I read an article recently that noted how "in" etiquette and good manners have become today. In fact, many individuals and corporations are taking extra steps to make sure they're doing the right things no matter what the situation might be. It can be as simple as knowing how to set the silverware on a table when entertaining or how to address someone you have just met at a social gathering. Do you immediately call people by their first names or do you wait until they invite you to do so? What's the proper way to introduce somebody? This stuff can get pretty complicated. Over the years, good etiquette and manners seemed to go by the wayside. Apparently a lot people stopped believing that being considerate is that big a deal. Frankly, I couldn't disagree more. That's because manners are essential in our society if we are going to call ourselves civilized.
I'm always preaching to salespeople about the critical importance of good manners. I tell them manners open more doors and make them stand out in the crowd. If someone wants to make an impression on a client, or anyone else for that matter, a good place to start is to behave like a well-mannered person. People love it and will respect you for it. What are some common goofs made by those who call themselves salespeople? They turn people off all the time by being brazen enough to call others by their first names even though they've just met. Telemarketers are the most guilty of this. So many times someone has phoned to try to sell me something, usually starting out by using my first name. That's just stupid, and they never get my business. Calling someone sir or ma'am or Mr. or Mrs. is never out of vogue. It shows respect. And isn't that what we all like?
This is what knowing how to deal with people is all about and what selling and negotiating is all about-working with others and showing them the respect they deserve. Customers love to be treated well, yet business after business will take them for granted or treat them badly. That's why there's so much opportunity out there. Too many people-especially salespeople-don't even know what good manners are. They were never taught how to behave. In some circumstances that can be disastrous.
One of the most powerful phrases in the English language is, "May I help you?" Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? But how many times do you hear it today? Doesn't it make you feel good when a sales clerk offers help? There are other little things you can do that are just as effective. How about holding the door open for someone when entering or leaving a building? How about taking your hat off when talking to another person? We probably don't need to be reminded about many of our bad habits. But they need to be addressed too because they're the flip side of good manners. Knowing what not to do is just as important. Bad table manners, excessive drinking and telling off-color jokes are probably a few of the most common.
Why be concerned about all this? After all, who cares whether someone has good manners. They just get in the way. Everything has changed, some might say, and this obsession with good manners is passe. Well, they're wrong. Top people, whether in sales or in the executive suite, are there because they understand how important it is to treat others with dignity and respect. People love others who practice good manners. Think about how pleasant it is to hear "thank you," "please" and "may I." Those are just a few of the magic phrases that mark someone as a winner.
Charles S. Lauer