Correct business etiquette is essential regardless of the size of your company or the industry you are in. This can become even more important when communicating with international clients or colleagues.
The importance of business etiquette
Business etiquette is a form of non-verbal communication. As such, it plays an essential role when it comes to getting the message across. Some studies affirm that 93 per cent of our messages are conveyed through non-verbal communication. It is easy to see the relevance of business etiquette in professional settings, as an etiquette "faux pas" can become a barrier that prevents successful business interaction.
In addition, displaying proper business etiquette is an indication of professionalism, so it can contribute to better working relationships not only with customers and business partners, but also with colleagues and superiors.
Business etiquette: useful guidelines
It is important to note that business etiquette is not limited to the office. There are three types of situations where etiquette becomes crucial:
Nowadays, a large percentage of our routine business interactions take place via the internet. The average businessperson might spend 3 hours every day handling e-mails and conference calls. So, what are the best ways of showing common courtesy when doing business over the net?
- Business e-mails should always have a short and descriptive subject line
- E-mails should be replied to within 24 hours. If for any reason you are not able to do so, let your customer or colleague know by writing them a short e-mail
- Use a signature that includes your full name, position, company name / department, and contact details
- If your company has a profile on a social network, your messages and posts should be strictly business-related. Use social networks to your advantage by including information that contributes to creating a professional company image
- Avoid using abbreviations unless you are positive that they are universally understood
- Use capital letters as per spelling conventions, but do not type full words or sentences in capitals
- If you want to send an attached file, let the other person know beforehand and ensure that there will be no compatibility issues, which can waste valuable time.
Business etiquette in meetings and presentations
- Where relevant, presentation handouts should be circulated in advance, preferably 2-3 days before the meeting
- If you are presenting, arrive early and ensure that all equipment functions properly
- Mobile phones must be on silent or meeting mode. Secretive texting creates a bad impression
- Double check whether seating arrangements are in place or not. Do not just assume that you can sit anywhere
- Do not create distractions for other attendees by blocking their view, playing with pens, or tapping your feet
Business etiquette in social situations
- Always RSVP to business events
- Punctuality is important, even if you are attending an informal business lunch
- Informal events do not justify being too inquisitive or asking non-business-related questions. Be discreet
- At networking events, it is better to keep circulating, but do not hand out business cards indiscriminately
Greeting a Client
When greeting a client ensure you stand up, this shows that you think the other person is important. Make eye contact, smile and greet the person immediately. If this is the first time you have met the person introduce yourself and say who you work for or what your position is in the company. If they are comfortable doing so, shake hands confidently and try to put the person at ease. You want to present yourself and your business in a favourable way.
Be attentive to what they have to say, repeat points they have brought up to show that you have been listening and speak clearly and concisely. Be courteous and good mannered, show consideration to the other person.
When the client or customer is leaving, stand up again and repeat their name, remembering to only use their first name if you have been given permission to do so. Walk them to the door as you say goodbye. Follow up with a phone call or email.
Business etiquette training courses
Although general guidelines do exist, business etiquette remains a challenging area, especially where cross-cultural business communications are involved. Fortunately, there is a large range of business etiquette and protocol training available in the United Kingdom, some of which can be conveniently taken online. Companies wishing to provide etiquette training to employees being transferred to a new country can consult the Department for International Trade for guides to doing business in new markets.