Experts vs. Novices & the Science Behind First Impressions

I have a theory that reasonable, mature adults will gladly pay a little more (within reason, of course) for quality products and service. By default, people will go with the cheapest option when they:

  1. need help with something that they can’t figure out on their own, and
  2. everyone they spoke with pretty much sucked at communicating

If you represent a company that had one of the more expensive options, they may get back with you and let you know that they “went in another direction” – or considering we’re primarily talking about business that transcends geographical boundaries, they may just go dark and stop answering your calls and returning your emails.

But what they won’t do is be honest and say something like:

  • “Well, everything looked great and the price was definitely within our established budget range … but there was just something about you that rubbed me the wrong way right from the very beginning. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I just had this gut feeling that said I should look at other options …”

So, the point is, is that if you know how to relieve those primal, instinctive concerns and influence the other person’s gut feelings to be favorable about you and the company you represent, then it’s not about price at that point (as long as your solution is within range of their budgets, of course).


So just to briefly touch on the rest of the tumblers that represent the primal, instinctive concerns:

I was at Home Depot the other day and I was looking for a battery tender to charge my motorcycle’s battery. At first, I looked in the electronics section and couldn’t find one, so I asked an attendant, and he told me that he’s not sure where they are, but thinks they may be over in the tools section. In this instance, I did not sense reward, so I shut down and moved on.

  • “Okay, great … thank you!” I said, and started walking off in that direction (it was way across the store).

It was early in the morning, and the guy was trying to be friendly so he started to tag along and said something to be friendly, but at that point? I could care less what this guy had to say. I was tuned out to anything he had to say (which sounds mean, I know), but I had determined that there was no reward in engaging with this person any further, so I was tuned out and moving on.

I know status seems like a superficial thing to be concerned with, but instinctively speaking what this means is EXPERT versus NOVICE.

Think about it: no one wants to work with novices. You know who gets cut some slack for being novices? Girl Scouts. Not pros, though – no potential client from any industry is going to give anyone the time of day if they come across like novices and here’s why:

The lower the status, the lower the credibility. Think about it: higher status equals higher credibility, and really, what this comes down to (and I know this will sound harsh), but this is how people instinctively determine if someone is worth listening to.

I mean, think about it; you can come across as non-threatening, make people feel safe, be the biggest subject matter expert in the world about whatever it is that you specialize in, but if you come across in a way that undermines your credibility, people will tune you out.

(Potential client rambles about a problem that they’re experiencing).

  • “Oh, well I’m actually on the marketing response team here …”

In this example, using the word “actually” undermines your status. I’m not going to spin off into this rabbit hole here, but know that there are lots of ways that we can shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to using words and tonalities that undermine our status and credibility.

This next piece should probably be a no-brainer, but think about how if what you’re presenting is not useful, then people will tune you out. There’s really not much more to say on this, either.

Like, if the attendant from the electronics section started telling me about some solar-powered contraption for charging batteries that I could find if I looked at some website that sells them for way cheaper than anywhere else on the planet, I simply wouldn’t care. In that moment, I had a dead motorcycle at home and I want to ride it, so I needed a charger so I could ride it later, right? Enough said on that.

You can make people feel safe, know everything there is to know, be the world’s biggest subject matter expert on whatever it is you specialize in, have the greatest information prepared for the greatest solution ever, but if you come across as boring? You’re done.

People like their information fast; they like it visual; and they like it new – exciting, something different, even if it really is the same old thing. Our attention spans are short, and they’re getting reduced more and more by how much information we all get bombarded with every day.

I know some of this sounds harsh, too, but getting a NO for any one of these concerns can keep you from ever actually getting through and connecting on a conscious level. I mean think about it:

Your expertise may never have the opportunity to shine through if you don’t get through the first :28 seconds WITHOUT setting off alarms. And also, I want to mention just because you make it to the Neocortex, it doesn’t mean you’ll always stay there.

The reason for this is that the Reptilian and Mammalian parts of our brains are always running. Think of them like subconscious anti-virus software, constantly running in the background and scanning for threats in an effort to keep us as safe as possible.

But I think that it’s very important to know that you’ll never connect on a conscious level if you set off alarms right at the very beginning of your initial interactions, and really? This is the science behind why first impressions are just so powerful.

I mean, think about it:

I know I mentioned this earlier, but plenty of sources indicate that it takes eight subsequent positive encounters to overcome a bad first impression, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall ever being given eight additional attempts to get it right. This stuff is just mission critical – especially in sales environments where your potential customers are empowered with options (and geographical distance) – to get right as much as you possibly can.

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