Career Advice

The Secret of How to Sell Yourself and Make a Great Impression

It can be difficult to make a great impression, and even harder to make a lasting, great impression. Why? Because too often people will quickly size each other up based on that very first encounter. With this in mind, you may have only about 7 minutes to really sell yourself and make a great impression.

A good impression of you may be based on the sound of your voice, whether you made direct eye contact, or even something much more irrelevant like physical characteristics. But, whether you are attractive or not, short or tall, red-haired or brown- you can learn how to sell yourself based on how you make others feel about themselves and about you.

Think about the importance of selling yourself during a job interview. The impression you leave with the interviewer may have more to do with how easily you smile, how firm your handshake was, or if you displayed a good sense of humor. Well, what about the skills it takes to do the job professionally and efficiently? Most companies can determine if you are qualified for a job when they check your past work experience and references.

The secret of making a great impression and moving people to make positive decisions on your behalf has everything to do with one important skill – do you know how to sell yourself?

What statistics say about impressing others

The NY Post talks about the results of a study about making a good first impression. It found that most people will make a judgment call about you within 27 seconds after the first meeting. And what are the top contributors to forming a good first impression – 49% say someone who is well-spoken and makes good eye contact, along with body language and politeness ranking pretty high.

On the flip side, a bad impression can be quickly made when someone smells bad, is arrogant, or dresses poorly. No surprises here!

The problem is, how do you differentiate yourself from the next guy who is also polite, also has a great smile, and is not only well-spoken but has a great sense of humor too. This is where selling yourself comes into play.

For real success in the real world, it’s not enough to rely only on that impression that others perceive when they first meet you. To stand out from the competition, you have to sell yourself and create that great impression. 

Each situation in which you need to sell yourself may demand an emphasis on a different personality trait or a different way of communicating. So knowing how to size up a room or how to quickly understand the personality of who you’re talking to is key to making a great impression.

Understanding how others see you

In order to sell yourself, it is necessary to be self-aware. Awareness of how others see you will help you make smarter decisions. Be careful not to overrate or underrate yourself. Thinking that you’re doing everything right leads to a narcissistic attitude. This is when you have an inflated sense of their own importance. On the other hand, it would be impossible to make a great impression if you tend to be introverted or shy.

Try to strike a balance between having an outgoing personality where you are energized and full of life, with one where you can be reserved and mellow if the situation calls for it. This internal type of self-awareness will help you navigate the many social and professional scenes you will encounter when selling yourself. 

If you need help understanding how others see you, consider asking a few trusted people in your inner circle for feedback. You may believe that you are an interesting conversationalist, while others may consider you a long-winded bore. Take all advice with a grain of salt. Because, no matter what your personality is, you really don’t want to attempt a major overhaul. It is better to operate from your strengths and natural instincts, less you risk coming off as phony or pretentious.

The secret of how to sell yourself

Making a great impression can lead to higher career opportunities, winning the love of your life, or simply enjoying a life that is more meaningful. When it comes to expert advice on selling yourself, every year there’s a new perspective, another book, or the next great motivational speaker giving us the new secret. The thing with great self-help books is that they offer the potential but rarely deliver the actual thing.

It seems the secret is not about doing, but rather about being. And, this includes how you allow people to be themselves. When you can be a genuine human being, someone who is in touch with emotions, and someone who listens and allows others to be their human best – that’s the real secret to selling yourself. Rarely will someone walk away from a conversation and say “That person sounded great and everything he said made me like him, more and more.”

No, it’s more likely that the greater impression was made because of how you made the person feel. And yes, that is connected to what you happened to be doing and saying at the time. When you understand the emotions of others and work to create meaningful interactions from that perspective, that’s the secret to selling yourself.

What matters most when it comes to concrete, interpersonal skills is that people see the potential in you, rather than the actual. It’s like the excitement that sports lovers have over the rookie football recruit. The potential in the young man is much more exciting and will cause people to root for his success.

Know the psychology of human behavior

The problem with working to sell yourself is that it can lead to misperceptions. Always assume everyone is just as smart as you are. You can’t fool anyone into thinking you’re a great person, you have to be a great person. Typically, you can’t continue to mislead business partners into believing you’re a great investment and deserve a greater share of the pie. You have to prove it.

The psychology of human behavior is an exercise in perceptions and misperceptions. Cognitive dissonance or a brain conflict is made when what we think we see in a person is really only a distortion of our own needs or experiences. When you understand that the real secret to selling yourself lies in how people perceive you, then you can work on projecting an honest portrayal of yourself.

This makes a great impression. The key to how to sell yourself is, to be honest, genuine, thoughtful, and compassionate.

Build the confidence to sell yourself

That’s the beginning of selling yourself. Making a great impression by being honest, forthright, and genuinely interested in other people. Next, you must build the confidence in yourself to know that you deserve that promotion, or that companion with the beautiful spirit, or anything else you value. We talked above about how selling yourself involves being that great person you envision.

You can’t be great if you don’t feel as if you deserve greatness. It’s really your confidence that people are drawn to. Self-confidence is the trust you have in yourself that draws people to you. When you set out to win a room full of people, it’s your self-confidence that will make that happen. Winning people (or those who sell themselves) have the ability to step out of their comfort zone with confidence.

Make a great, lasting impression

Going back to the secret of selling yourself lies in how you make the other person feel is key to not only making a great impression but a lasting impression also. Being a great conversationalist is important in making a good impression. But, if all you did was talk about yourself and your accomplishments, that would definitely leave a bad impression. 

As discussed before, people are okay with seeing only your potential, and not your actual. So, discussions that are more of a give and take will make a lasting impression. Trying to sound great, or be great – will generally accomplish the opposite. Genuine compliments, light banter, good humor, and a positive outlook on life are traits in people that draw others to them.

Lastly, a lasting impression that sells your unique personality can be made by simply being yourself. If you desire to stand out from the crowd, you can do that. But, you should accomplish this by exemplifying those traits that are naturally you, and not concocted. When you feel comfortable in your own skin, and allows others to do the same, it shows.

Letting others get to know you and showing interest in getting to know them is what makes a great and lasting impression. Be bright, be brief, and be real. That’s the best way to sell yourself and make a lasting impression.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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