From work and family obligations to the omnipresence of technology, we live in a time where everyone is extremely busy and wrapped up their own lives. As a result, the basic rules of etiquette sometimes fly right out of the window! But as businesses struggle for differentiation, etiquette is really more important than ever. This topic was suggested by a regular CarolRoth.com contributor, Kathie B. Martin, APR of The Etiquette School of Burmingham, so thanks Kathie!
So as usual, I reached out to my network of trusted experts and entrepreneurs to find out what is the biggest business etiquette do or don’t that they have ever personally experienced (or committed!). Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar concepts, but I kept their insights separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. On Your feet!
Stand when meeting someone and/or shaking hands. Nothing irks me more than seeing someone meet someone new in a business (or personal, for that matter) setting, and remaining seated while being introduced and/or shaking hands.
Get on your damn feet! Stand up, show a modicum of respect, and pretend like the person you are meeting is of some interest to you at the moment.
Anything less is, well, just disrespectful. Is that really how you want to start a new relationship?
2. Please Listen Carefully...
Please listen carefully, as our menu has changed…
Who cares! Just tell me which button to push, and please don’t give me too many choices. I’m good at following directions, but not at remembering 6 or more options. So, I don’t need to know your ‘menu has changed’, especially if it really hasn’t and you’re just trying to grab my attention. And most importantly, please do give me a zero out option or I may just hang up!
3. Call Back
If you want to come across professionally (and even classy), return phone calls promptly. It's good business etiquette, and besides, it's something that your competitor may not even be doing!
4. You Are Right!
Spend your time telling your potential customers what they do Right and not what they do Wrong! If you tell your prospect that (s)he made the wrong decision by going with your competition rather than what is right with your company - you are trying to shame them into doing business with you. It won't work. Tell them what they do right and they will continue to do right by saying YES!
5. Play the Game by the Rules
I'm a big believer in the concept of paying it forward. I'm always introducing people who may be great business contacts, regardless of whether either one will ever do work with me. It ALWAYS comes back to you. However, I recently met with someone who wanted me to open my contact list to him, yet he said that he was unwilling to make the same type of introductions himself. He not only isn't getting any introductions, but he also left a horrible impression on me. Give and you'll get back, I promise.
6. Faux Pas in Japanese
The first time I worked in Japan, I went into the office every morning and my Japanese coworkers would greet me with "Ohio". I would reply "No, I'm from Iowa". Everyone would then look at me funny and go on about their business. I found out later that "Ohio" is short for "Ohio gozimasu" which means good morning in Japanese.
7. The Art of Appreciation
Impress your clients and JV partners by communicating appreciation. Stating “thank you” will elevate you above competitors. Whether large or small, the gesture will have an impact.
Use thank you cards to JV partners. Send a small gift to a new client. Create an email template you can personalize. If an assistant took initiative on a project, give her a gift certificate. Decide the best way you can say thank you to others, then create a system. Write it down to automate and repeat.
8. Not Using Spellcheek (Oops!)
There is a reason programmers included a spell-check function in our software. Whether it's email or a hard letter or document, it is imperative that you not use shorthand or texting acronyms in business correspondence, and for heaven's sake, spell your words correctly. The pinnacle of rudeness is not caring enough to take the time to make your communications clear and correct.
9. Be Careful What You Order
To be nice to a colleague, I once shared an entree at a business dinner at an Italian restaurant...total disaster. We got lobster bibs and enough food to feed the entire table. We looked like we were right out of "The Godfather." Be smart about what you order.
Also, learn table manners. Knowing what to do allows you to concentrate on the conversation, not on which fork to use. Good manners make you look polished and poised.
10. Say My Name!
DO use other companies' names. DO NOT use oblique language like "my web guy" or "my marketing company" -- it's so much more polite and useful to make personal references. DO thank people who've helped you on your website by using their name. DO know how to spell and pronounce the names of all individuals and companies with whom you do business. It may sound trivial, but we all like to be called by name.
11. Get 'Em, Use 'Em, Remember 'Em
When you remember the names of those you do business with, you stand out. Why? Because most people don't. It's "Dale Carnegie 101."
1) Get 'em. How? LISTEN! It's that simple.
2) Use 'em. REPEAT names right back and use them throughout your conversation. Repeat back names in a group and watch the amazement! Try it!
3) Remember 'em. WRITE down your contacts, or get their business cards and write notes on the back (time, place, and subject).
Names are gold, so, get 'em, use 'em, and remember 'em.
12. Reciprocate with Others
Reciprocate with others who take the time to connect with you. Social media provides unprecedented access to colleagues in your field. Whether you are reached through a thoughtful blog comment, Twitter reply, or some other medium, make every effort to respond. Too often, these comments are ignored. Besides being poor etiquette, you reduce the odds of these people returning to your blog, Twitter page, etc. Why take the time and energy to invest in a relationship where there's no reciprocity?
13. Lack of Training
Each year, we sponsored a major conference. I made the reservations with a local national hotel for the keynote speaker myself with the hotel's meeting coordinator. When the speaker arrived, she was told that she did not have a reservation. The speaker called me and I called the coordinator. All was well or so I thought. At 3 a.m. the speaker was awakened by room service to deliver a wine and cheese tray as an apology. We should apologize for our blunders, but 3 a.m. is usually not the best time.
Mitch Carnell of SPWC
14. Rescue Rangers Beware!
If you happen to overhear someone discussing a situation and it is evident that you have a solution, resist the urge to ride to the rescue on the spot...especially if you have not yet met! It's a big turn-off and the person you are offering your services to won't generally be open to hearing what you have to say. Take the time to introduce yourself and build rapport. Follow up after the meeting to continue the relationship & discuss your possible solution.
15. Don't Sneeze on It!
One big no-no is sneezing on your hand and then offering your hand to another person. That's just disgusting, so mind your manners, and at the very least, don't let anyone see what you've done.
16. Fastest Way to be Voted Off
In my book, the fastest way to be voted off the island is to do what hundreds of even the most seasoned business professionals do...and that is...look around the room when someone is introducing themselves to you. This behavior must be avoided at all costs. When someone introduces themselves to you at an event, it's an opportunity for an exchange of value to occur. Focus your attention on them, and if you need to leave, excuse yourself, thank them, and move on gracefully.
Steve Gallegos of WhoYa
17. Check Your CC
A former client accidentally copied me on an email that I was not supposed to see. He was forwarding our correspondence to a competitor of mine. The message he sent revealed that he was simply fishing for information from me on behalf of his friend/competitor of mine. I admit that I did not feel the least bit badly in replying "Are you sure you meant to copy me on this?" Needless to say, I did not hear back from him.
18. FU Manners
Follow Up appropriately -- it is good manners. If you promise info, deliver it; if you are asked for something, provide it; if you are given a deadline, meet it. Most importantly, if you want business from someone, remind them periodically of your existence; don't expect them to remember you from one conversation or trade show meeting. In my marketing research, the most frequent tip I hear from government and corporate purchasers is that vendors should follow up better.
19. Cell Phone Etiquette
In today’s information age, managing emails, text messages, and phone calls takes considerable time. During business meetings, whether at your office, the office of a client, or even lunch, it is important to recognize that answering phone calls, checking emails, or sending text messages can be very disruptive to the meeting and conveys a message to the participants that they are less important than the party on the phone. Cell phones should be turned off and be out of sight during meetings.
20. Check Your Attire!
A female speaker hired for a wintertime engagement made the fatal step of NOT researching her audience sufficiently. She arrived at the engagement straight from the airport, without checking into the hotel first. Imagine the shock and dismay of the audience when she arrived in a full-length fur coat, leather skirt, and boots to speak before a group of anti animal cruelty society members. Always do your research to be sure you present a relatable and compatible visual image to your audience!
21. Big Etiquette Positive
The biggest etiquette pro that you can do is honor your commitments. When people know you will do what you say, stand behind your word and honor your efforts to them, you will always be successful. Some people fold when times get tough or they're challenged. When people trust you, you are always a leader.
22. Enrollment Etiquette 101
The Number 1 Secret to business etiquette is to hold enrolling conversations with your favorite kind of client. This eliminates the pushy sales pitch and softly speaks to their genuine needs. To do this you must: 1) Know your prospect and build rapport 2) Be highly intentional and build value 3) Make specific requests 4) Respectfully overcome objections and 5) Gently secure an agreement. When you know who you're talking to, these steps are tasteful with low pressure, yet they're very powerful.
23. Hay is for Horses
Good manners and good grammar spell good business.
Use “Dear,” “Hi,” or “Hello” as a salutation, not the currently popular “Hey.” As my mother used to say, “Hay is for horses.” As a grammar expert, I cringe when reading a business letter, email, paid ad or promo piece that clearly was written by someone who did not take the extra time to proofread.
24. Watch the Clock
Watch the clock... Be on time. End meetings on time. Never use more words when you could use less.
25. What Were You Thinking?
For my upcoming book, I asked some of AZ's highest ranking women in business, “What is the most unusual or shocking business etiquette faux pas you have experienced?” My favorite: during a meeting with her direct reports and their key employee for the topic of discussion, one male came with chewing tobacco in his mouth. During the meeting, he took his empty water bottle and spit the tobacco into it.
26. An Invitation That Gets a Yes
The etiquette rule for inviting someone to lunch is the same as for a high school date. If you are the person inviting,  you say why  you say where  you say when.
Meaning to be humble, people say "We should go to lunch sometime.", "I'll let you choose where." and "What's good for you?"
This puts a task (choosing) on the other person's list.
Not your prerogative.
"Are you available for lunch at Mosaic next Thursday, noon?" results in a profitable "Yes, thank you."
27. Are You A Brain-Picker?
Brain-picking a professional is poor taste and leaves the expert soured--toward you!
28. Don't Be a Mailing List Abuser
When you attend a business or social function and exchange business cards with someone, please know that this exchange does NOT give you the right to add that person to your mailing list. Please be courteous; if you have further contact with this person, either ask their permission to sign them up to your list or ask them to sign up on their own (provide a link). You want your mailing to consist of people who have opted in - you'll get a much higher open rate and more good will as well.
29. Be Authentic!
In the market we are in, it is crucial to be authentic in what you offer. 'Promise the moon, deliver weeds' no longer works. I recently found a post on FB saying that 2 of my friends were using this service to grow their list (paid service of course). This was a lie, as both of those friends are clients & I know exactly what they are doing. Promise what you can deliver; stand on 'under promise, over deliver'.
30. Attitude is Everything
Etiquette is about rules, and rules are often hard to remember. Business etiquette is no different. The most vital tip is in all you do, remember The Golden Rule. "Treat OTHERS the way you want to be treated." This means that it's not about YOU, it's about THEM. This must drive your communication, your efforts and interactions. This unique approach stands out in a business world that is largely rude, crude and indifferent.
31. "The Interrupter" Are You One?
One of the worst etiquette no-no's are people who interrupt others either in a business conversation or a presentation.
You'll be able to recognize the "Interrupters" right away. They'll be the ones talking louder than the other person and it's all about them. People such as this have been known to be bullies in the workplace and have caused havoc and mayhem. Businesses have lost long time customers due to this business faux pas.
32. Show Up or Call
A few years ago, I was having difficulty filling a position. I heard that an area professional was interested. After reviewing their qualifications and experience, I confirmed an interview for the next week. Imagine my surprise when the candidate never showed up for the interview or never called. My Director suggested I call to follow up. I refused. Since the role required the candidate to plan programs for youth, I was not sure if a basic requirement of the position would be adequately managed.
33. "The Freshman"
In the beginning days of business building, I was invited to give a motivational speech at a rather prestigious event and it was electrifying. People RUSHED my product table like sharks in a feeding frenzy and I didn't have any BUSINESS CARDS. They enjoyed the speech and they purchased products, but the lack of BUSINESS CARDS was/is a no no.
Slow down, review your travel list and do it a few more times - especially when excited.
34. Brutally Honest or Just Brutal
Many of us pride ourselves on our honesty. We all know that Carol has made it her stock-in-trade. However, there will always be a customer (to quote Jack Nicholson) who "can't handle the truth!"
If you have customers with fragile egos or with an overinflated sense of self, you might want to temper that honesty with a good dose of wisdom. These are the moments where brutal honesty is just plain brutal and you will pay the price for speaking the truth.
35. Never Disqualify by Appearance
I've made the mistake of assuming a prospective customer was unable to afford what I was selling based on their appearance. I soon learned that dirty pants and boots, and a soiled ball cap actually meant that this guy owned his own farm and had plenty of money to afford what I was selling in my store. I also learned that the guy with the sharp looking suit and big car was all appearance and no money. Now I treat everyone equally, as it should be.
36. Personalization is Important!
I absolutely hate when people send me a connection request without a personal message. There is too much spam to just send a generic message that offers no insight into why you want to connect. To really harness the power of social media, you need to create real relationships and actually network. Whenever I send out a connection request, I explain why I want to connect so that person knows I am not sending them spam.
37. Never Get Too Busy to....
As a small business owner and Founder of a national association, I always make the time to build and nurture relationships. We tend to meet and work with many people and the difference maker is when we make the effort to build a relationship beyond earning an income. An email, phone call, card, business reference, lunch or a similar interest are all small things any entrepreneur can do with limited time. Business opportunities have come about because of this and it's a great image builder.
38. Write It Right Emails
In this day of email correspondence, it's easy to become too informal. Use of acronyms is rude and unprofessional; therefore learn to write a strong, appropriate business letter the old fashioned way, and use it in your email. Be sure to address the person by the correct title, and by all means, spell their name right! Proofread it at least three times before you send it and have another pair of eyes review it, too. You'll be rewarded with a great, professional first impression!
39. Soy Sauce Splatters
As a young business woman, our company lawyer asked me to a sushi lunch. I had only had sushi once before, but I was adept with chopsticks. The lawyer ordered. The first piece of sushi roll I chose was longer than appropriate for my mouth, so I bit into it without noticing that the piece of raw tuna inside would pop out the back, into the soy and splatter the brown sauce all over the lawyer's tie. My tip, only accept business meals for food where your comfort level is extremely high.
40. Stand Out with Simplicity
The one biggest etiquette "do" that I implement daily and has led to client confidence and referrals is responding in a timely fashion, even with a minor detail or update. It goes a long way in establishing or maintaining relationships. When clients email, I (usually) respond within minutes. It's amazing how this simple tip sets me apart from so many other businesses that "get to it when they get to it." The time invested is minutes, but the value is truly forever. And clients remember!
41. Mind the Time, Shirt, & Talk!
Be on time, or be 5 minutes early if possible. No one likes to wait or listen to stupid excuses... Appreciate others' time & schedule by being on time & finishing on time.
Dress up! Yes, you're an entrepreneur & you can dress the way you want, but it's not OK to show up for a meeting in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts or sandals!
Don't give your sales pitch as if you're throwing up, i.e. loud, in one breath, and ends with an "aah I'm done" kind of expression... Breathe, ask questions, & let others talk too...
42. Tips for Office Etiquette
Are you taking someone else's soda from the office fridge? Don't. If you're the victim of the crime, here's how to dissuade the thief:
1. Label your food. Put your name on anything you put in the fridge.
If it continues:
2. Write a note to the thief on the bottle. Others will read it, so don't curse.
If it goes on:
3. Go to HR with the dates of when your soda was taken. HR can send a memo or put up a camera.
Meanwhile, if you catch the thief, snap him with your drink and put it on Facebook.
43. Make Them the Rockstar!
Mom may have taught you that it's good etiquette to send a thank you note or follow up card to folks you meet in business, but you can take that a step way further by highlighting your new contacts in social media with a flattering photo or – better yet – a video montage. Take your photos from an event and put them into Animoto.com to create a great follow-up video that makes your new friends the star. Then post your video montage on Facebook/YouTube. Make an impression they won't forget!
44. Put Your Cell Phone Away
Do not place your telephone on the table during a meeting. Best option - leave your cell phone in the car or in your briefcase. Having it in front of you is a distraction to both you and your client and it sends a negative message that you don't mind interrupting your meeting for something inconsequential. Schedule a time to return all phone messages on the same business day.
45. Don't Turn Your Back
I complimented a fence builder in my neighborhood and asked him for his business card. He told me he didn't have a card and turned his back on me. I walked away thinking he just lost a very strong potential customer.
Tip: When asked for a business card, stop what you're doing, greet the person asking and show interest in him or her. Never turn your back on the prospective customer. If you don't have a business card, explain that you ran out, ask for her card and follow up later!
46. The Power of the Written Word!
Do not underestimate the importance of the written word. A poorly written message will have a major impact on your business. It is imperative to proofread for: Spelling- Spell-check will not correct your use of their vs. there; Grammar- 90% of the time, you can correct your own mistakes. Most errors are due to hasty writing; Tone- The most important part of writing is the tone. If the tone of the message is wrong, the message will be lost on the reader. Please proofread your work and write well!
47. Uh, Huh, I'm Listening
It sounds so simple, yet so few people do it. Put the blackberry down and pay attention. Business is about building relationships and that becomes extremely more difficult, as so many people spend too much time checking their blackberry for texts and emails. If we would all put the phone down and pay attention to the person in front of us and focus on the conversation, our relationships would be stronger and thus, we would be more successful.
48. Send Handwritten Thank Yous
Creating a great business is about building and maintaining positive relationships. Everyone appreciates being acknowledged for their gift of money and time. So, send handwritten "Thank you" notes. No time? If you want to be successful, you need to find the time. Always carry "thank you" note cards already stamped. Write when you have a few moments, i.e. at the airport. Expense? You need nothing fancy. A simple card and a stamp will do. Poor penmanship? Write slower. Stand out! Send a handwritten Thank you!
Thanks to: Caroline Wadlin MD.
49. Twitter Twat
My latest pet peeve is when I see someone communicating with clients on twitter. Not advertising your business, but actual communication with clients. I would fire anyone immediately if they spread my business dealings out to thousands of people. Yet I see it happen on twitter all the time.
50. Say No to the Lambada at Work
Do not become too casual with your clients. Although it is important to build strong relationships, keep it professional at all times. I have seen folks get too cutesy with clients and inadvertently offend them. At company parties, someone says “just relax and have fun.” No! Have fun, but remember that you are conducting business. Once, I saw a vendor lose a client after drinking too much and deciding to dance the Lambada with the CEO's spouse. In the end, always keep it professional.
51. No Shoes, No Socks, No Way
Shoes and socks belong on your feet! I know of a Manager that while leading a staff meeting took off his shoe and sock and started picking at his toes. PLEASE! He has an MBA, so I can't help but wonder in what class did he learn that technique?
In general, this advice goes for all men. Sandals have no place in the workplace. No one wants to see your feet and we certainly don't want to watch you pick at your toes. Dress professionally is the "DO". Picking at your toes is the "DON'T".
52. Watch Where You Say it!
Communication skills can carry you to the top or the bottom. A man was on the elevator with a friend criticizing the intelligence of the CEO. The CEO’s daughter was on the elevator.
It may help you to complain about a person, but choose an appropriate location. If you trust the person you are venting to, your comments may still get back to the person. VENT to yourself. Go for a walk and vent. So what if others think you are crazy for talking to yourself; you will still have your job.
53. Email (Mis)Communications
How many emails do you receive? When you feel information overloaded, you may end up answering emails with rude, unstructured 1 liners, full of typos, without reading all of the information. Typical situation: a junior colleague emails you with a project issue she is facing and offers 2 solutions. She worked through the night on the problem. You only read the first 2 lines and answer: "pls lets get ths done". TIP: no matter how busy you are, take time to read and think before answering.
54. Busy, Busy, Busy
Everyone is busy. When you are late, the other person feels devalued. If this happens, you need to call and be responsible for your actions. Don't make excuses, just be straight. "I am running 10 minutes late." No one likes to wait. Being late says, my time is more important than yours. They may not be happy with the call, but it will be more acceptable than just showing up late. It will show that you value them and business is all about building relationships.
55. Multi-Culturalism IQ
Jane had not met her colleagues previously and only had communication by phone and email. When Jane arrived to the meeting, she was greeted by a colleague, "Hello, (look of surprise) you didn't sound Chinese on the phone."
1. Jane is third generation Japanese-American and speaks fluent English.
2. Chinese and Japanese history and cultures differ greatly.
3. Jane's surname is O'Brien.
Be aware that assumptions may sabotage future relationships on teams and in business.
56. Walking the Line
When you are a small business or involved in a volunteer organization, the temptation to rely on family, friends, employees and neighbors to support you, or for donations, is overwhelming. This will put unnecessary strain on any relationship. Reach out of your comfort box to new sources. Until you are willing to do this, you or your project will not succeed. Business etiquette, with family, friends, neighbors and employees, is a fine line to walk. Learn where that line is and respect it.
57. Try Not to Appear Desperate
Business is abuzz with the notion of authenticity, but disclosure to the point of desperation does not bode well. Over the course of a conversation with an event planner I was looking to hire, she revealed, “To be honest, we would do anything to be associated with your firm. And we really need the work!”
Tip: Friendly it up, but keep your business woes to yourself. Business likes winners—if you are one, show it; if you’re not one yet, showcase your winning expertise.
58. Store the Shades
Even if the future looks bright, please avoid wearing sunglasses on your head or face during a business meeting. This may be trendy in the Sun Belt for long weekends, but in the world of business, it can be construed as unprofessional. Worse, you could be viewed as untrustworthy in certain industries and cultures. Exceptions: if you're a professional poker player, troubled celebrity, reviewing a record deal with a top producer, or will be participating in an outdoor sporting event with clients.
59. Common Courtesy: Lost?
We're in dire need of correction in society and it's time to go "back to basics" with common courtesy. An annoyance of late seems to occur within business lunches, when I have that all important one/one time with a business associate or client. It goes without saying that cell phone usage is just plain rude, but even more so, is when an acquaintance of my guest stops by the table, and no introduction nor an acknowledgment of my presence is made. Little do they know, but this is a deal breaker!
60. Don't Get Too Relaxed
At business lunches, dinners, and networking events, it is possible to be too relaxed. Watch the alcohol intake. We've all seen the tipsy employee who's making an impression, but not the impression they intended. The same goes for the person who accompanies the employee to the event. Their inappropriate behavior will be remembered. "Remember the guy Sally brought to the picnic last year?" Mum was right. We're judged by the company we keep. Any event that is connected to work is still work.
61. Always Show Appreciation
Remember to thank those who refer you business. Small business people are busy, and showing appreciation is often viewed as a second tier priority. But the little things matter. Forget a "thank you" and miss out on repeat referrals. Have a way of thanking people built in as a procedure. One idea is that you can create a field in your client database that does not let you create an invoice for a new client until a thank you is sent to the referral source.
62. An Unprofitable Mix
Beliefs, whether political, social or religious, are best not merged with your business marketing, including social media. Although I consider myself a person with strong religious convictions, I resent having a marketer's convictions in the arena with their brand, product or service. It often seems fake and pretentious and results in devaluing, not only the brand, but also the business individuals' belief itself. Let your ideals show in your actions and practices, not your marketing.
63. Extreme Vendor Management
My best example of how to treat a vendor/prospective business partner came early in my career. Our company President was displeased by news of a delay in our project plan. Despite his ranting and raving, he must have felt like the poor vendor was not getting the message that he was, um, slightly "miffed"! So, he picked up a chair and threw it across the room before storming out.
The OBVIOUS etiquette breach here is that he left without saying goodbye!
64. Office Gifts and Giving
Should you participate in group gifts at the office when you're on a budget? Yes, you should give a donation, even if it's small. When unsure about how much to give, ask the person collecting. If it's more than you can afford, give what you can. You never know when it's going to be your baby shower or wedding -- and you would want people to give readily as well.
65. Profit from Punctuality
Punctuality is a must! Be on time for ALL appointments. Always finish the job ahead of time. Those are two of the best ways to get people to help you in your business and to get repeat business. "Half of success is just showing up in a timely manner."
Do you have another business etiquette do or don’t that wasn’t included? If so, please share it below. As always, many thanks to everyone who contributed to this article!