Who knew your mother's constant nagging about your manners would actually come in handy in the business world? From table etiquette to a simple greeting, each move you make, each word you utter can actually make a difference when you're dealing with clients and employees.
In her book, Professional Impressions...Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day, Marjorie Brody, president of Brody Communications, an international business communications skills company, guides you through the world of proper business manners. She addresses everything from technology etiquette to utilizing the how-tos of effective handshakes. Before you panic and go running off to Emily Post or Miss Manners, read on to find out whether or not you need a refresher course on good manners.
Entrepreneur.com: What are the basics of business etiquette? What things should you be aware of?
Marjorie Brody: Business etiquette covers everything from customer service to ethics. I think the biggest thing to remember is to be respectful of people. Treat them with courtesy. That would include your clients as well as your internal staff. From a small-business perspective, I think it's all about building relationships whether those relationships are with clients, employees, vendors or suppliers. If you're disrespectful of people and their time, you're not going to build those relationships
|"Your goal is to make your customers feel important, and you can't accomplish this when you're doing other things-that's just a lack of respect."|
Entrepreneur.com: When meeting with new clients, what are some key things to remember?
Brody: Greet people, try to learn their names, be interested in them and be aware of the impressions your nonverbal communication is sending, whether it's how clean your place is or how well-groomed you are. Make sure you make good eye contact and that you're polite and helpful. When I am at a business and the employees are busy chatting with each other or are on the phone or doing inventory when I'm there to purchase something, I don't want to go back. Your goal is to make your customers feel important, and you can't accomplish this when you're doing other things-that's just a lack of respect.
Entrepreneur.com: What are some common etiquette errors?
Brody: Etiquette errors are everywhere-being disrespectful of people's time, not being prepared, putting people on hold, not introducing people. You should have a good handshake and be able to introduce yourself as well as others. In other words, be gracious. Each organization is different. Small mom-and-pop shops are very different from a large corporation. It's hard to say there's one common theme with all of them.
Entrepreneur.com: When running your own business, what are some things employers should teach employees and how should they accomplish this?
Brody: First, they need to set an example with their own behavior. I think they need to talk about the customer being the king-this also includes internal customers. There's no reason to be disrespectful of your vendors and suppliers by screaming at them for arriving late, because as a result they're not going to want to serve you well. Your customers are the people buying your products and services, but they're also the people you're buying from.
Entrepreneur.com: In this new technology age, what are some important things to remember?
Brody: Know how to use your phone service, don't use a speakerphone unless you're there for a group meeting, and don't put people on hold or answer the phone when you're having a meeting with someone unless you had a planned phone call coming in and the meeting was secondary. Be respectful of people's time, and know how to use the technology. With e-mail, you should always check your spelling and punctuation, and avoid sending large attachments. Make sure there's a salutation and a signature at the end.
Entrepreneur.com: What changes have you seen in etiquette in the past 10 years ago in terms of how important it is in business?
Brody: I think there are areas where there have been huge changes. The first is all the technology that's out there. People forget to talk to each other anymore-they're too busy e-mailing. There are certain things you should not use technology for, such as sending a thank-you note. You should actually send a handwritten note. I think acknowledging people hasn't changed-technology just makes us sloppy sometimes.
How important is technology? I find it very important. We're all competing for employees and customers. So what separates you from other businesses? How you treat your customers. I think because we have so much stress and so much responsibility and a limited amount of time, we forget the personal impact and how it can make a difference. Don't minimize the importance of proper business etiquette. It's what sets you apart from others, and it's those little niceties that can make a big difference.