Business Etiquette Tips to Get Ahead

The following are excerpts from Greet! Eat! Tweet! 52 Business Etiquette Postings to Avoid Pitfalls & Boost Your Career by Barbara Pachter.

The 92 Percent Rule: Who Said You Have to Be Perfect? I recently created The 92 Percent Rule for the participants in my presentation skills, etiquette and conflict classes.

Many professionals put pressure on themselves to be perfect. They let a small flaw ruin -- in their minds -- an otherwise good presentation, client dinner or difficult conversation.

The 92 Percent Rule means that you don't have to be perfect (100 percent). Being a little less than perfect, 92 percent, means you are still very effective and in most classes would earn an A! The 92 percent Rule means you strive to do your best, but you also realize that as a professional, when mishaps inevitably occur, you can handle them.

Try it out for yourself. Remember The 92 Percent Rule before your next client dinner or important pitch for business, and free yourself of the pressure to be perfect. You'll be surprised at how successful you are.

Convey Confidence ... Whether You Feel It or Not! Recently a business owner told me that he obtained a huge contract because he didn't convey his nervousness when he talked to a potential customer. His company was chosen because he seemed confident of his ability to fulfill the large order, and his competition seemed unsure.

The competing company had the ability to do the requested work, but its spokesperson's lack of conviction conveyed a very different message to the potential customer.

You want to appear confident when interacting with customers and potential customers. For many reasons, people may feel nervous when a new opportunity appears -- they may fear the unknown, be unsure of stretching their capabilities, fear failure, etc. But if you express that uncertainty, your customers will take their business elsewhere, and you will have lost the opportunity to grow your business and yourself.

To avoid giving prospective customers reasons to choose someone else, try these four suggestions:

  • Tell yourself you can handle the work (because you can!).  
  • Speak confidently. Know what you want to say. Anticipate any objections.  
  • Eliminate awkward filler words ("um," "ah," "you know").  
  • Avoid using self-discounting words, such as "I try to ..." or "I'll see if ..." and other, similar phrases.

Be Career Smart: Maintain a Positive Attitude in Tough Times The economy has tanked. Sales are down. You're upset that you blew a presentation. It is easy at times to let negative events affect you and influence how you appear to others.

Many people don't realize that they have a pessimistic communication style and that they express themselves negatively to others. Yet in work -- and in life -- you do not want to let your negativity come through. It can affect your career if you do.

Who wants to be around someone who complains to others, puts people down, always disagrees with you or generally talks about downbeat topics? The answer is simple: No one does.

These Negative Nellies or Neds view the glass, as the saying goes, as half-empty. To start viewing the glass as half-full, practice these approaches:

  1. Avoid downbeat topics. Negative discussions leave negative impressions. You do not want to keep talking about how you lost out on a promotion, how bad the economy is, etc. People will steer clear of you to avoid listening to your depressing comments.  
  2. Stop complaining. Complaining is draining. People get tired of listening to the same negative comments about someone over and over again. If you have an issue with another person, talk to him or her about it; don't complain to others. Constant complaining will make people wonder what negative things you are saying about them to others.  
  3. Take action. Don't let a bad situation paralyze you. Explore your options. Take a class. Sign up for training. Keep your resume up-to-date. Don't put your job search on hold. The more action you take, the more likely the issue will be resolved.  
  4. Word things positively. The same idea often can be expressed negatively or positively. A manger might say, "I don't want my people viewed as unprofessional or incompetent." Or that same manager could say, "I want my people viewed as professional and competent." Which version would you rather hear?  
  5. Avoid using "but." The word "but" can negate what comes before it. If someone says, "I agree but ..." or "You did a nice job but ...," you are waiting for the bad news. Use the word "and" instead. "You did a nice job, and it would be even better if ..."  
  6. Remember your nonverbal communication. Maintain a pleasant facial expression -- no stern expressions, frowns or stares of gloom as you go about your day. Greet people when you see them. Avoid sarcasm and eliminate any harsh tone from your voice.

An expert in business etiquette and communications, Barbara Pachter is the president of Pachter and Associates. Her latest book is GREET! EAT! TWEET! 52 Business Etiquette Postings To Avoid Pitfalls and Boost Your Career