Good first impressions

May 29, 2017

They count, and they need to be made across numerous fronts if you want to get your foot in the door with a new client.

As the saying goes, first impressions count. Although much of our success is based on our unique service offerings and track record, a bad first impression can completely shut the door to a deal before we ever have the chance to sell ourselves.

When it comes to B2B relationships, there is a very well-known and specific courtship that must occur to solidify a deal. Getting your foot in the door with a new client or teaming partner begins with a dialogue – verbal and written – both of which must be executed to perfection. Creating the best first impression will set you apart from your competitors and, with the proper maintenance, ensure a long-term relationship. If you start a B2B connection on a well-organized and positive footing, your chances of maintaining that contact will increase tenfold. Here is how to do so in three basic steps:


  • Elevator pitch. Have an elevator pitch ready! Make sure everyone involved in communication with this new client has their own elevator pitch ready to “wow” their business leaders! The importance of being able to convey your unique worth in a few sentences cannot be taken for granted. Saying something brief, but impactful in 30-60 seconds can sell you as an experienced and sought after candidate.
  • Emails and professionalism. How do you address your emails? Is your subject line capitalized properly? Are you sure to say thank you or give a courteous goodbye? These things matter. Signing an email with “best regards” leaves a better impression than “thanks,” and addressing your email using “good afternoon, Ms. Smith” is much more professional than “hello Sue.” Think twice about your wording and always be sure to be polite and thank someone for their time. After all, no one is obligated to talk to you, so let your clients know you appreciate and value their time.
  • Online presence. When people want to learn more about your firm, they often turn to the internet. They browse your website and search your social media content. Is your Facebook or LinkedIn account active? Was the last time you posted in 2014? If so, it’s time to do some house-keeping. Your online presence has the potential to be upbeat, strong, and portray your business to be booming. Make sure your consistent, quality content portrays these things. Start posting about projects, good news, company culture, and more!

Proposal submissions. The purpose of proposals is to bring awareness to your company and to show a client that you are the best fit for the job. They are a direct reflection of your company – you can look at it as a mirror of your business. It is imperative that the content of your proposal is flawless. If you are physically mailing a proposal to a client, it is necessary to ensure the packaging and titling is neat, written clearly, and wrapped properly. Taking the extra minute or so to convey a clean, well-organized delivery will make your client feel good even before reading your cover letter. Whether it is a conscious impression or subconscious snap-judgement, remember these tips to ensure your best possible appearance.

Proposals are a direct reflection of your company’s worth, and act as a deciding factor in public opinion. Consider breaking up letter proposals with graphics. They provide “eye candy” interest and show that you went the extra mile in putting the proposal together. There is nothing worse than page after page of text, droning on about the project and your qualifications. If you aren’t qualified, you won’t be selected. Spend the time to show your unique approach through the use of photos and graphics. It is one thing to talk about a “state-of-the-art green roof,” it’s another to show an example.

Timeliness and presentation. Perhaps the most important of all. Answering emails, arriving to a site, and returning a phone call all have something in common: They must be done in a timely manner. If you are late showing up somewhere or forget to get back to someone within the week, you are representing yourself and your company as either uninterested, irresponsible, or just plain disorganized. Why would someone want to go into business with another person or company who has such characteristics? The answer: They wouldn’t. On another note, presentation coincides with timeliness. If you respond quickly and show up on time, you have won half the battle.

The other half of presenting yourself properly has to do with appearance. As much as we don’t want to admit it, our appearance is a big part of people’s judgments. Always be sure your shirt is tucked in, bring an extra pair of stockings in case yours rip, and if you have a company shirt or pin, wear it! Every detail counts, so keep this in mind. You are not only representing yourself, but your services and company. (No pressure, right?)

First impressions in the AEC industry go a long way. Be sure to be conscious of your communication, proposal submissions, and timeliness and presentation to ensure that you and your firm are being represented properly. Do any of them wrong or without commitment and you will waste your time. Do them well and you will set the stage for a successful long-term relationship.

Bob McGee is the director of marketing and communications at Pennoni. He can be reached at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.