What makes a great first impression? They say that we have just 7 – 10 seconds to make that first impression. Over the last few decades, working in the corporate world, we learned a great deal about business etiquette, business writing and communication. Today, we work with businesses and organizations, and know how much our experience has supported us in effective communication with our customers, so we thought we would share a few tips on business etiquette or practical “rules of engagement” for businesses and professionals.

Networking

Let’s start with networking. It is very customary to extend your hand to shake hands with another individual, introduce yourself and share your business name or the organization you work for, then allow the other person to do the same. After the introductions are finished, it’s also a good idea to finish off with, “It’s so nice to meet you Joan!”  This accomplishes a couple of things; it helps you to remember their name, it shows that you care, you are professional and it helps to build rapport and potentially a relationship with them.

Being in business or working for an organization, it’s likely that you attend regular networking events, conferences or workshops. You are usually given a name tag at these events, so something to note is that name tags should be worn on your right side. Why? Because when you shake hands with someone, they are facing your right side, as it is also customary to shake hands with your right hand. So, not only will you both introduce yourselves and hear the other person say their name, you will see each other’s name tags as well. This is all part of the rapport building and anchoring that occurs in our neuro linguistic programming (a little bit of brain science for you), where our emotional connection to others is created. We do this through visual –seeing their name, auditory –hearing their name, and kinesthetic –physical connection through your hand-shake. All of these elements coincidentally create the beginning of a bond. We can also get a sense of whether or not we will continue to grow that business relationship based on this initial connection.

Give a Little Space

You would think that its common sense to give people space, but it blows my mind how often I see people walk right up and interrupt two people who are talking at a networking event. Here are a couple of quick tips to note when you are navigating a room, and wondering when it’s a good time to go up to talk with someone. If you wish to go up and talk to someone, take a look at the two people’s body position. For instance, if they are standing face to face, toes and shoulders aligned, that is considered a closed conversation –and therefore, it is not appropriate to approach. However, if the pair are facing outwards, shoulder to shoulder and their toes are outwards (so more in a “V” stance), then that is considered open conversation and it is appropriate to approach the pair and strike up conversation.

Either way, always approach professionally, say “hi”, introduce yourself, extend your hand to shake hands and ask them their name. Most people are welcoming and may be feeling a bit uneasy as well, so they are likely going to be warm and inviting to you. Joining conversations can be a bit intimidating at first, but as you move through the room, smile, say “hi” to those you pass by, and when you see someone standing alone, strike up a conversation with them. It does get easier with time and practice!

Be Responsive

One of the most common complaints we hear, is “I emailed or called them, and nobody got back to me!” This means checking your voice mail, emails, Facebook messages, LinkedIn regularly. It’s human nature to want a response when we ask a question. We also speak to this in social media, knowing that the social media feeds are always buzzing with posts, comments and questions. It’s imperative that we answer our phones, check messages and emails and respond to social media as soon as possible. One of the ways to manage this, is by setting an auto-responder on your social media and having an automatic response to acknowledge emails and messages as they come in. You want to be managing expectations, particularly if you’re an entrepreneur who spends very little time in the office or at a desk. I’m thinking of contractors, electricians, massage therapists or hair stylists, who are away from their desks, attending to clients or working offsite and may not have access to your email throughout the day. Regardless, your clients are expecting you to be responsive and there are a variety of tools and resources that can help you stay on top of your emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, Instagram messages, LinkedIn messages… you get the point –lots coming at you daily! The key is to find a system and a process that works best for you.

Here are a few suggestions to ensure that you are responding to your client’s requests, questions or concerns in a timing fashion. Again, one of the most common complaints from customers, is that nobody got back to them. A great solution is to hire a receptionist or a virtual assistant, and they can often take care of many of your administrative needs as well; booking appointments, invoicing and more. Another suggestion, depending on the nature of your business, is to have an online booking system so that people can book with you, without you having to answer the phone or an email. A great tip to leverage this online service, is to make sure that your voice mail message states your website address and that clients can book online. Can you imagine the amount of business that is lost, when a business does not respond? Customers will simply phone the next company, if they don’t get a response. So, remember that when weighing the cost of hiring someone or paying for any of the services we mentioned. The costs will be covered ten times over with the amount of business you retain!

Email is the New Letter

We all know that our customers are most important. In fact, they are the backbone of our businesses. Without customers, we wouldn’t have a business. We need to be on the ball with our customers and clients, serving them the best we can at all times. A big part of good customer service and business etiquette, is to use your customers’ name when you’re interacting with them.

It’s true, everyone loves to hear their own name. So, why is it that we still see people emailing informally and not addressing the person they’re emailing appropriately? Has this happened to you? How does it make you feel when you receive an email that is not addressed to you personally? If someone cannot take the time to write Hi or Good afternoon (along with my name), I am not likely going to do business with that person. Be sure to address your customer with a Hi, Hello, Good Morning or Good Afternoon, followed by their name –it’s courteous and it doesn’t take more than a second or two.

As for the email itself, if you’re in business, treat email like it’s a letter to your customer. This means, in addition to addressing your customer, make sure that you write in a professional way, similar to a letter, outline the purpose of your email, state what you are going to do, and have a call to action so that your reader has some direction as to why you wrote the email and what to do next, or what you will do next. That last point I will make here is, make sure that you clearly display all the ways that a customer can contact you -name, title, email address, telephone number, website address, and your business location. For one, it’s the law and two, if you don’t respond to their email, they will try and call you. Be accessible. 

In summary, we only covered a few business etiquette best practices here, although there is so much we could share. That said, we often share tips and best practices here to support businesses and their teams. In a previous blog post, we shared more tips on just networking specifically, if you’re interested.

Thank you for taking the time to check out our blog! Follow us on social media as well, as we love connecting with other like-minded business people. Remember, good business etiquette -it’s the little things, that leave a big impression… and help you stand out from the crowd!

Cheers!

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency
meow@cheetahfusion.com | www.cheetahfusion.com
@CheetahFusion | Instagram – Cheetah Fusion | LinkedIn

 

We work with a lot of business owners and professionals and we often get asked questions about networking such as; how often should I be out networking? Where should I be networking? What are some dos and don’ts of networking? It’s interesting that as business owners, we know we need to network, but there are many unknowns with networking –probably the biggest unknown is, how do we measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking?

Well, we know that there is a huge return on investment with networking that surpasses any other marketing tactic on the planet. Yes, marketing your business online, through your website, email marketing and social media are all important and work very well. However, marketing online along with meeting face-to-face with people, can be a winning combination for success! Networking is also a very cost effective and natural way to attract new business. So, here are a few quick tips and best practices for networking:

  1. Walk into the networking space with a smile. This can be difficult if you feel nervous walking into a room full of people you don’t know. That said, if you can manage a smile and keep your head up, as you walk in, that’s a great start! As human beings, we are naturally attracted to, and want to work with people who are approachable, look confident, but most importantly, those who have a smile on their face. You will likely feel more drawn to go and say “hello” to the people who are smiling, who have their head up and are looking at who they will talk to first. They tend to exude a certain trustworthiness and are more likely to be conversational with you when you meet them as well.  So next time you enter a room, take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back and smile…notice what happens!
  2. Interact with tact and be sensitive to others. Have you ever been at a networking event and had someone come up, say “hi” and before you can respond, they jam a business card into your hand? They may have even interrupted your conversation with someone else. This can leave a very negative impression and if you’re like us, it’s very unlikely you will ever reach out to that person to do business with them. Before walking up to someone to start a conversation, be tactful. If two people are talking shoulder to shoulder, that is an indication that they are open to others joining their conversation. If two people are face-to-face, and seem to be in deep conversation, that is not an invitation for you to join their conversation or interrupt them. Find another friend to have a chat with in the meantime.
  3. Be intentional when you are out networking. The best way to connect with someone, is to smile, say hello and say your name. Hold out your hand to shake theirs. Avoid the “So, what do you do?” question. This is a cop-out and can be off-putting. Instead, warm up the conversation and ask a few questions; how are you? How did you get started in your business? I’m always curious about this. Who or what inspired you to start your own business? These are all great conversation starters, as they can prompt other questions and a much deeper conversation. It also lets the other person know you are interested in them and their business. Usually when you make a strong connection, that person will ask for your business card and possibly a meeting. Finally, set the intention to meet with just 2 – 3 people and have a meaningful conversation with each of them.
  4. Make sure you are responsive. After attending a networking event, you have likely collected a couple of business cards, and quite likely you exchanged business cards with other people. So, the next step and the key to building relationships, is to reach out to them and thank them for a great conversation. You may want to invite them to continue your conversation over coffee. Also, if someone reaches out to you, make sure you respond in a timely manner. This is part of building rapport and trust with that other individual, and it starts with being responsive –so email them back within a day whenever possible! Oh, and a quick note about business cards, be very careful about adding someone to your mailing list. It may not serve you to do so. It’s always best to invite them to join your newsletter, or better yet, allow them to peruse your website, and have them join your newsletter by choice!

We have found that in most cases, when you are out networking with like-minded people, it’s likely that you will make a connection with at least 1-2 people, and they will become a client or refer someone to you, if you have followed the steps above. Be relatable, friendly, listen carefully, be curious and for goodness sake, unless they ask, do not start selling to them!  They will become agitated and will look for a way to leave the conversation. You haven’t earned their trust yet, let alone their business! Networking is not for making the sale. It’s intended to connect with others and build rapport.

How often should you network? Well, especially in the beginning when you are just starting out with your business, we suggest getting out to at least three networking events each week. This will give you an opportunity to check out a few different groups, see how you feel, and whether they are a fit or not.

How does the ROI work? Once you find a couple of groups that feel right for you and your business, choose two to three networking groups that you can attend regularly and stick with them. Be patient, as it takes time to build the know-like-and-trust factor and the more consistently you attend, the better you become at sharing stories, examples of how you can help which showcases you and your business brilliantly, helping you get good traction. If you stick with a group and show up to each meeting, you should start to get the return on your investment of time, money and energy with clients, either directly from those groups or referrals from them. It is about giving, as much as it is receiving though, so be sure to meet with other businesses within those groups to learn about them and their business, and look for ways that you can support and refer each other!

Where should you network?  There are a lot of great networking groups around, including Professionals in Partnership, a local group of which we have been members for a few years now. There are BNI Chapters all over the world, and we highly recommend that you check out your local Chamber of Commerce as well. For female entrepreneurs and professionals, there is also FemCity, another well organized networking group. We have found that there is a great variety of business owners and professionals who attend these meetings and events. Also, your Chamber of Commerce will likely offer a variety of times in which you can network from breakfast meetings, to Lunch n’ Learns, to Business After 5 networking in order to suit all types of businesses. If you are a great speaker, they even offer speaking opportunities to do a presentation on a topic of interest. This is great for visibility and helping others get to know more about what you do and how you can help them!

We hope you found this post helpful, and that you have more insight on how to measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking. Remember to smile when you enter the room. Be curious. Ask questions. Show up consistently. Connect. Build relationships and refer other businesses –repeat. The business will come.

Please comment or reach out to us anytime. We love hearing from you!

Penni & Heather

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency

Tel: 705.302.3386 | meow@cheetahfusion.com | www.cheetahfusion.com

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