As an owner-operator you are not only the CEO of your company, but also the face of your business. How you come across to your dispatcher, your customers, and carrier is critical to your success. You are constantly meeting new people, making first impressions, and creating a level of trust.
Whether you’re brushing up for a new business endeavor, or you’re new to the game – these tips will help you put your best foot forward!
- Focus on your stance. Standing tall with your shoulders pulled back will actually raise your levels of testosterone (increasing confidence), and lower your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Standing with your arms folded can signal that you are closed off and disinterested. Slouching or hunching your shoulders make you look defensive and lacking in confidence. So remember when you aren’t sitting in your truck, stand tall!
- Don’t fidget. Fidgeting, from playing with your hair or bouncing your knee, can come off as though you have low confidence. I tend to pick at my fingernails or bite them when I get nervous. I now get into the habit of consciously folding my hands in my lap to still them, so that I’m not tempted to fidget.
- Be honest – with your words and behavior. Telltale body language signs of someone who is lying: hand touching, face touching, crossed arms, and leaning away. These behaviors do not instill trust, and should be avoided when meeting with a potential customer.
- Bring it down a notch. If you tend to be enthusiastic or excite easily, you probably already make a good first impression. However, your excitement could overwhelm a customer. Instead, take a deep breath and focus on bringing your gestures and excitement down a notch. Keep the enthusiasm in your voice, but stay calm and contained. This will make you look more powerful and in control.
- Make eye contact. Feeling overwhelmed can cause you to drop your eyes to the ground. This can convey signs of weakness and lack of respect – two things you certainly do not want to emanate. If you’re unsure of something and need to buy some time, smile, nod, and take a breath while you think about it. Even if you shift your glance away for a moment, just remember to shift it back before you start speaking again. This will show thoughtfulness and insight, rather than nervousness.
- Give a good handshake. A good handshake can leave a lasting impression on a customer, just as a bad one can. It’s a great thing to start off strong with! You don’t want to give someone a limp hand (sign of weakness), or squeeze so hard you crush them (sign of over-compensation for insecurities). Here are some quick tips for having a great handshake:
- Reach out with your fingers together, and the thumb up and open.
- Slide your hand into the other person’s so that each person’s web of skin between thumb and forefingers touch the others.
- Squeeze firmly (be firm, not bone-crushing).
- Let the handshake last about three seconds.
- Remember to include eye contact and a smile!
- Smile! A smile is not only seen, but also heard. When you talk to your dispatcher on the phone be sure to smile! The person on the other end of the line will hear it in your voice. Even if you aren’t feeling terribly peppy that day, a forced smile will still sound as though you’re excited to hear from that person. They will reflect your happy outlook.
- Be a mirror. Studies have shown that mirroring someone’s stance or sitting position can help to establish trust. It can also create a feeling of comfort and stability.
- Do the lean. If you’re listening to someone when they are speaking, lean slightly forward. In contrast, if you are talking to your team and you want them to participate in the conversation, lean backwards. Your physical direction can convey either intense or open listening.
- Take your time. Instead of stumbling over your words or filling sentences with “um” and “uh”, pause and take a moment to decide what you’re trying to say. Take a deep breath, and then speak slowly and clearly. This will sound more confident than backtracking over something you said quickly without thinking ahead.
Most importantly, don’t stress yourself out by trying to remember all of these steps in the moment! Practice makes perfect, so try out each tactic during a casual social situation and see how they work. After a little while, they’ll become second nature.
What behavior will you work on improving?
Everyone has a few things that they need to work on - whether it's improving a handshake or learning not to slouch or fidget. What will you plan to work on improving to make you look more confident in your business?