A couple of years ago, I had coffee with a very successful risk management Freelance consultant. As we chatted about business, he related an interesting story about a client who hired him earlier in the year. The client told him that he had interviewed several candidates for the project and all were highly qualified.
His team chose this particular gentleman because he had the best manners. (I always knew he was a classy guy!) After considerable experience in working with Freelancers, the client and his team concluded that good manners matter and just about everything else can be learned on the job.
I’m not sure that many project leaders consider manners and etiquette as prime factors in the Freelancer hiring process, but I am certain that poor business etiquette will have a deleterious effect on that decision.
Business schools and even medical schools have finally begun to address this previously overlooked soft skill. Most of us have had enough of the me-first, I’m entitled, self-absorbed behaviors that have migrated from so-called reality TV shows and into daily life and work. As antidote, here are a few tactics that will incorporate some subtle niceties into your business communications and interactions:
1. Dial your business phone and listen to your outgoing message. Does it sound professional and welcoming? Would you want to do business with the person who created that message? If your OGM is less than pleasing, re-record and smile as you speak. Smiling forces us to slow our speech, enunciate clearly and adopt a pleasant tone of voice.
2. When in a meeting, devote your full attention to the proceedings. Turn off your phone, computer (unless you will use it to take meeting notes) and all other electronic distractions.
3. After meeting with an associate who is helping you in some way, send to that person a thank you email within 24-48 hours. Especially if your meeting was with a client or prospect, recount major points discussed and confirm any agreed-upon actions.
4. If a business meeting is held in a restaurant, the person who initiates the meeting pays the check. When meeting with a client or prospect, offer to pay the check even if that individual requested the meeting.
5. When meeting prospects and colleagues at a networking or similar event, refrain from pushing your business card onto every person that you encounter. Save the card exchange for those with whom you have a discussion that points to follow-up conversations.
6. Treat assistants with respect. If the assistant is someone you will speak with more than once, ask his/her name, remember the name and greet that individual by name on subsequent visits to the office. Be advised that the assistant may control access to the client. If you are rude or dismissive, word of such behavior will be passed along and it could cost you. Besides, assistants often have information that may help you to sell your services. Be nice and make the assistant your ally.
7. At Christmas, send a card to all clients with whom you’ve worked over the last 3-4 years. It’s good business to stay in touch.
8. When an invoice is 45+ days old, contact the accounts payable or finance department and confirm that the invoice was received. Could it have been lost? Unless the invoice is 90+ days old, avoid contacting the client about billing matters.
Thanks for reading,