Last Update: June 1, 2016
Have you ever experienced a business situation or witnessed an event that left you thinking, “Really? You’ve got to be kidding me!” Has someone ever called you thirty minutes late, looped in a third-party to a private email conversation or said something terribly inappropriate in a business meeting? You’re not alone. We have all run into our fair share of bad business etiquette.
Most people operate with an unspoken code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior. While, this code may be a lost art form to some – it is deeply engrained in others. A sale, a partnership and even the long-term growth of your small business is often hinged on how well you understand the importance of business etiquette. If it’s so important then why do most entrepreneurs ignore it?
Some entrepreneurs are etiquette pros, while others live by the adage, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” Whichever the case may be, we’ve asked entrepreneurs to share their woes and offer up their #1 tips to help you master etiquette in professional situations.
Here are 10 business etiquette tips to help you operate your small business successfully and confidently – without pissing people off.
#1 – Don’t be a social spammer!
“Don’t go around posting your sales pitch on a company’s or individual’s Facebook wall. Social media is for connecting, but after discovering a prospective client via social media, it is then time to approach them privately and personally, not publicly. Not only will approaching them personally increase your chance of a sealing a deal, it will prevent you from looking spammy and unrespectable to onlookers.”
– Melissa Cenker, Owner at Melissa Cenker Consulting
#2 – Keep email short and sweet.
“Email etiquette has eluded many otherwise successful entrepreneurs. Emails should be kept short and to the point. Everyone is busy, and forcing them to sift through irrelevant information to find the point to your email is both disrespectful of their time and could result in lost business. Take the time to edit your writing after you finish it. Your recipients will thank you!”
– Marek Biernacinski, President / CEO at Edited by a Pro
#3 – Save the sales pitch.
“Don’t try to sell your services to someone from the first moment you meet them. Networking is about meeting potential connections, partners, and developing quality relationships- it is not about closing the deal at that moment.”
– Camila & Valeria Velandia, Co-Founders at Miel Sisters
#4 – Don’t subscribe me to your newsletter.
“Entrepreneurs are often looking to grow their email marketing lists and their business contacts. Merging the two without extending your contacts an opportunity to opt out can damage your business relationship. When you meet someone and accept their business card, ask if it is okay to add them to your marketing list.”
– Tamara Clarke, Managing Partner at Eco-Exquisite
#5 – Show some gratitude.
“Always respect the time and generosity of those who help you along the way; even something as small as a ‘Thank You’ note or gift can go far in showing your gratitude.”
– Danielle Nicole DiFerdinando, Founder at Danielle Nicole
#6 – No one likes mass emails.
“Follow up with every person you speak with via phone or email. Always try to think of an introduction or resource that might be useful to them. And never send mass messages! If you have a general announcement, at least change the first paragraph a bit to connect on a more personal level to the recipient.”
– Katie Shea & Susie Levitt, Co-Founders at Funktional Footwear
#7 – Get to the point.
“Instead of short and sweet, I believe business correspondence should be short and factual. You have your personal email to be sweet. Tweet sweet nothings in your 140 character space limit until the cows come home. Email your grandma with emoticons after every sentence. But please! Forget those keystrokes when you are at work.”
– Eileen Schlesier, Founder/CEO at SleeveShirt Consulting
#8 – That’s textual harassment!
“One thing that drives me crazy is the use of text messages to communicate business messages. In today’s world, it’s so easy to fall back on our technology and never have a real conversation with someone.”
– Erin Meagher, Founder and “Chief Coconut” at Kelapo Coconut
#9 – If you’re on-time, you’re late.
“Vince Lombardi said it best, ‘If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, don’t bother showing up.’ This may sound obvious but never, under any circumstances show up late. I am constantly surprised how people think being late is acceptable. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Tardiness is the quickest way to never get the deal done.”
#10 – Hey! I’m over here!
“Have you ever had a conversation with someone at a networking event and they are constantly looking behind you or to your right or to your left? Clearly, they don’t really care about what you are saying? How did that make you feel? I still can’t believe how many people do that today. It makes people feel uneasy, unappreciated and unimportant. Guess what the end result of that will be? They will NOT want to connect with you again.”
– Jennifer Lynn Trask, Chief Passion Officer at 3P Ventures
#11 – Always follow through (Bonus).
“Always follow through. Always! Even when it pertains to the smallest tasks. Nothing builds a business relationship stronger and faster than being reliable. Nothing breaks it down faster than not following through – especially if you have your youth is working against you.”
– Shauna M. Heathman, Owner at Mackenzie Image Consulting
Did we miss one of your favorite business etiquette tips? Let us know in the comments section below. Do you know someone who violates all of these best practices? Kindly tweet or mention this article on Facebook. After all, sharing is caring.
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