You Need to be FirstFirst come, first served – so the saying goes. But perhaps it ought to be changed to first come, first bought.  Research shows that people respond more positively to the first sales person they meet in a store, or the first person to respond to their request. In other words, being first has a clear advantage.

After all, when the Olympic 100m sprint has finished at just after 21.50 on Sunday 5th August will you really remember who came fifth, sixth or seventh? You will recall the first person over the line and you may have sympathy for the last one, but the people in the middle – who were they again…? Who was first to set foot on the moon? Can you remember the third person, or the ninth? And what about your 27th sexual encounter? Remember it? I thought not. But your first time? Aha…!

There is a special relationship with “first” in many instances. We can remember the first things – sometimes the last things – but rarely things in between. This is because of a psychological phenomenon to do with “primacy”. People tend either to have firm associations with the first things they encounter, or they are people who are dominated by “recency” where they connect more with the most recent things. Research shows that the vast majority of us are “primacy” people – we tend to connect mostly with the first things we see, do, or take part in. It’s why the opening of a speech is more important than the middle or the closing. It is why the first people on talent shows tend to get more votes than the people in the middle. And now it seems it’s also why the first sales person to engage with someone in a store is probably the one who makes the most commission.

If you are in a shop and you are approached by a number of different sales people as you wander around you might say politely, “just looking, thanks”. But when you do decide you need a sales assistant, the research suggests you will look for the first sales person who approached you.

So, if being first has an advantage for a sales person in this way, just think what advantages it has online. For instance, if you are first to respond to an email sent to a group of people, then the research suggests your views will take precedence. Equally, if you are invited to tender for work by a prospective client, being the first to get your submission in could well have and advantage. And if you take part in LinkedIn Answers being the first to respond to a question means you come to dominate things – indeed LinkedIn retains your answer at the top of the list.

Oh – by the way – who is first on Google for your most wanted keyword? And who is 33rd? Who cares?

Being first matters. So come on, be the first to comment…!

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