Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ramp up your business etiquette

From my experience as a business owner of marketing, writing and design services, I believe that business professionals in southeastern Michigan need to ramp up their Northern charm and Midwestern good manners when it comes to returning phone calls and replying to e-mails.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs are heralded as the job creators and courageous warriors of commerce, yet the treatment that we receive from many prospects is not conducive to business.
I implore those of you who ignore phone calls and delete e-mails that have a legitimate request behind them (aka: not spam) to ramp up your business etiquette. Practice common courtesy when it comes to replying to phone calls and e-mails from those who don’t work in your company and are asking for your business, a referral or a favor.
Too many professionals leave callers and e-mail inquiries hanging. If it’s a legitimate call – even if it’s a cold call for business – please have the courtesy of at least sending an e-mail saying: 1.) I’m interested, please call; 2.) I might be interested, check back (state a day/time) or 3.) I’m not interested, but thanks for asking.
Most astute cold callers for professional services will include an e-mail and website so you can check out the company before responding.
My clients, trusted associates and best prospects are not included in this diatribe. I treasure them for their business, assistance and ongoing support and kindness.
Those with high-powered jobs think they are in the driver’s seat. Yet, it often takes just one business cycle downturn, incompatible boss or market shake-up to be out of a job. The tables could be turned. What if you were looking for a job or business leads and no one took your call or responded to your e-mail?
I’ve already preached the Golden Rule to my kids – Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Now I have to remind the business community that it applies to their human interactions as well.
Rules of thumb for response time:
Primarily for VPs, directors, managers and those who need a refresher.
E-mail pitch for your business: If you have the time and interest, set up a phone call to learn more about the service. Based on those results, if you have an immediate or pending need for the service, set up a personal interview. If the caller (perhaps a business owner or associate) is convincing and the online presence is solid, hire the company to take on a smaller job to gauge the working relationship and results.
After a job interview: Respond to the interviewee’s personal thank-you note within one week (e-mail acknowledgement is fine). Respond to phone calls within three to five days, even if you don’t know whether the interviewee has made it to the second round. If in doubt, have your HR department call or e-mail the interviewee.
• Request for an interview for a publication: Respond within three to five business days, and set up the interview as soon as possible, keeping in mind that you may receive copy to review before publication (for non-commercial media).
Job in progress with business owner or associate: Don’t let two to three days go by without responding to a job in progress. If you are dealing with a major personal or work crisis, or are out of the country, try to send a short e-mail or text noting that fact.

• Proposal in the works: It takes time to listen to the prospects’ concerns and write up a proposal for consideration. The courtesy of a response (“yes,” “no” or even “maybe”) is necessary to move ahead with the project, amend it or table it. Being decisive is an admirable business trait.
If you have pet peeves about business etiquette, please share them so we can all improve our game.