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Business Faux Pas

Business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey shows you how to stay on top of your game.

By Maggie Leyes

When you're in business for yourself, you're never really "off the clock." Once you leave your house in the morning, anyone you meet during the day—or night—is a potential client. And you never know where you might run into your clients; it might be at the hippest restaurant in town, or at Home Depot. Is your business etiquette polished and up-to-par to meet these challenges?

We spoke with business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey, author of Manners That Sell and columnist for Savannah Morning News, about what it takes for advisors to be on the top of their game.

AT: What is the most important step advisors can take to improve their etiquette?
Ramsey: There's not just one aspect of their business manners or their business etiquette that people need to pay attention to today. They need to realize that it's not just dress, and it's not just making introductions properly, or handshakes properly. It's how you handle yourself on the telephone, the email that you send out—every detail, every aspect.

I really think it's even after-hours; it's on weekends. Even when you are going out to run an errand, you need to be prepared and be presentable for that possible client connection. When you park the lawnmower, and you're hot and sweaty and jump in the car and go to Home Depot ... Anytime, being prepared and presentable is critical.

AT: What is the most damaging breach of etiquette that you see on a routine basis?
Ramsey: Business people using the cell phone. It's the agent; it's the salesperson who's with his client who takes the call. Or now that people are learning not to answer the call, but they'll check to see who did call. Their phone vibrates and they say, "Excuse me, let me see who that was." It sends the message, "Maybe this is a better person who I want to talk to; let me check. You're not so important; I can just turn away from you."

AT: What is your best piece of advice for our readers who are in a sales-based business?
Ramsey: It would be focusing on that client, giving that person your full attention—looking at them, smiling at them, using all the listening skills that say, "I hear what you're saying. I'm interested in what you're saying. I'm not thinking about what I am going to say next. I am interested in what you are telling me now."


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