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.
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!
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!
Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency
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