Don’t let technology cause you to lose that personal touch.
By Pat Council
Many business owners are so focused on their profit margin, and they forge one of the best ways to increase the bottom line is to simply be nice. Even though a lot of business is done through technology these days, online and telephone etiquette skills are necessary. Because of the new ways of doing business in the 21st Century, knowing what is proper and acceptable in business is not always apparent. Of course, when in doubt, the key to remember is to say and do things that make others feel good about sharing your “plot” in cyberspace and about doing business with you. This will allow you to build relationships that will lead to referrals, repeat business, and to long-lasting B2B and B2C friendships.
Here are nine suggestions to help you maintain a proper sense of e-decorum:
1. Send Handwritten Thank You Notes
Don’t let technology cause you to lose that personal touch. Whenever appropriate, a handwritten note still conveys the very powerful message that you consider the person you’re dealing with as someone of value. There are times when sending a thank you by email is appropriate, for example if you’ve been communicating with the customer/client mostly by email, continue to do so. Also, you may not have access to their physical address. However, if the encounter involved a face-to-face meeting that warrants a thank you, and if you can send it via the post, take the time to handwrite a note. People hold onto hand written notes much longer than they do emails. Even though an email can be saved, many people will read the thank you email and then discard it. Sending a handwritten note, when so few are sent out today, will set you apart from your competition and it simply says you’re a class act.
2. Return or Respond to Any Pertinent Phone Calls
It’s easy to ignore the pestering, persistent calls of sales people or of a business person you don’t want to talk to; however, it’s not always prudent to do so. How you handle your daily phone calls says a lot about how you run your business and value your customers. It gives a glimpse into how you feel about people in general. Oh sure, there’ll be phone calls that you don’t want to address, but no one ever said that business was easy. Take the time to return all phone calls or have your assistant (if you have one) respond with respect on your behalf. If you don’t want what they’re selling, thank them for the offer and respectfully decline. Depending on your product, you’re sometimes ignoring a potential customer. If they’re in sales, you may be ignoring someone who can connect you with a lot of people or send you referrals you’re looking for. Oftentimes, business is about building relationships, so keep in mind that the person’s call you’re ignoring may be the one you want to talk to for a reason which could benefit your business and your customers down the road.
3. Be Interested in Others.
When meeting someone in business for the first time, do not pounce on them by immediately trying to sell your product. Yes, you may be in love with your product and it may be the best product invented since man discovered fire, but people do not care what you are selling, until you show that you are interested in them. Selling a product without getting to know the person you are trying to sell to, sends a clear message that you are only interested in making the sale and that you could care less about the person. Take a moment and get to know the person you are meeting for the first time. Learn about their needs and assess if you can really help them, then do some follow-up and share your solution to their need, which that solution will hopefully be your product.
4. Get to Know Names and People
When you encounter someone in business for the first time, get to know their name and be interested enough to remember their name. Even if you have to ask them to repeat the name for you, make it your business to remember the names of people that you meet. A great way to remember the name of someone you meet for the first time is to repeat their name several times during your conversation. That means you must be more interested in learning about them, as opposed to talking about yourself. Remember what the late Dr. Stephen Covey espoused, “We have two ears and one mouth. But many people act as if it was the opposite.” Listening is a skill; it’s important to develop it. Learning about and being able to empathise with others will make you more memorable and it’s just more proper.
5. Pay Attention to Who’s in Front of You
If you have someone in your office, look at them, not at your computer or cell phone screen. It’s often difficult not to be distracted with emails popping in, text messages buzzing, and cell phone calls coming through, so the best remedy is to silence everything when you’re in a key meeting. If you thought enough of that person to schedule an appointment, then respect their time and yours.
6. Hand out One Business Card.
Always give out one business card and never offer a handful of your cards to someone, while asking them for referrals. Focus on making a lasting impression when you meet with them, professionally present one business card, and let them know you appreciate referrals. They’ll get the message. Besides, if you make a lasting impression, they’ll be more than happy to send you business.
7. Do Your Best to Follow Through
Keeping your word can help you establish a reputation for having impeccable integrity. That will make people want to do business with you and a strong sense of veracity is one of the best branding concepts you can attach to your business. When promising to do something in business, do your best to follow through. If you RSVP’d for an event, it’s important to show up, or call in advance — ideally — if, for some reason, you have to cancel. Or call the next day with an apology. If you promise to return a phone call, simply do it. If you create a bill or promise to do business with someone, follow through. Keep scheduled appointments or take the time to re-schedule as early as possible. Following through shows you’re the professional business person you claim to be.
8. Never Send Revealing Mass Emails
If you want to send the same email to several people in business, respect their email privacy by doing a “blind courtesy copy,” or BCC. That way it doesn’t show up in everyone else’s email address.
9. Don’t Text the Special of the Day
If someone hasn’t requested your business texts or you have no relationship with the person, don’t send a text message asking for business. Even if you have the best deal going, respect people’s right to privacy and peace. Treating others in life, and with whom you do business, the way you want to be treated will bring you the success and profits you desire for your business. The “Golden Rule” is applicable in nearly all situations. Putting people before profits will position you to be in business for years to come. Practicing proper business etiquette will help build long-term quality relationships. That way, even when you’re not expecting it, business will come your way.
Business Start-Up Checklist
- Select a Name and Legal Structure
- Write a Business Plan
- Obtain your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
- Open the Company Bank Account
- Lease Office, Warehouse or Retail Space (if not home-based)
- Obtain Licenses and Permits
- Federal Permits
- State Licences
- Sales Tax Permit
- Business Licence
- Hire Employees (if applicable)
- Set up an Accounting and Record-Keeping System
- Obtain Business Insurance
- Systemise and Organise
- Develop a Business Identity
- Get the Word Out (Marketing)