As someone who’s new to the world of entrepreneurship, you likely have big dreams and numerous long-term business goals. One of the first steps to achieving those goals? Networking. And the key to networking is making a great first impression. For entrepreneurs, you never know when you’re going to make a worthwhile connection, so networking is always on the table. Not sure how to put it into practice? Below are several tips on how to make a great first impression, every time.

Know Your Audience

When it comes to making a great first impression, we could all learn a thing or two from James Bond — from his suave appearance to how he always seems to know what to say and how to behave at a casino, for example. When channeling your inner Bond, consider that he almost always appears poised and confident, and he rarely shows his hand. He knows how to expertly read the room and any opponents, which cues him in on how to speak and how to act. After all, the world of casinos and entrepreneurship aren’t so different — they both rely on socializing, observing, and analyzing the competitors, anticipating different scenarios, among others.

In other words, be confident and make sure to present the best version of yourself. Even if you’re nervous about meeting a new contact or potential client, act like you’re not, and fake it ‘til you make it. Practice this in every area of your life until it becomes second nature. However, don’t be so confident that you come off as arrogant or make others uncomfortable. Pay attention to body language and know your audience (put yourself in their shoes). All of this will go a long way in making a great first impression on others.

Dress (and Groom) to Impress

When it comes to making a great impression, a good haircut and a well-fitted suit will go a long way for anyone. If you don’t have a lot to spend on a suit, save on the suit itself — shop discounted items online or pick up a suit from somewhere like H&M — and take it to a tailor. As an entrepreneur, a tailor will be your best friend. Have your favorite coats, dresses, and pants altered so that they fit perfectly. That way, you come across as polished and professional.

As far as accessories go, you should have a presentable and versatile handbag or briefcase, and at least two good pairs of shoes. For men, invest in one pair of black shoes and one pair of brown shoes, preferably in Oxford or loafer styles. Although these options are also a good choice for women, women may want to expand their options to include a pair of heels or pointed-toe flats. In addition to a good haircut, both men and women should practice good hygiene and make sure that their nails are clipped and filed.

Be Accountable and Genuine

You’re just starting out, and you’re trying to build your business and network. Although holding yourself accountable is important at every stage, it’s especially important in the beginning when you’re trying to develop trust with your contacts and clients. Keep your word, know your limitations, and be on time.

As mentioned, you should be the best version of yourself — as long as that version is genuine. Be sincere, and don’t be afraid to be straightforward; openness and honesty will go a long way when developing lasting relationships with your connections. If you lie about your accomplishments or present a false version of yourself, people will notice and remember. This goes for compliments, too. While you should try to find a way to compliment someone new, never give a compliment you don’t truly mean.

As an entrepreneur, you represent your brand and business at all times, even when you’re not actively thinking about it. That’s why it’s important to keep the above points in mind and practice good habits at all times. After all, you never know when you’re going to meet someone out of the blue and make a key business connection or land a big client.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

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