Etiquette is very important for salespeople. Poor manners can result in lost sales. As the dollar value of the potential sale rises, the significance of proper etiquette also rises.
Because business-to-business (B2B) sales can involve sizeable dollar values – and because such negotiations take place in a range of social situations – it’s essential for B2B salespeople to master sales etiquette.
Here are nine tips on the proper etiquette for B2B sales.
- When in the client’s (or prospect’s) office, look but don’t touch. Remember that their office is their space. Also, bring only necessary contracting paperwork or marketing materials with you, and try to keep everything on your lap. Avoid placing anything on the client’s desk until you are invited to do so.
- Don’t overdo small talk and humor. These are wonderful ways to put the client at ease, but they can also get you into trouble. When you introduce a topic, ensure that you know where it’s going and how to steer it safely. (The weather and the traffic are two safe topics.) Keep in mind that the client may not have the time or the inclination to engage in unnecessary banter.
- Dress formally. While almost everyone else in the workforce is dressing more informally in this era, that’s a mistake for salespeople. Men should always dress in suit and tie and women in business formal.
- Don’t interrupt. Let the client speak without constant interruptions. In particular, it’s problematic to interrupt when he or she is answering a question that you asked! It’s not necessary for the salesperson to dominate every conversation with a client. In fact, you can learn more by listening than by speaking.
- Do your homework. Don’t ask the client a question if the answer is on their website. Always consider their time to be precious and try not to waste any of it.
- If you’re the host, take charge. If you’ve invited the client to dinner at a restaurant, take control of the situation and ensure that he or she is treated with courtesy throughout. Arrive early to check out the establishment and to make sure that you are given a good table. Give the client the best seat, which is the one facing into the restaurant.
- Pleasure before business. When dining at a restaurant with a client, wait at least a half-hour before beginning to address the business topic. Also, avoid bringing a sheaf of paper or an iPad to the table, as it detracts from the dining experience. If you need reference materials, bring a slim folder with a few sheets of paper.
- Be punctual. Always be on time (which means five minutes early) for appointments with a client. If for some unavoidable reason you’re running late, call to let him or her know – and offer to reschedule.
- Observe telephone etiquette. Try to answer your phone promptly, preferably within two rings. If you can’t answer, the call should go to a very professional – and brief – voicemail message at the third ring. Also, never put a client on hold while you’re answering another incoming call.
Most business etiquette is simply common courtesy. Such courtesy won’t make a sale for you, but it will gain the client’s respect and pave the way for a good business relationship.