Let’s face it, being rude can ruin a business, yet these days it seems that good manners are quickly going out of style. Anyone who’s worked in the real world for a bit can probably come up with at least two examples of co-workers who are rude and inconsiderate, yet maddeningly successful. While these types might make careers for themselves, you know that people prefer to work with (and for) those who treat them with both consideration and respect. This same holds true for businesses who are embracing good manners as a foundation for growth.
While it is your expertise, service or product that brings clients to you, they stay because of your ability to establish and maintain a relationship. We’ve talked before about how effective (and affordable) promotional products are when it comes to showing a customer how much you value their business, but these items can’t work alone. You’ll need to support those efforts with courtesy, kindness and respect for others.
In other words, good manners — you know the things your mother probably tried to teach you… those times when you weren’t listening.
When it comes to business, you’ll never go wrong if you stick to the good manners basics, “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” show that you are respectful of others and professional.
Here are some great suggestions for those all-important first meetings…
- Smile, make eye contact, uncross your arms and stand up straight, use an open, upbeat greeting.
- Offer your right hand and fit it firmly into the other person’s hand. The shake is a gentle up and down motion.
- Use the other person’s name right off in conversation, sending the unspoken message that you want to pay attention.
- Show your respect by NOT using technology while in a conversation. Listen instead.
- When making business introductions, introduce the “less important” person to the “more important” person first. Try not to shorten a given name unless invited to do so. Don’t let people squirm when trying to remember your name, say it clearly, right away and with energy.
- If you must leave, offer a plausible excuse and a warm “thank you” for their time or attention.
As to keeping a conversation going, even the most tongue tied can succeed by…
- Keeping yourself informed about current events — local, national and world wide — so you can contribute to topical conversation.
- Not using crude language, expressions or sharing off color jokes — save these for those who know you well, NOT professional, business prospects.
- Asking questions about the other person to show interest – sports they follow or participate in, books they’ve read or movies they’ve enjoyed… even travel or vacation plans are an acceptable topic.
- Direct, polite conversation, in a normal tone of voice without lots of gestures, is always best.
- Never checking your messages while you’re in a conversation.
Some other very good “first impression” suggestions, care of business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey (author of Manners That Sell: Adding the Polish That Builds Profits) include remembering that at any given moment you might meet the must-have client or newest employer. Opportunity may come when you least expect it. Be prepared and remember that…
- People look at your face and neck first, so don’t put off a haircut or forget finishing touches like earrings and makeup.
- People next look at your feet… that means good shoes chosen for the event. Poor shoes show lack of attention to detail.
Not everyone can readily incorporate these suggestions into their everyday behavior, but it’s never too late to learn and acting this way has value when it comes to your business relationships. There are lots of fantastic online references for business etiquette as well as many pros who can help you improve your skills.
If you can’t do it for your business… do it for your mother. It’d make her so happy.