Ettiquette is not a forgotten social differentiator but rather an invaluable business skill, as 'etiquette queen' June Dally-Watkins explained at the inaugural AdvisHer Business Etiquette day in Sydney
Good business etiquette can allow you and your business to put your best foot forward, build strong relationships and ultimately generate new business opportunities.
People form first impressions of others within seconds of meeting them. As such, presenting yourself in a strong, favourable and professional manner is critically important.
To possess good business etiquette, you must first understand what it is, says June Dally-Watkins’ business etiquette trainer, Margo Ammit.
Business etiquette encompasses a range of aspects, including verbal and non-verbal communication, dress and appearance.
Similarly, being sensitive to time is another element, with some people placing significant emphasis on punctuality.
Business etiquette overall, provides a standard framework within which business people, such as brokers, can operate through communicating and collaborating.
Attention to etiquette is a sign of professionalism and respect for others.
When business partners and co-workers adhere to a well understood code of etiquette, it will be easier for diverse individuals to work together, focusing their energies on the task at hand.
Of course, the art of mastering business etiquette is not reserved for top level managers. Distinct yet unwritten codes of etiquette exist among employees in any workplace and between customers and employees in the field and on the phone.
“The key to being a successful person, in business and in life, is to use proper etiquette to let other people know that they are valued and respected,” Ms Ammit says.
“Correct etiquette instils confidence in you and the people you deal with on a regular basis.
“In addition, it can pave the way for opportunity, puts others at ease by showing courtesy and respect, and minimises possible misunderstandings.
“Funnily enough, there is a long-held belief that people in personality-driven businesses, such as sales, can face the largest challenges when forcing different mannerisms or communication styles on themselves.
“I don’t think this is the case and I believe there are little things that everyone can do to ensure they project themselves as a trusted business professional,” she says.
According to Ms Ammit, the way a person presents themselves is critically important, as it will directly impact the way they are perceived by others.
“If you want to be seen as having proper etiquette – and as a business professional,” Ms Amitt says, “there are a few tricks you can implement straight away without having to completely overhaul who you are as a person.”
Those tricks include posture, dress code, eye contact and timeliness. “Always stand straight, make eye contact, turn towards people when they are speaking and genuinely smile at people,” she says – strategies June Dally-Watkins agrees with.
“All my life I have known that a smile really does change everything,” she says. “A smile will instantly put the other person you are with at ease. In addition, I truly feel as though the more I smile, the smaller my problems become. A smile makes everything better.”
But while a smile can make you appear nicer, more professional and approachable, it is not the only element you should employ.
Ms Amitt says it is also critically important for people, particularly female brokers, to dress appropriately.
“My rule of thumb is to always dress a step above the norm in the industry – as you can never be overdressed,” she says.
In addition to dressing appropriately, Ms Amitt says punctuality is a critical element of business etiquette.
“There is no excuse for tardiness, “she says. “If you always aim to arrive early, you will ultimately arrive on time.”
Just as arriving on time to a business meeting or an appointment is important, so too is the meeting itself.
According to Ms Ammit, brokers who conduct themselves in a professional manner and show good business etiquette will ultimately build good relationships in which the borrower becomes a repeat client and referral source.
So, what can a broker do in a business meeting to ensure they are seen as a consummate professional?
General courteousness goes a long way, for starters.
“How you treat people says a lot about you and will determine whether or not those people use your services in the future,” Ms Ammit says.
“It is important to learn names, and learn them quickly. A good tip for remembering names is to use a person’s name three times within your first conversation with them. Also, write names down and keep their business cards.
“At the beginning of the meeting, it is critically important that you hold the door open for your client.
“The next step is to shake their hand. While shaking a person’s hand sounds easy, there is definitely a knack to it.”
According to Ms Ammit, before shaking a person’s hand, you should ensure your own hand is clean and free of perspiration.
It is important for you to extend the right hand, thumb up and fingers together. Shake with the whole hand – not just your fingers – and squeeze firmly.
Shake for no longer than three seconds then release. Smile and maintain eye contact throughout the entire process as it helps to make the other person feel welcomed and appreciated.
Once they have entered the premises (if they are coming to you) and you have shaken hands, offer them a seat and then a drink.
“It is critically important that you exchange business cards once seated – not before,” Ms Ammit says.
If you are wearing a blazer or jacket, make sure you keep it on for the entire meeting. Keep your bags out of sight and your hands in full view.
“Most importantly, it is essential that you turn your phone off,” she says. “I’m sure most of us, at one time or another, have had our phone ring at an inappropriate time or in an inappropriate place. Reduce the risk of this by switching the phone off.”
According to Ms Ammit, letting your phone ring in a business meeting says you are not interested in the person you are currently with.
The right communication
In every instance, it is not what you are saying but how you are saying it that matters.
As such, it is vital for brokers who have to communicate with new clients on a daily basis to understand the best ways to communicate with others, so that they appear professional at all times.
“The first thing you have to understand in order to communicate with others in a professional manner is that different people communicate in different ways,” Ms Ammit says.
“Males, for instance, communicate differently from females. Women say, on average, 100 words a minute, while men say just 60. Men communicate for a purpose. Everything they say has a purpose, while women communicate for fun and frivolity, as well as purpose.
“Women talk to everyone – it is what we were built to do. But often men don’t understand this and think we talk too much. To stop yourself from constantly changing the way you interact with others, it is best to use a few tricks when communicating with women or men.”
Those tricks include answering emails and phone calls within 24 hours.
When taking a call, it is important for the receiver to answer with two hands – one for the phone and one for the pen, in case you need to take notes.
When ending a phone call, it is important for the person who initiated the call to hang up first.
“It is also important that you are an active listener,” Ms Ammit says.
“Some people talk and don’t listen. When communicating with others, the most important thing you can do is to listen.”
When communicating via email, she adds, it is important that the subject line is specific, emails are short and straight to the point and abbreviations are not used.
It is also important never to say anything you wouldn’t say in public. Finally, always end the email on a nice note, with a happy sign off.
Ms Dally-Watkins says that provided you do everything with a smile, you really can’t go wrong.
“While there are definitely right and wrong ways to do things,” she says, “if you do something incorrectly, it is important that you smile through it. If you are always warm, welcoming and charming, you can’t go wrong.”
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