Red Sox fans are getting a fairly positive impression of starting pitcher Julian Tavarez. It turns out that he’s a free spirit, hanging out and having fun in the dugout with superstars Manny Ramirez and Daisuke Matsusaka. He’s pitching well and Red Sox fans are quite happy to have him on their team. He’s always talking, laughing and having fun and seems like a great guy to have on the team. But it wasn’t always like this.

You may not know  or care who Julian Tavarez is, even if you follow baseball. Tavarez was a very effective relief pitcher/set-up guy for the St. Louis Cardinals when the Boston Red Sox acquired him following the 2005 season. The team and its legions of fans had high expectations for Tavarez because they had a huge need for a good set-up guy and Tavarez was supposed to be that guy.

Sox fans finally got their first impression of Tavarez in a Spring Training game in 2006 when Tavarez, pitching in relief, and covering home plate, repeatedly punched a base runner in the head as he attempted to score. It wasn’t a pretty sight and Tavarez was suspended for the first ten games of the regular season.

When he returned to the team, Tavarez was ineffective for most of the year and regularly booed when he was on the mound. He was considered one of last year’s worst acquisitions.

So what changed between last year and this year?

Only our impression of Julian Tavarez changed. He is essentially the same person. The behavior that caused his suspension and subsequent ineffective pitching performance was very out of character for him. He knew that, his teammates knew that and management knew that. But the fans didn’t and they got on him really bad last year, contributing to his ineffective pitching. This year he began to enjoy himself again and his loosey goosey behavior in the dugout was brought to fans attention, not because it was different behavior, but because his improved pitching performance justified showing him on TV more often.

So what’s the point of all this? Julian Tavarez got a second chance to make a first impression but it took 18 months and a whole lot of TV time. If you’re in sales, and your first impression falls flat, or worse, you not only can’t afford the TV time it would take to change that impression, you don’t even know if the prospect watches the channels on which you can’t afford to advertise. You must make a great first impression on every call.

So how can you make a good first impression every time? Here are some tips for getting to first base on the first phone call:

1. Make the call about your prospects and their likely problems, not about you and your product or service.

2. Never read from a script.

3. Work, rework and practice your phone call until it works effectively.

4. Make sure you sound great, like someone another person would choose to speak with.

5. Create positioning statements so that you can quickly and concisely articulate the most common problems you solve in the context of what you do.

6. Understand the goal of the first call – it’s not to sell something.

7. Ask some tough, timely, effective questions.

8. Ask some questions your prospect can’t answer.

9. You must have the kind of conversation that leads to you being able to ask, “is it a problem?”

10. Never make being in the area a reason to schedule a first appointment.

11. Refer to this Baseline Selling Tip for another way to make a good 1st Impression.

12. Refer to this Baseline Selling Tip for more tips on getting to 1st Base.

Dust off your copy of Baseline Selling and refer to the chapter on Getting to 1st Base for the details of each of these tips. Register for this week’s May 24 (1 PM Eastern) webinar on Getting to 1st Base.