In his recent contribution to Inc., Geoffrey James writes that the "most popular" person in a room is often the person who is most effective at building rapport with others right off the bat.

A cornerstone of the Carew International sales training curriculum is the notion that establishing positive initial contact leads to rapport-building, which better positions the sales professional as a long-term business consultant.

In traditional business scenarios, establishing positive contact and building rapport are the result of good planning. We all have our own methods to properly prepare for initial conversations with potential customers and clients - scribbling notes out on a piece of paper, revising a message, using pre-call planning strategy, or something as simple as some basic mental preparation.

They say first impressions last forever - and today's techno-cultural landscape has made things increasingly more complex. More often now than ever before you are likely to be judged by a first impression that takes place long before you actually speak or meet face-to-face with another person. Our virtual personas - the way we present ourselves in email communications, social networking profiles, blog accounts and various other online activities are now the first impression we make to the world, often times without us being aware of it.

Those of us who have entered the professional world more recently may harken back to a time when social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were sanctuaries walled-off from the "grown-up world," making it perfectly safe to share risque humor or the highlights of last weekend's frat party with our peers.

With time we have all grown up and so has the world of social networking. With hundreds of millions of users and high search engine visibility, your virtual persona is highly accessible by anybody with a network connection and a cell phone.

Given your hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections, you may consider your virtual persona popular and appropriate among your people you've already met. But ask yourself - How does my virtual persona fare universally? Is it as appropriate for people I've not yet met? How popular would you be with your grandmother? With your boss? What about potential clients?

Without proper awareness and attention to your online presence, you can easily damage important professional relationships before they've ever begun. If managed correctly, your online profiles can be virtual rapport-building machines, impressing prospective customers and clients before you've even picked up a phone or shaken a hand.

As part of our ongoing commitment to professional development, Carew International publishes a regular blog to provide timely insights for optimal sales performance.  To learn more about Carew's incomparable sales training programs, sales leadership training and customer service training, visit our website at