7 day-to-day business habits to make your practice perfect

By Michael Goldberg

Knock Out Networking


Practice makes perfect. Here are seven day-to-day practices that may seem like small details, but are actually vital ingredients in creating and maintaining top-notch business relationships.

Update your voice mail greeting daily

Change your voice mail daily and update your whereabouts. They will compliment you and notice that you care about the impression that you leave. Changing your greeting each day tells people that you have a fresh perspective and you’re giving them up-to-date information. It shows that their call really is important to you. I know people who add quotes and anecdotes. For compliance reasons, you may need to give instructions about trades and various transactions that may or may not be handled via voice mail.

Return all messages within 24 hours or on the next business day

Try to return phone calls and emails within 24 hours. Or, if the message was left on a Friday or the day before a holiday, then return the message the next business day. And I mean all phone calls — even those from people you don’t know or from people who are soliciting business. The exception might be if you’re traveling internationally, in the midst of air travel or on vacation. You like your calls to be returned. I establish my “back in 24” standard right on my voice mail greeting: “Please leave a message and rely on me to return your call within 24 hours.” Then I do so, and people realize that I’m true to my word.

You may not be able to solve a problem or follow through on something within 24 hours, but at least return the call and let them know that you got their message, that you’re working on it and that you will be back in touch by Friday or whenever. Sometimes when I call someone, their voice mail greeting says, "Please leave a message and I’ll call you at my earliest convenience.” That doesn't leave me with the best impression. It suggests that you’ll return my call when you get around to it. Is that really good enough?

Leave your phone number twice

When leaving your phone number as part of a voice mail message, repeat it. That way, the recipient of your message doesn't have to play the message back to capture your phone number. They might be driving, reaching for a pen, or you might speak quickly and they didn't get your number down. I know I speak quickly. So I will mention my number at the beginning of the message, and then I’ll say, “I’ll leave you my number at the end of this message again.”
Send handwritten notes on a regular basis

I typically send out five handwritten postcards or regular cards every day. That’s 25 a week; 100 a month. Yes, I actually lick a stamp, fill out an address on an envelope and stick it in a mailbox. (If you’re a Gen Xer or Gen Yer, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.) I often get handwritten notes or emails back and people think that it’s really thoughtful that I took the time to add a personal touch.

With the volume of emails that are received daily, handwritten notes are remembered forever. Many times, my notes and postcards will get posted on the wall (an actual wall, not a fan page or homepage), whereas emails get deleted. When was the last time you received a handwritten note? Send someone a card to say thank you if they've done something to help you, or as a follow-up. Do it right now and see what happens!

Call or email to confirm all scheduled meetings a day in advance

The few times that I didn't confirm my scheduled meetings a day in advance, I either got stood up or otherwise discovered that there had been a miscommunication. This is especially important if you’re traveling — just call or email to confirm the meeting because it makes both parties feel good. If the location or time needs to be changed, you can make the adjustment right then and there’s no harm, foul or wasted trip.

Be 15 minutes early to all meetings

People have a different perception of you if you’re always early to a meeting. It means that the meeting was so important to you that you made sure you were there in plenty of time. Also, it will give you a buffer if there’s road construction or an accident, if you get lost or if life gets in the way. Too many people fail to do this. Of course, if you are running late, let the person you are meeting know as soon as possible. When I leave myself plenty of time to get to where I’m going, I feel less stressed and concerned about getting there. When I arrive early, I can relax, collect my thoughts and grab that cup of coffee. More importantly, I feel calm, collected and prepared for my meeting.

Do your homework

Google the person you'll be meeting with. People are flattered when you know a little bit about them and when you have taken the time to research their background. Before I meet with somebody, I Google them and print their website, press release or profile. As I’m reviewing the papers, I write on them with a red pen and highlighter. I jot down questions that I may have about the material and highlight sections that I want to bring up in the meeting. When I get to the meeting, I spread the pages out across the table to let the other person know that I've done my homework and that I’m really interested in some of the things that they are doing. Then I bounce some questions off of them. They are flattered that I went to such trouble. Talk about an impression!

Your words and actions make people feel one of two ways — OK or not OK. Rarely is there an in-between. Some of your words or actions are unavoidable. But most of the time, we have complete control in our business practices (and personal ones, too) over how we make people feel. Stay positive and upbeat in all of your communications while showcasing consideration and good manners.