A Winner's Guide to Business Etiquette – Never Lose Out Again!

How you Lost the Biggest Deal of your Life because you failed to remember these 10 Simple Business Etiquette tips and guidelines!

So, you’re on the cusp of winning the biggest deal (or job) you’ve ever had. It’s so close, everyone seems happy and pens are out to sign you up. You then make the biggest mistake of your career... you made a major error in business etiquette and professionalism and guess what?

You just lost out B I G T I M E...

The Chook who laid the golden egg

Kiss goodbye to the golden bonus (or bigger salary) you were due for putting in all the hard work to win the deal or that great new job.

Kiss goodbye to more success.

Right now it’s gone, it’s evaporated.

But it didn’t have to be like this.

I know, we hear ya, you want to know... HOW?!!

By checking out our 10 simple tips on Business Etiquette, knowing what to do and what common mistakes to do in business situations is key to YOUR success so lets bring on the tips.

Tip No 1:

Be Punctual


We know, with the hectic work lives we lead that being punctual and dealing with traffic gridlock and trains breaking down, when paying visits, can cause us to turn up to meetings and interviews late.

But with prior planning there is no excuse! If you are trying to impress a client, potential or not, good business etiquette states you SHOULD NOT BE TURNING UP LATE!

Use this tip: Organise your day carefully and don’t work in the office till the last minute and then try to rush over to the clients. Karma states something will play you a bad hand and make you lateLeave the office early, take a laptop with you and using the power of all things web you’ll certainly find an internet cafe nearby to work from. This will then give you plenty of time to mooch on over to the clients premises in plenty of good time!


Tip No 2:

Keep it Positive and Friendly

Smiling polar fox

Even if a contact is rude always aim to keep things friendly and positive – but take care not to be the contact’s new best friend and end up overdoing it.

If you do have a contact you struggle to deal with, then it might be best to pass them to someone else to look after although it can be easier said than done when you are working in a small company.

Angry Pflümli

If a contact is consistently rude or difficult to deal with then you need to tackle it head on, give them a call and ask them what the problem is and how you can help to resolve the issue.  Quite often they will be surprised as they didn’t realise just how they were coming across.

Bear in mind we can always have a bad day or be distracted by things going on in our personal life which we then take out on others so you need to see if this is a consistent behaviour before doing anything about it.

There will always be people that you cannot gel with or are just difficult to relate to but if you are friendly, kind and benevolent but still firm you will generally be able to work with them successfully.


Tip No 3:

Privacy & Confidentiality


Let’s face it nearly all of us likes a bit of juicy gossip and it can be quite easy to start talking with your contact about a person or a company you both mutually know. Think carefully before you do – if you are happy to share other people’s personal details in conversation your client may think “Will you be talking about my business - or personal aspects of my life - behind my back?”

In business there are also certain things that you might find out about your client, their business or their personal lives that should be kept secret or confidential, especially when it comes to details that are personal by nature. However if something comes up that is really unethical or illegal then it is probably best to distance yourself from that person but that's a decision best made with the help of others.

92/365 - Daily Weather Photo

This picture above? Well that's ok to talk about....

If you’re British we say stick to talking about the weather unless the client brings up other topics like family, sports or forthcoming holidays. Don’t allow the conversation to veer towards politics, stick to the the safe side of things to talk about.

Personal politics are NOT okay to talk about... so stay on the safe side and be prepared to duck the question!

David Cameron at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham


Tip No 4:

Paying Attention to Others Around YOU

Distracted by nothing

When you are in a sales meeting TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONE. There is nothing worse than your phone going off, if you can ignore it that’s great but its unlikely to be ignored by your customer who may ask you to answer it. If they do, then take the call, advise you are in a meeting with a very important client (even if they might not be that important) and you’ll get back to the caller later on.

Then apologise to your contact, turn your phone OFF and give that person your full and undivided attention.

Another sign of bad business etiquette and sadly more common  these days is “drifting off” when a client is speaking to you. If you are bored, then you’ll have to work hard (note the word “work” here) to not let your contact notice.

If you do drift off and stop paying attention to people it will get (subtly) noticed – they may not react but if they do you’ll be caught short (especially if they ask you what they just said).

Daydreaming or procrastination is not an activity to practice when in a client meeting so stay focused and stay attentive.


Tip No 5:

A Good Handshake Goes a Long Way

Handshake @ India

We all meet business people with a handshake but many people do seem to struggle with the concept, looking away or down at the floor, overpowering the other person’s grip or offering a very limp handshake that gives the wrong impression.

We've embedded some useful videos below on the business etiquette of handshakes – they should go a long way in helping you!

Handshake Awareness Video


How to Shake Hands


Learn from Derek



Tip No 6:

Business Etiquette Attire

suit up

Dressing to impress by wearing business attire has gone out of the window these days.  For many small business employees dressing on the lines of “smart casual” seems to be acceptable. But remember this, the client will not forget you, the one who made the effort,  who turned up in a suit or at least a shirt and tie (or smart blouse and skirt or trousers).

Make the small things count and if you don’t like ties then you can get a clip-on tie and put on just before a meeting and remove when you are out of the building. Easy!

Dirty walking boots close-up

One last point – don’t forget your shoes! Many business veterans will judge a salesperson by their attire and their shoes. Give them a polish once in a while, it will bring them back like new and make sure there is no mud or dirt on the heels, a grave faux-pas in the boardroom!

For a more visual way of seeing what’s in vogue then we suggest you watch the BBC’s The Apprentice and note the suits worn by both men and ladies on the show. Do they turn up in jeans, chinos and golf shirts? So why should you when trying to make a good impression?


Tip No 7:

Keep your Promises

Colchester Zoo Zebras 6 April 2007 03c

Too many people are quick to promise things in business and then not deliver on time as they gave too short a time-frame to deliver in a bid to impress the client.

Be honest, if it’s going to take a week say so, in time people will remember you as someone who is reliable and they can turn to when things go wrong. Far more quickly, people will think of you as someone unreliable if you cannot keep those promises so it pays to ask clients for a bit more time to ensure you come up to scratch in their perception of you and your business.

Remember always better to over deliver on their expectations, so if you give a slightly longer time-frame but come in early you will always be seen in a much more positive light than someone consistently having to change deadlines.


Tip No 8:

Check your Literacy

Spell Check - Studio Visit Install

With spell-checking software it should not take more than a minute to check your emails or letters for spelling mistake and typos that are going out to a business contact.

A really big mistake is getting your contact’s name and their position within a company wrong – you've no excuse on this, call them to find out, check their business cards or previous emails or take a look at one of their social media accounts. There is a multitude of ways for you to access this information.


Tip No 9:

The Required Etiquette for Business Thank You Cards

thank you

Not surprisingly its a rare thing to receive a business thank you card these days. So why not send your own out and stand out from the crowd - certainly is a great way for you and your company to differentiate yourselves from the competition!

Ensure your thank you note is handwritten and signed by you, thanking your contact for their time and promising to give them a call as you know they are busy so you'll follow up with them in 3 to 7 days (this does depend on their expectations of you).


Tip No 10:

Who Pays for a Business Lunch ...or Dinner?

Business Lunch

If you are looking to impress a client the last thing you want to do is look like you're sponging off him or her for lunch. If they offer to pay then graciously accept otherwise be prepared and anticipate when the waiter will present the bill.

Remember not to show any expression when you do see the bill, give it a quick glance and pay. Don't let the client think a) they are not worth it b) you're too cheap to pay...


Remember these etiquette guidelines and they will help you succeed in the world of business no matter where you are in the world – do note however business etiquette can be significantly different in some countries so make sure you do your research on a particular countries local customs before you meet a customer in another land!

Just for fun why not check out these business etiquette quizzes where you can test yourself to find out where you can improve yourself:




Finally these business etiquette tips aren't designed just for use in sales meetings or internal get togethers with the boss, they're applicable even for job interviews. Feel free to add more tips on etiquette, courtesy and manners in the comments section below, we’d love your feedback!

This post has been written by Paul Randall - owner of Rainbow Zebra, a fan of good Business Etiquette and a young entrepreneur in the UK.

All images sourced via http://search.creativecommons.org/

Posted by Paul Randall
12th June 2013