Contributed Column

Marketing 101

by Christine Miller, Miller Consulting LLC

Etiquette mistakes: how bad manners can cost business owners.

Manners: The socially correct way of acting; etiquette.

I’ve been thinking a lot about manners lately and have begun to wonder: When has it become acceptable to be rude?

Don’t get me wrong. The new casual work environment has its benefits, but it’s also made us forget our manners.

At some point we all have had doors slammed in our faces, or sat next to people yelling into a cell phone at a restaurant. Unfortunately this egocentric sloppiness has transcended to business practices.

Since Mom isn’t around to remind us what to do, we should at least follow these three rules.

• Don’t dodge or ignore follow-up calls or emails. Yes, you are busy — everyone is busy. Yet people always have time for the things that are important to them. A quick follow-up offering a better time to talk or the reasons for turning down a proposal is still better than leaving a potential business vendor or customer out in the void.

Salespeople are very accustomed to hearing “no” and to understanding budget constraints. Sharing your decision is a fair expectation, and a quick exit meeting is more time-effective than hiding from follow-up calls and emails.

• Respond to invitations and say, “Thank you!” I will admit that these two topics are hot buttons for me. RSVP means to “please reply,” not “show up if you feel like it.” If you receive an invitation — any invitation — respond yes or no by the time requested.

After someone has shared time or advice or given you a gift, say thank you — for the meeting, the proposal, the time, the thought, the follow-up, and the effort. This should happen no matter whether or not you like the gift, or how the business meeting ends.

• Respect other people’s time. This sounds simple and you’ve heard it before, but do be on time for meetings. Showing up late without a solid reason is disrespectful to the host as well as to any others present.

Make appointments and come prepared with necessary information. Don’t make customers wait while you finish your social conversation with a co-worker or answer the phone.

People do business with people they know and trust. Create a business where customers and vendors are respected and you’ll increase your sales, even if it isn’t today. Why the etiquette formality? Because ignoring someone is the universal sign for “I’m too busy” or “The answer is no” and because this is your business. Your business reputation is largely based on your behavior.

We know customers share opinions, but remember that all people share, even salespeople and vendors. They share in their recommendations, their perceptions, and their experiences. And now they share worldwide on free platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp. And they talk — at chamber mixers and over coffee with friends.

Maybe you’ve never thought about it or considered it important. Well, think about it now. Because a negative impression can cost your business. Everybody shares. And most people don’t follow the dictate, “If you can’t say something nice, ...” •

Christine Miller is president of Miller Consulting LLC, which helps small businesses identify, qualify, develop, and close targeted sales leads, and helps organizations find more value in existing relationships. She can be reached at

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