Take ActionAm I the only one who thinks common sense isn’t all that common anymore? In fact, on my snarkier days, I refer to it as (un)common sense.

Want to distinguish yourself from the crowd? The best thing you can do is to act consistently like a professional business person. If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I get it – but many good business practices seem to have gone the way of the dodo.

I have many pet peeves – and I’m sure that you have some to add to this list – but here are my Top 10.

  1. Use correct grammar and spell check everything. One day I kept a running total and 85 percent of the communications I received that day had some kind of typo or grammatical error. We all make mistakes, but try to keep them to a minimum. Read things carefully before you send them out!
  2. Remember to always say “please” and “thank you.” Always. To everyone. How you treat subordinates is an indication of your character. I’ll never forget how nice Michael Bloomberg (yes, the former mayor of New York) was to me when I was scheduling meetings for him and my boss. Truly a class act.
  3. Return calls and e-mails within 24 hours. Depending on your business, your clients may expect an even faster response. But as a solo professional, you can’t always get back to people immediately. I aim for a same-day response. Prospects always thank me for it.
  4. Take the blame even if it isn’t your fault. What’s past is past – concentrate on how to fix the problem. Never play the blame game. It’s hard to win and it just prolongs the bad situation. In clinical research, blame is defined as a discharge of pain and suffering. How fun is that for the person being blamed? A work environment where people blame each other is toxic.
  5. Acknowledge receiving something. If someone forwards you a link or an article they think you will enjoy, send them a response saying you got it and will check it out, or that you read/watched it and enjoyed it. Nobody likes to feel like their e-mails have been lost or ignored.
  6. Use a professional tone in all communications. You can be casual and still be professional. I would advise this for friends too because they may refer prospects to you or forward your e-mail to someone.
  7. Be consistent and create a filter for your online posting. You can post personal things, but I urge you to think twice before you post something you would be embarrassed for your grandmother to see. And you also need to decide if you want to post about controversial topics.
  8. Set up online listening. You need to know if someone reaches out to you so you can answer them in a timely fashion. Time is compressed on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Especially Twitter. Lots of people use Twitter as a way to vent about customer service issues. It’s better to respond quickly so that you can diffuse the situation before it totally blows up. But remember, a poorly worded response can be even worse than no response.
  9. Use the name people use for themselves. Look carefully at what name a person uses in their signature. I am always Catherine. People who jump to Cathy or something else seem like they weren’t paying attention. It’s sloppy and it feels disrespectful to the recipient.
  10. Practice using a two-second delay. This might be the most important thing I have learned in the last five years. If something is making you upset or angry, breathe and count, “One one thousand, two one thousand.” Do this before you verbally respond so you have time to process and consider your answer.

If you absolutely need to write that flaming e-mail response, go ahead and do it – just save it as a draft. Or,  better yet, address it to yourself so there’s no harm done if you accidentally hit send. Or create it as a Word doc so you can’t accidentally hit send.

As you can see, none of these are very difficult, but they may take you a little extra time. Investing this time can bring huge benefits to you in the form of $ and clients.

Why? People want to do business with professionals.