Bad Manners Can Kill A Deal by Lisa Goldstein
Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. - Clarence Thomas
It is common sense that bad manners can kill a deal. In a professional service business, bad manners equate to poor client service. I do not think that anyone intends to behave inappropriately, however, I am amazed at the degree of rudeness that exists from all levels of professionals, from senior partners, to new associates.
Recently, I was conducting a business meeting for a group with varying dietary needs, ranging from kosher to vegetarian. When I planned the menu, I figured that salmon was a safe item to serve. As the meeting was about to begin, one of the group members asked what we were serving. When I said that we were serving salmon, he stated that he could not do salmon, and he left the meeting.
The impression that this man left on the group was very negative. His focus should have been on the meeting, not the food. The polite response would have been to stay and eat the other items that he did enjoy. Although we were not clients, all of us in the group are well networked and the behavior will reflect negatively on this individual.
Some rude deal breaking behavior can easily be corrected. Here are some common examples that will go a long way towards helping your clients feel comfortable.
Never Tell a Dirty Joke in a Business Context
Some of you are wondering why I would even have to write about this. However, I can recall two incidents regarding dirty jokes that were tremendous deal breakers. A former colleague of mine told a dirty joke during a lunch meeting with a General Counsel. I dont think this joke got any laughs, and the GC formed a negative impression of my colleague that he was never able to correct.
In another instance a senior partner at a major law firm told a dirty joke to introduce a speaker during a large CLE program. Although there was nervous laughter in the room, most of the attendees were offended.
Never Answer Your Cell Phone or Check Your Emails During A Business Meeting
I know that in todays fast paced world we are all anxious to multi-task and cram too many activities into too short a period of time. We want to be available to our colleagues and our clients 24/7. When you are in a face to face business meeting, however, shut off your phones and PDAs.
I was recently sitting in on an interview with a client seeking a new business development professional. One of the gentlemen she was interviewing kept looking at his PDA to check his messages during the interview. Needless to say, he did not get the job.
When you answer a cell phone or check your emails during a meeting, the message you send to the person who is present is that your time is more valuable then theirs.
Returning Phone Calls and Emails
It is never o.k. not to return the phone call or email of a person whom you know. I understand that you are busy. However, in a service business your reputation is based upon how you treat others. Even if the person who contacts you is not a client, that person may know someone who is or could be a client. You dont want to risk creating the impression that you are not responsive.
With conscious effort, anyone can improve their manners. In general, the most important manner is the one we learned back in pre-kindergarten, the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." If you make the effort to follow the Golden Rule, many more deals will come your way.