There is no lack of lists of supposedly “unbreakable” business etiquette rules. The role of etiquette is to help us have smooth, respectful interactions with others. Salespeople can be particularly challenged by this because, in reality, customs may change from industry to industry and from prospect to prospect. A construction business may have different rules of etiquette from a white-shoe law firm.
I’ve found that it’s most important to know who you are developing a relationship with so that you can interact with them appropriately. What this means is that the rules of etiquette are often “situational” and not rigid.
After more than 30 years in sales, I’ve compiled some basic observations about business etiquette.
- Eliminate electronic distractions and focus on the prospect. This means that during meetings, alerts on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops should be silenced and unless they are being used to present information, they should remain out of sight.
- Keep email communications brief and responses timely. If you have concerns about what you are communicating, take a moment to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes to see how what you are writing might come across. Does it sound like the business language they use? If not, you should consider making some modifications.
- When cold calling, be genuine and avoid selling. The prospect wasn’t expecting to speak with you. Empathy and common courtesy apply here. We always avoid selling on first contact, and we acknowledge that they are speaking to somebody that they do not know. We tell them briefly why we are calling and ask for a couple of minutes of their time. This communicates that we acknowledge that their time is valuable and sets the stage for us to make an appointment with them.
- Don’t hesitate to leave a voicemail. Whether you are calling a mobile phone or a landline, voicemails are often transcribed for convenience. A brief message including your name and the purpose of your call is appropriate. It is also acceptable to ask for a callback or indicate that you will reach out to them again.
- Virtual meetings can be as effective as in-person meetings. After 30 years of working virtually most of the time, we’ve consistently established and nurtured strong client relationships. We show up for virtual meetings dressed appropriately for our audience and with an appropriate background for a business meeting.
- The definition of ‘appropriate dress’ may vary. Unless there are specific rules within your organization, salespeople should dress professionally, with attention to reflecting the style of the company that you’re meeting with. A salesperson meeting with a manufacturing plant manager might dress in business casual, while a meeting with a VP of IT for a Big 8 accounting firm might require formal business attire.
In the end, it’s important to use your judgment when it comes to business etiquette. It’s up to us as salespeople to do the research and “read the room” to understand the best approach for to a positive interaction with your prospect.
At One of a Kind Sales, we are experts at cold calling and lead qualification. If you would like to learn more about our services, give us a call at 908-879-2911.