Leveraging business etiquette to drive your business

It enables you to stand out from the crowd and leave a positive impression for all the right reasons, helping to build your reputation and encourage prospects and contacts to develop their business relationships with you. Here she outlines five areas that you can focus on to modify your business etiquette, starting right now.

First impressions count

Making a positive first impression is vital in business today. The manner in which we carry ourselves creates a sense of who you are as a business owner and what you can deliver for others. It lets you make a positive impact and allows you to stand out from the crowd.

As business today shifts from being systems to relationships focused to gain a competitive edge, traits such as honesty, respect, consideration, genuine engagement and being consistent are important traits that you can leverage to move your business forward and succeed as an entrepreneur.

Being consistent in all aspects of your business – the way you look, the way you communicate and how you build rapport, as well as the manner in which you promote your business, will ensure that you make an appropriate first impression. This can become your trademark; customers like consistency and focus here will, in turn, create seamless transactions, long-lasting loyalty and customer retention.

Dress to impress

All too often as individuals we make quick appraisals and assumptions about others and begin to form decisions about them within seconds based on factors such as their physical appearance, body language, the way they are dressed, their accessories and their grooming. Instinctively our subconscious starts to take over and within the first 45 seconds of meeting someone, we frequently have decided if we’re attracted to them and want to do business with them.

Based on someone’s appearance we make judgements about their income bracket, education, and social position, level of success, morals and whether or not they are trustworthy. We get a ‘feel’ of whether or not this person is on our wavelength and whether or not we can work together. It’s this instinctive ‘feel’ that forms the foundation of how we build all our relationships.

Therefore, it’s really important to use every opportunity to ensure you make a great first impression. Your dress code must reflect the appropriateness of the occasion and by projecting an appropriate image, you enable a potential client or contact to see how they can work with you and – perhaps most importantly for many entrepreneurs – that you value yourself.

Dress to suit the situation and you will feel confident and ready to do business. The expression of your style will depend on the sector of your business. Many tech savvy companies, for example, practice a dress down policy but even here it’s important to ensure your clothes are clean, freshly pressed and fit comfortably.

Make your communication consistent

How we communicate in business needs to be consistent, credible, competent, compelling and demonstrate confidence. Each time we speak the listener subconsciously registers the quality of your voice, your enunciation, your grammar and your choice of words. The volume of your voice needs to steer towards softness rather than being loud and abrupt and the tone of your voice will reveal your attitude and manner, so speak with passion and emphasis. The rate or speed of how you speak is important. When we speak fast, it’s difficult to be understood and when we speak to slowly it reflect dullness and you often have to repeat what you’re saying.

Your appearance and communication style has to be compatible, especially when you’re building a relationship with a prospective customer. The capacity to think strategically, cut through the clutter and summarise well reflects your ability to organise ideas coherently. Try to communicate with visual stories analogies, metaphors and sound bites to make messages memorable. Often people will relate you to the story and remember you, but be sure to make the story authentic and appropriate to your audience.

Use etiquette to elevate above the competition

Appropriate professional etiquette gives you the ability to stand out from the crowd by managing meetings, engaging socially and dining with grace with ease. The key to success here is preparation and always be one step ahead, paying particular attention to detail.

When organising a client call or meeting, for example, ensure you check timings and confirm as a calendar invite, especially if the call is from another country and do your research to get some background on the person you’re meeting. Always initiate the conversation and take notes throughout the conversation, ending the meeting with an action point for follow up.

Manage your social media brand

The introduction of technology has changed how we work and as entrepreneurs and business owners it’s enabling us to work around the clock. Yet even with the business opportunities that social media offers us, it’s also really important to understand the etiquette and appropriateness of managing your personal brand and what you say on social media channels.

Even in this virtual space it is still important to present yourself effectively and smartly as a considerate professional, especially as an entrepreneur who can often be tempted to work around the clock on our ventures! Your clients will want to know you can balance and cope with work and life – it’s an indication that their investment is a sound one, – so appropriate social media use and attempting to adopt a balance between work and rest time is paramount.

Be aware of content, language, strong opinions and references to people and organisations when you’re using social media. Inappropriate posts can reflect badly on you and your business and impact negatively on your personal brand. Yet used correctly, it can help you to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate to your customers and contacts how unique you are and why, with such impressive business etiquette, they should want to do business with you.