Be on time
Being late is sometimes unavoidable. Public transport, especially when there is bad weather, can be notoriously temperamental. Cars can breakdown, or roads may unexpectedly be closed off. These things can't be helped, but the polite thing to do is to phone to explain that you are going to be late. It is unprofessional and rude to not let your guests or clients know the situation and what time you are expected to arrive, as is persistent and avoidable lateness.
On the other hand, don’t show up to a meeting or appointment more than five minutes early. The host may require those last few minutes to prepare.
Consider your personal hygiene
Make sure that your clothes are clean, that you are well groomed, and that you have fresh breath. There is only one chance at a first impression and taking pride in your appearance is a good start. However, too much perfume or aftershave can be equally unpleasant, so take care not to go over the top.
Present yourself professionally
The way you present yourself matters. Your clients will make a judgement on not just you, but your whole company, on the way that you look and present yourself. Dress professionally; wear a suit and tie if appropriate, make sure clothes fit you well and are cleaned and ironed and do not wear too much makeup. Also, remember that a big smile goes a long way - if you appear happy and positive, it gives a much better impression for the person you are meeting with.
Use your manners
Basic manners go a long way in the office, especially when meeting with clients. From simply using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, to holding open doors, allowing your guest to go first or speak first and ensuring that they are comfortable will all paint you and your business in a positive light. Also, remember the power of a firm handshake and maintain eye contact when speaking - this denotes trustworthiness and honesty.
Plan your agenda
Being organised and in complete control of what you are doing is a great way to demonstrate your professionalism and competency. One way to show this is to set the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, clearly laying out what you want to talk about and what you and your client hope to achieve from the meeting.
Go in prepared
Following on from the previous point, going into the meeting fully prepared and with everything that you need makes you look organised and professional. Do your research into the client and find out what the meeting is to be about. If appropriate, bring documents, correspondence graphs and charts or even put together a presentation. Do not be afraid to take further notes in the meeting either; in fact, we recommend it - it shows attentiveness and diligence.
Put the phone down
Technology and etiquette around it change so quickly that it can be difficult to know what to do with your mobile phone during a meeting, but as a general rule, leave it in your pocket or bag on silent, or even better, turn it off.
Think about non-verbal communication
Over 65 per cent of communication is non-verbal. This means it is important to sit up straight and appear attentive during conversations and meetings. Absolutely do not yawn or fidget. By having open and friendly body language, you will look approachable - uncross your arms, face your client, and maintain eye contact.
Summarise the meeting
Send your client away feeling confident and at ease with what you have discussed and planned in the meeting by summarising it. At the end of the meeting, wrap it up by demonstrating that you understand the points, appropriate action that will be taken and how you will follow up.
Before you part ways, set a date for the next meeting if appropriate and put it in your diaries. Always remember to send an email or a letter summarising the points and thanking them for their time and input.