Think back to that very first job you so desperately wanted to get in order to start your career. You most likely tapped into your network of friends and family to see if they had any connections. You certainly answered help wanted ads. You sent out resumes, followed up with calls and emails. If someone called you, you made sure to return their call immediately. And if you were lucky to get the interview you dressed appropriately, smiled (albeit nervously) and were sure to send a thank you note to the interviewer for his or her time. You pretty much knew what proper business etiquette was without taking a course in it. Was it because you wanted something so it was important to you to do what was right? Maybe it was because you weren’t jaded yet? Or maybe you just knew that it was proper to return emails, calls, give your undivided attention to people, follow up when appropriate and send sincere thank you notes.
After more than two decades of being in the business world, it’s obvious that proper business practices are dwindling faster and faster. It’s a sad state of affairs. Thanks to the mobile revolution, we have the attention span that is now less than a goldfish. Shrinking budgets have led to greater demands on productivity per employee. And technology has led to the instant gratification generation and patience is no longer a virtue. Sure, maybe these are all causes for what have become bad business practices, but they shouldn’t be excuses for it.
Let’s go back to basics for a minute and remind ourselves of proper business behaviors that really are the foundation for a successful business.
1. “Look at me when I’m speaking to you!” Remember those words as a kid? Mom and dad were actually teaching a valuable business lesson and it applies now in the career world more than ever. When someone is speaking to you, give them your undivided attention, show them that you’re respectful toward them and you are sincerely interested in what they’re saying. Put the phone down for five minutes and if it beeps, rings, buzzes or explodes, don’t touch it. Whether or not you’re a Clinton supporter, the one thing that President Bill Clinton was consistently praised for was making the person with whom he was speaking feel as if he or she was the only person in front of him. Unfortunately, there was an advertising agency that lost the potential of a multi-million dollar piece of business because the CMO sent a text during the meeting with the prospect. The CMO was actually texting his assistant for more coffee for the potential clients at the table. Too bad the clients didn’t know that and assumed he was uninterested in their business!
2. Return a message. Yes, it’s very simple to return a message. True, we are bombarded with emails, texts, voicemails, smoke signals and more each and every day. Count how many unsolicited emails you get per month. I’ll gamble that it’s a least 1,000 messages or more. Of course, you can’t possibly answer every unsolicited piece of spam. But if you’ve had a conversation with someone and they provided you with information that you requested then have the courtesy to return their follow up call or email. If you’re not interested in their services any longer then just politely let them know. Don’t ignore their messages until they hopefully “get the message.” Just return the message.
3. Sincerely say thank you. Once again, mom and dad were teaching a powerful business lesson even though you were only a child. Sincerely saying these two words have a profound impact on outcomes. Researchers Adam M. Grant and Francesco Gino studied the impact of a sincere “thank you” in the workplace. Their findings show a 50 percent increase in the amount of additional help being offered as a result of the appreciation. The gratitude effect is huge and even better, it takes no time at all to say “thank you.”
The world around us feels as if it’s spinning out of control and although we often feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day, these three very simple lessons take very little time (if any) to follow. What we learned as children and put into practice when searching for our first job should never be forgotten.
Business is nothing more than relationships. The poor ones fail. The good ones are nothing more than average. But the great ones are enjoyable, successful and long-termed. Be sure to put these business habits into practice each and every day and build better relationships with your prospects and your clients.