Etiquette—it’s not just for dinner parties or impressing your future in-laws. These tips can help avoid gaffes and build business success in the social media age.
Today’s discussion, gentle readers, pertains to etiquette. That’s right, you heard me. In the rush of signing the deal, building the business and putting out the fires, manners still matter. Good business etiquette, and particularly its absence, can directly affect the way people perceive you—and influence whether or not they want to give you their business.
In an article on Small Business Computing, Pedro Hernandez discusses several tips from “The Essentials of Business Etiquette,” by Barbara Pachter. While most small business owners understand that a poised, professional demeanor goes a long way to making a good impression, in the era of smartphones, social media and always-on communication, that alone isn’t enough.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to cultivate good business manners. If you don’t already do so, incorporate these simple tips into your business routine.
Think Before You Post
The Internet never forgets, and one tweet in the heat of the moment can go viral, which only magnifies the damage. Employ good judgment and make it a point to reply only after you’ve taken time to think things through. And don’t even think about publicly venting your frustration about a client or customer. You can lose a lot of business from one misguided tweet.
Include a profile picture for each social media platform that you use. This advice may seem basic and obvious, but too many small business owners miss this step. Use a professional headshot, dress appropriately for your industry and smile. Whatever you do, don’t leave the default icon—for example, the Twitter egg—it’s unprofessional and sends the message that you can’t be bothered with details.
People Trump Phones
When you’re meeting with a client or customer, attending a dinner or other business function, put your phone away and out of sight. Leaving it on the table impresses no one, and instead sends a message that the people you’re with aren’t worth your time and attention. Just about any call or message can wait until you conclude your current business.
Confidence Yields Results
You may be tempted at times to use a little self-deprecating humor. Don’t do it. You may think you’ll come across as modest or gracious. You won’t. You will, however, risk appearing unqualified. In fact, Pachter’s book offers a list of phrases to avoid, including initiating a conversation by saying “sorry to bother you.” Instead, “excuse me, do you have a moment” gets the job done politely and with more confidence.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.