My grandmother was a tad eccentric. She was Canadian...and was raised during the tail-end of the Victorian Era. She considered it her responsibility to impart the "proper" manners to her grandchildren. During meals, when I transgressed with some egregious table-manner faux pas, she was not hesitant in her kindly reprimand. She would look at me in her serious manner and say, "Now Christopher... would you do that if the Queen were here?" When you are six years old, how do you respond to this question?
My grandmother would like Lydia Ramsey. Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert who "helps people promote themselves and grow their business by showing them how to keep their feet out of their mouths and egg off their faces." Her insights can be found on her website, www.mannersthatsell.com.
In sales, first impressions are everything. What's that old aphorism? "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." For salespersons, meeting and greeting...making initial contacts...are a way of life. Here are some of Lydia Ramsey's simple strategies that that ensure that a first impression...is a good one.
- If you are sitting down and waiting for a prospect, stand up to greet them when they arrive. Always engage the other person as an equal...eyeball-to-eyeball. If you are in a position where standing is impossible, e.g. a crowded conference table, offer a brief apology and explanation, such as, "Please excuse me for not getting up. I need more legroom."
- Smile...and make direct eye contact. There is nothing more disconcerting than greeting someone who is staring off somewhere else, towards the floor, etc.
- Introduce yourself immediately. Ofttimes, when we meet someone for the first time in a group setting, there can be awkward pauses before introductions,when one person waits for the other. Avoid these moments by initiating a forthright introduction.
- Offer a firm handshake...regardless of the gender of the other person. Many years past, old etiquette dictated that you would wait until a woman extended her hand, and only then did you extend your hand. Contemporary etiquette allows for either the man or the woman to extend a hand first. "Firm" does not mean a bone-crusher either. Typically, a man's upper body strength is 40% greater than a woman's. Also, avoid the double-hand handshake. This is too familiar when you greet someone for the first time.
- When greeting a couple, whose hand do you shake first? The risk if you extend your hand to one side of the couple, is that the other person might think, "I count for less." A solution may be to extend your hand out in the general vicinity of both...and shake whatever hand reaches you first. If there is a somewhat clumsy bit of hand histrionics during this exchange, make a joke. It can break the ice.
- Learn how to make smooth introductions. In business, always introduce "less important" to "more important" people. Say the name of the "more important" person first, followed by the words, "I'd like to introduce," then give the other person's name.
- Pay attention to names. Focus, concentrate, and repeat the name in your head as soon as you hear it, as a memory aid. If you have time after the introduction, repeat the name a third time...while looking at the person's face. (If the other person is looking at you at the time, don't stare, and smile back.)
Lydia Ramsey maintains that, in a competitive business age where differences between one company and the next is minute, people skills ARE the difference. As such, business etiquette, i.e. behaving with kindness and courtesy, can be the deal-making difference.