Correct business etiquette is essential regardless of the size of your company or the industry you are in. This can become even more important when communicating with international clients or colleagues.

The importance of business etiquette

Business etiquette is a form of non-verbal communication. As such, it plays an essential role when it comes to getting the message across. Some psychologists affirm that 93 per cent of our messages are conveyed through non-verbal communication. It is easy to see the relevance of business etiquette in professional settings, as an etiquette "faux pas" can become a barrier that prevents successful business interaction.

In addition, displaying proper business etiquette is an indication of professionalism, so it can contribute to better working relationships not only with customers and business partners, but also with colleagues and superiors.

Business etiquette: useful guidelines

It is important to note that business etiquette is not limited to the office. There are three types of situations where etiquette becomes crucial:

Business "Netiquette"

Nowadays, a large percentage of our routine business interactions take place via the Internet. The average business person spends 3 hours every day handling e-mails and conference calls. What is the best way of showing common courtesy when doing business over the net?

Business e-mails should always have a short and descriptive subject line

E-mails should be replied to within 24 hours. If for any reason you are not able to do so, let your customer / colleague know by writing them a short e-mail

Use a signature that includes your full name, position, company name / department, and contact details

If your company has a profile on a social network, your messages and posts should be strictly business-related. Use social networks to your advantage by including information that contributes to creating a professional company image

Avoid using abbreviations unless you are positive that they are universally understood

Use capital letters as per spelling conventions, but do not type full words or sentences in capitals

If you want to send an attached file, let the other person know beforehand and ensure that there will be no compatibility issues, which can waste valuable time.

Business etiquette in meetings and presentations

Where relevant, presentation handouts should be circulated in advance, preferably 2-3 days before the meeting

If you are presenting, arrive early and ensure that all equipment functions properly

Mobile phones must be on silent or meeting mode. "Furtive texting" creates a bad impression

Double check whether seating arrangements are in place or not. Do not just assume that you can sit anywhere

Do not create distractions for other attendees by blocking their view, playing with pens, or tapping your feet

Business etiquette in social situations

Always RSVP to business events

Punctuality is important, even if you are attending an informal business lunch

Informal events do not justify being too inquisitive or asking non-business related questions. Be discreet

At networking events, it is better to keep circulating, but do not hand out business cards indiscriminately

Greeting a Client

When greeting a client ensure you stand up, this shows that you think the other person is important. Make eye contact, smile and greet the person immediately. If this is the first time you have met the person introduce yourself, and say who you work for or what your position is in the company. Shake hands confidently, and try to put the person at ease. You want to present yourself and your business in a favourable way.

Be attentive to what they have to say, repeat points they have brought up to show that you have been listening and speak clearly and concisely. Be courteous and good mannered, show consideration to the other person.

When the client or customer is leaving, again stand up and shake their hand, while repeating their name, remember to only use their first name if you have been given permission to do so. Walk them to the door as you say goodbye. Follow up with a phone call or email.

Business etiquette training courses

Although general guidelines do exist, business etiquette remains a challenging area, specially where cross-cultural business communications are involved. Fortunately, there is a large range of business etiquette and protocol available in the United Kingdom, some of which can be conveniently taken online. Companies wishing to provide etiquette training to a large number of employees can contact the Institute for Diplomacy and Business, which runs prestigious bespoke courses in-company.