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Little details make for big gains in business

Have you ever heard the expression, “It’s the little things that count?” That’s certainly true when it comes to getting ahead in business today. In a time when many companies offers essentially the same products or services at similar prices, consumer decisions are heavily influenced by reputation. And in a social world, a negative review can make the difference between a closed sale and a missed sale.

You may have all the awards and accolades and even know your product better than anyone in your industry. But companies that pay attention to proper business etiquette will attract more customers, close more deals and get ahead of their competitors.

Here are six simple but powerful ways to do it:

Keep your word

Your credibility depends on your ability to keep your promises. It’s important to be up-front with your customers. If you can’t complete a task on time, notify everyone involved in the project immediately. Forewarn a client of a potential roadblock and he will be much more likely to be forgiving. Simply put, underpromise and overdeliver.

Be honest

Be truthful in every aspect of your business. Your credibility can be severely damaged if you intentionally lie, misstate or misrepresent yourself or your products and services. Never share confidential information and betray someone’s trust. Instead, foster a reputation for honesty with customers.

Show up on time

Punctuality is a reflection of your overall organization. If you are consistently late, your clients may begin to wonder whether you’re the right person for the job. Aim to arrive early. It gives you time to use the restroom, compose yourself and check in with the receptionist before an important meeting. If you are going to be late, call ahead and let your client know when you expect to arrive.

Acknowledge mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. Generally, clients will be flexible if you quickly acknowledge the error, apologize and work to rectify the situation. Never try to cover up or ignore your or your company’s involvement in the problem. Don’t make excuses or blame others. Instead, take responsibility, find the solution and start moving forward again.

Handle conflicts gracefully

Disagreements and personality conflicts are part of doing business. If a client, partner or employee tests your patience, questions your authority or criticizes your work, don’t react with hostility. Strong leaders remain calm in even the most trying circumstances. Even if you are boiling inside, don’t let others see it. Maintain a calm disposition and stay on topic. If you must concede, do so with grace.

Don’t burn bridges

When you or your business is threatened, your first reaction may be emotional. As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” If you need a few minutes to cool down, walk away and return to the conversation or email later. Today’s foe could be tomorrow’s ally.

The takeaway

As Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Pay attention to the little details because it will make a big difference to your bottom line.

Jacqueline Whitmore is an internationally recognized etiquette expert, author of “Poised for Success: Mastering The Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals,” and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. Reach her through her website, http://jacquelinewhitmore.com

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