Most business etiquette is common sense. The following are some finer points:
- If someone tells you that you didn’t get their business, smile, find out why, thank the person for his or her time, make sure the door is open for the next opportunity, and exit courteously.
- Always allow the customer or prospect to decide where you’re going to eat unless they’re visiting your home turf and ask you to choose. At that point, ask what kind of food they prefer, and give them a choice of locations.
- If you have someone else from your company with you, always let the customer or prospect sit in the front seat of the car, unless they insist on sitting in the back.
- Always pick up the check.
- Know the rules of any game you’re going to play with a customer or prospect. Walking across someone’s putting line in golf can really tick some people off.
-Don’t be overly competitive; you might even let the customer win if possible.
- Make sure you’re at least of average skill before you try bonding over any kind of game.
- Extend common courtesy to everyone you encounter. This includes all people at the company you’re calling on, not just the person you’re there to see. In addition, be polite to the competition, people you pass on the street, and even the in-laws you don’t particularly like. You don’t have to go overboard – just be pleasant and professional.
- Don’t sit down until the customer or prospect is seated.
- Never assume anything, and always give the customer or prospect a chance to save face.
- Never argue with the customer or prospect.
- Never walk into a customer’s facility with a product competitive with one that is sold on the premises.
General rules for social situations:
- Watch what you say. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want someone to hear. For the most part, avoid any controversial topics.
- Be sociable.
- If you’re unsure of what to wear, it’s always better to overdress. You can always take something off.
- Don’t drink too much.
- Be selective about whom you hang out with.
- Watch what you do and how you act.
Items You Present to the Prospect or Customer
Brochures, proposals, business cards, gifts and other items speak volumes about you, your company and your product. They may not make or break the sale, but they can dramatically affect your image.
Keep these rules in mind:
- Brochure pictures and the brochure itself should be in color and professionally printed.
- Make sure all spelling and grammar is correct.
- Have the prospect’s name and title correct.
- Proposals should be thorough but not overwhelming. If you are responding to a request for proposal (RFP), follow the instructions completely.
- Make sure all gift items are clean, brochures and proposals are not wrinkled or soiled, and written information is clear, concise and professional.
Don’t skimp on business cards. Here are some quick rules:
- Get your cards printed by a professional, not on your home computer.
- Use raised print.
- Use color.
- Add your picture to your business card.
- Add distinguished honors, club memberships, etc., to your business card.
- If you are a member of the 100 Percent Club, the Inner Circle, or any other specially recognized group within your industry, have this printed on your card.
If you would like to present an image that’s out of the ordinary and “a cut above,” try:
- A card that is twice as thick as a standard business card.
- A larger card than usual.
- A shape other than rectangular.
- A magnetic business card.
- A folded card with details inside.
Use good judgment with your business card design. If you’re selling to conservative bankers, you don’t want hot pink business cards. On the other hand, if you’re in the flower business, a scented and colorful card might work.
The Pen You Use
Have a high-quality pen and make sure it works. Also, have a backup pen. By high quality, I mean a Cross pen or something similar.
Note 1: Many businesses give out company pens. If you have a good-quality pen from the company you’re calling upon, bring the pen with you and use it while you’re on the call.
Note 2: All the pens you use should have black or blue ink unless you have a great reason related to your business that dictates another color.
The Car You Drive
If you have a company car, you can disregard this part. The car you drive projects a certain image. You can impress people with a car, turn people off with a car, and make people jealous with a car. Some potential customers will decide you make too much money or perhaps not enough money, based solely on the car you drive. When selecting a car, your objective is to drive a business car that is appropriate for what you are selling and one that puts you in a position where you are least likely to be judged negatively. A fire-engine-red 700 Series BMW may not be the best car for calling on bankers, yet it would be appropriate for calling on dentists, doctors or lawyers. A Ford Taurus may not be the best car to drive if you’re selling Lear jets, but it is fine if you’re selling office products. If you sell Cadillacs, you’d better be driving one. Look at what customers and other salespeople in your industry drive. Keep your car as clean as possible. Fuzzy dice and other idiosyncrasies probably aren’t a great idea. There aren’t too many bumper stickers I’d recommend either, especially political or religious ones. Keep the car smelling good.
One more note: Out-of-state license plates can be a potential red flag. Make sure the out-of-state plates are appropriate or that you have an appropriate answer for why you have them.
Your approach to a sales call begins in the prospect’s parking lot, sometimes even before. One person I know got cut off in traffic and gave the other driver a “not so nice” gesture. The driver followed him into the parking lot of the company he was calling on. It was the CEO’s secretary. Not good. You never know who can see you from which window or who is in the parking lot with you. Act as if you have a camera and microphone focused on you at all times. We all know of situations where people have said something inappropriate, not realizing that others were listening. Watch what you say about the competition and other people anytime you are in public. It’s a small world—as many of us have learned the hard way.
Where You Park Your Car
Do not park up front in the prime parking spots. These are reserved for customers and sometimes upper-level management. You should park at the back of the lot or in spots that are the farthest from the facility.