You Only Get Once Chance at a First Impression

By Rich Lindblom, YSN

Studies show that a customer forms an impression about your store within the first seven seconds of walking through the front door. And those seven seconds may well determine whether or not you make a sale.

So, the question is real simple: What kind of impression are you and your staff making on your customers in the first seven seconds?

There are two parts to that first impression: The first is your store appearance and the second is the customer greeting.  Get them both right and you’ve dramatically improved your chances of making a sale. But screw up one or both and your chances decline dramatically.

Let’s look at both parts of the first impression, starting with your store’s appearance. Depending on the layout of your showroom and parking area, an entire first impression could be created before the customer even steps foot in the store.  Whether you realize it or not, the customer sees everything.

  • Your parking lot: Has it been paved and lined recently?  Or is it full of potholes?
  • Your outdoor signage: Is it bright, in good condition and does it truly reflect your store?
  • Your store windows and front door: Are they clean or dirty?  Is your front door welcoming, easy to open and squeak free? And please tell me you don’t have a broken window with tape on it. 
  • Window signage: Window signage is great, but you have to maintain it properly.  Torn, crooked or faded signs hurt more than they help.

Related: Can Your Store Pass the ‘Dowdy’ Test?

OK, you’ve made it past the first hurdle and the customer is now inside your store.  What do they see?

  • Lighting: The first thing a customer will notice is how well your store is lit.  Is the sales floor bright and welcoming? 
  • Product: Your products should be organized in an easy-to-follow array.  Every piece on your floor should be properly leveled, plugged in and ready to demonstrate. If there are holes in your display due to manufacturer shortages, put a duplicate piece out there or spread out the units a bit to fill the gaps, because an empty showroom makes it look like you’re going out of business. 
  • P.O.P. materials: If you use P.O.P. materials, make sure they are limited and in good condition.  It’s better to have no P.O.P. materials than too much.  And worst of all are dirty, faded or written-on materials.
  • Desk/cash wrap area: Get rid of the clutter on, under and around your desk and cash wrap areas.  Clutter looks unprofessional.  Have full bottles of hand sanitizer available for customer use.
  • Cleanliness: Your staff should be detailing your store a couple of times a week in their downtime.  Nothing turns a customer off more than dust, cobwebs and dead insects.

While the visuals are critical, just as or possibly even more important is what customers hear or not hear when they step in your store.  Every customer should be greeted within that same seven-second time frame.  And please note that I said greeted, not attacked.

Depending upon the layout of your store, the greeting will be slightly different.  There has long been debate about how to properly greet a customer. I believe there are a few key points to the customer greeting:

  • Physically acknowledge the customer. Stand up, look in their direction and try to make eye contact.
  • Greet the customer (“Good morning.”)
  • Thank them for visiting your store. (“Thanks for stopping in today.”)
  • Introduce yourself (“My name is Rich”).
  • Let them know you are there to assist them. (“I’ll be glad to help you in any way I can.”)

You don’t have to follow the suggested script word for word; customize it as you see fit. The bottom line is that you have only seven seconds to make that first impression, so you need to do it right in all aspects. 

The big question is, when was the last time you’ve truly seen your store through a customer’s eyes?  Because you should, every single time you walk through the front door.

Next Up: The LAST Impression

It’s always gratifying to hear from readers when one of my articles struck a particular chord. So, if you have a question or comment (good or bad) about something I wrote about, please contact me at egvrich@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.