Business Etiquette:
Your Competitive Advantage

Are even your best staff members missing critical business development opportunities? (They don’t have to.)

I was having lunch the other day with a friend who manages a sales team and she told me about a problem she’s having. “I have staff who are great with the clients when talking about the advantages and attributes of the company, and I mean really great, but the minute they have to interact on a more social level they have a hard time. They seem to become nervous and slightly unsure of themselves. It’s frustrating because I know that means they are missing opportunities, not only to build relationships but also to bring in new business.”

We often assume that once staff reach a certain level, or have a number of years’ experience they will magically be equipped with the tools needed to be professional, approachable and confident in every circumstance: communications, meetings, conferences, trade show, meals or networking events. This is not always the case.

Take Jane and Liz, for instance. They have both been with their company for the same amount of time. Both women love their jobs and are bright, friendly, and well informed. They both have an in-depth understanding of the company, but here Jane has a slight edge over Liz. Don’t get me wrong Liz is excellent, but Jane can quote all the attributes and advantages, facts and figures needed, at the drop of a hat. She is the model of straightforward, no-nonsense efficiency.

So, who would you think is bringing in more business? Jane, right?


Liz’s close-rate is consistently higher than Jane’s. Quarter after quarter she brings in more clients and closes more deals. How can that be?

On paper Jane should be bringing in more business, so why isn’t she? Their boss decided the best way to find out was to ask both women these five questions:

1. How do you seek out new business?

Jane: “More often than not people get in touch with me. Our company has a good reputation, which makes that part of my job quite easy.”

Liz: “I am always trying to expand my circle so I make myself attend networking events even though they aren’t my favourite thing to do. I often feel nervous before I go, but I’ve learned how to overcome that, and once I’m there I enjoy engaging with the other guests, chatting about work and hobbies.”

2. How do you follow up with a potential client?

Jane: “I send them an email and wait for them to reply, which most do within a few days. If they don’t, then I put that down to them not being interested in what we have to offer.”

Liz: “I usually ask how they like me to communicate with them – not everyone loves email – and will follow up that way. If I don’t hear back within a week or so, then I’ll get in touch again, just to make sure my message hasn’t been lost in the ether. I never want to pester people but don’t want them to feel ignored either, it’s more a question of being ‘appropriately persistent’.”

3. When and where do you meet with your clients?

Jane: “We will meet at their office, or ours, whatever is more convenient for them. I like the office setting because it’s more business-like and we can focus on the work at hand.”

Liz: “I always keep it convenient for the client but usually suggest that we meet outside the office environment, either for coffee or a meal. That way the client is less distracted by their work and we can have a more casual discussion and build rapport.”

4. How do you develop an understanding of their needs?

Jane: “I ask them about their needs and why they’ve come to us. I then describe how our services can help them, give them all the facts and figures, and lay out how our offer dovetails with what they need.”

Liz: “I ask them about their needs. I then ask as many follow-up questions as necessary until we get to the heart of the problem they are trying to solve. It’s only at that point I start discussing how our company can help. Having a more in-depth conversation helps me understand not only the client’s business but also the person sitting in front of me. We all want to be listened to and understood. I find that by adding this human element to business the client feels valued, and ultimately that’s what brings them onboard. This wasn’t always my approach, I used to be very nervous of conversations like this, but having a few simple tips in my back pocket has really helped.”

5. In our business you have to attend a fair number of client functions and networking events. How do you approach these?

Jane: “I know that it’s part of my role, so I attend when I have to but these sorts of events make me feel very uncomfortable. Even though I’m really knowledgeable and good at my job, I never know what to say, how to approach people, how to start a conversation, or finish one. And don’t get me started on formal dinners; last time I used my neighbour’s bread plate by accident. No matter how many of these I go to I still feel like a fish out of water. So, even though I attend, I know I’m not making the most of the opportunities in front of me.”

Liz: “These used to make me very nervous and uncomfortable but when I saw the advantages that could be gained I decided that I needed to learn how to overcome my fears. By learning some key skills – including how to introduce myself, how to carry on a conversation over a meal, and which fork to use – I’ve increased my confidence and ability to perform in any circumstance. Now, I attend events even if I don’t know anyone else there because I’m confident in my abilities. I know I can meet a few people, have some useful and interesting conversations, and maybe even start the ball rolling with a potential client.”

Do you see the pattern?

Although both women are technically good at their jobs Liz’s confidence and comfort level when meeting clients in more social settings is much higher. She knows that there is inherent value in having a deeper understanding of the client, what drives them and what will help them do their jobs better. By using the tools and skills she’s learned Liz is able to create much richer and stronger relationships with her clients, and because of that her clients feel that they are in good hands, which encourages them to sign on the dotted line.

Why bother with this workshop?

When sending your staff out to meet prospects and clients, you need to be confidence that they are building long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

Instead of leaving staff to make-it-up as they go along, why not give them a solid grounding in people skills, good manners, and relationship building?

It’s these skills that turn a good sales person into a great one.

“I have never known anyone use simple politeness and good manners to such good commercial effect.” ~ Steve Gibbons, Director, Labour Relations & Human Rights, Ergon Associates

Not only does our practical training teach your staff the skills they need to be confident, professional and polished under all circumstances, but it also shows them how to add the human element to their business dealings, meaning that your clients feel appreciated and well looked after.

Powerful, real-world skills

Participants leave this workshop with powerful, real-world skills that will help them make the most of every situation. Topics covered include:

  • Making great first impressions
  • Dressing for success
  • Successful networking
  • Relationship building
  • Communicating on- and off-line
  • The art of being a thoughtful host and gracious guest
  • Dining etiquette

These are the skills that create better, stronger, longer-lasting customer relationships, propel sales figures, and enhance reputation.

Click here to talk to us about how we can help your staff go from good to great.