…listen, people: if you want customers, you gotta follow a few etiquette rules. Lately (at my day job) I’ve been reviewing a few prospective vendors and I’ve been stunned at how cavalier some of them have been in their responses. I’m not perfect, I’ll admit that, but when I want to “win friends and influence people”, I keep in mind a few simple rules:
- Be responsive. I sent requests for proposals to several vendors that had been recommended. I took the time to write the request for proposal document, a cover email and even to call the agency in most cases. At least 4 agencies never even bothered to respond to my email.
- Be on time. One vendor missed two scheduled meetings with me. That tells me that they will be just as bad about time management when I’m paying for their time. Not a good impression.
- Take the time to develop your response. In this day and age, we’re all used to Tweets, texts, and emails. But when you’re working hard to get someone’s business, take the time to write a deliberate response. Have someone else read it and even proofread it. This is your one shot to stand out in the crowd and make and impression – maximize it.
- “Dress” for success. That means presenting yourself – in your demeanor as well as your appearance – as someone professional, responsible, successful, pleasant to work with, responsive, etc. In the meetings I attended with the vendors, they all took the trouble to dress well, smile, be prepared for our questions, etc. A lot of artists and designers may rail against this one – maybe they don’t have “professional” attire, or they think that “selling themselves” is contrary to the artists’ way. Think differently: I don’t mean you need a Don Draper suit – I just mean that you should look like someone that your customer will want to do business with, and putting a smile on your face certainly isn’t the same as selling your soul to the man.
- Do your homework. Be prepped – know something about your customer, and their needs, and their business. Knowledge is power.
- Lastly, be gracious. If you win the business, be thankful and appreciative. If you don’t, thank the customer for the opportunity. Ask if they can provide you with any feedback on how to improve. Recognize that you may have done a bang-up job, but lost out by a thin margin. Take that feedback and hone your skills, and thank the universe for a chance to learn and get better.
And don’t worry. I’m saying a lot of these things to myself, as well. I forget, too. I’ve walked into jewelry stores in jeans and flip flops and tried to ask them if they’d be interested in selling my jewelry… and then realized that the manager of the retail shop is dressed a million times better than me. All of these “rules” are things I can always stand to hear again.