I admit I was having a hard time topping last week’s post about roller derby
. I knew it would get some attention, and I am very grateful to you all for the many Comments that it got.
So this week I decided to go in the totally opposite direction. If last week’s post was wild and crazy, this week’s will be much tamer. Because we are going to talk about your behavior when you are spending time talking with your clients and prospects.
I am referring to the kinds of conversations that turn personal, whether you are at a ballgame, having dinner, or meeting in their offices. There are just some subjects that should ALWAYS be taboo. Today we are talking about being appropriate. Boring!
Boring? Maybe. But this post also might just save you the pain of losing business because you don’t understand what roads you should not take. Here goes.RELIGION
—It’s personal. Stay away from it. Don’t tell a Catholic joke even if the client just told you he is a “recovering” cradle Catholic. This will not be the first time you’ve heard me say this, and it won’t be the last. Take the high road. Be respectful. AVOID.POLITICS
—Even if you feel that your conversation partner is right on the same page with you politically, you should avoid making polarizing statements about your beliefs or anyone else’s. This is especially true when you are in a group. Because while one person might feel that Donald Trump would make the best president ever, another person in the group may be horrified by such a statement, and could judge you on your reaction. So keep it neutral.
The same may go for what news broadcasts you watch, what you listen to on the radio, etc. A lot can be gleaned about a person based on those preferences, and you would never want a buying decision to be made based on anything other than on your professional merits and those of your company.
You should consider having this talk with anyone else within your company that interacts with customers as well. A CSR, estimator or desktop guy could do just as much damage as you can. SEX
—I can’t believe that I have to say this, but it is NEVER appropriate to engage in any kind of discussion about sex, even if the client brings it up. This is a great way to lose business or end up in court. Just say no.
Before you go to any meeting with clients or prospects, try having a handful of neutral topics to discuss—rip ’em right from the headlines if you like. What movie did you see over the weekend? (Although if it was “Atlas Shrugged,” just keep that to yourself as well.) What great deal did you just get on Groupon? What fun things did you do with the family last weekend? Vacations, cars, sports...these are all usually safe. (But stay away from aggressive trash talk with sports.)ANYTHING ELSE THAT MIGHT EVEN POSSIBLY BE CONSTRUED AS OFFENSIVE
—The better you know your clients, the easier this gets, but when you are just getting to know someone, assume that they are the archetype of every group that you could possibly offend, and make sure to stay way up on the high road.
I expect that some of you will Comment here (AHEM) that when you become really good friends with a client, all these rules fly out the window. OK, you can continue to think that way. But please just remember that you never know who is listening, reading your e-mails, or overhearing your phone conversations. That receptionist could be the CEO’s niece.
If you have any doubts as to what is or is not appropriate, ask a co-worker. Or your boss, wife, husband or best friend. Or call me. I’ll set you straight. Roller derby-style.