attacked by other dogs. It made zero sense. Kelly would do exactly nothing and these dogs would approach her, make the thin-slice judgment she was up to no good, and go after her jugular.
What was Kelly’s problem?
Her tail didn’t work. While Kelly had a nice, long tail, apparently the muscles that make a dog’s tail wag were under-developed or just were not there in Kelly’s posterior. To other dogs, a tail that is still – that isn’t wagging – is a bad, bad thing. It sends all the wrong messages. It means you’re nervous. It means you’re not just unfriendly, you’re hostile. You’re about to attack me and I can tell all of this because you’re not wagging a tail.
Kelly never had a chance.