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Business Etiquette

from Robert Bell Insurance Brokers

by Michael Bell on Nov 27, 2014

Why is etiquette important in business? People do business with those they like and trust. In order to build trust and be liked you must act in accordance with socially acceptable norms. You have only one chance to make a good first impression. Like it or not, studies show that within 30 seconds of meeting people, they will judge your level of success, level of sophistication and education level. Within the first four minutes they will decide your trustworthiness, intelligence, humility, and compassion.  Many times you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Business etiquette is not about creating a false impression, but rather developing a set of social skills that creates and builds trust in relationships. Etiquette is 80% common sense and 20% kindness. Most people are not taught proper etiquette as part of their business training. If etiquette is learned it has come from the family or through observations over time. We want you to make etiquette something that is well planned and thought out.


What can be more important than that first meeting? How do you make the proper introduction? In business, gender and age are not deciding factors. In general, introduce the person of greatest importance or authority first, or the person you most want to give respect or honor. When a client is involved, mention him/her first. Proper business introductions should include first and last names. If you forget someone’s name, you might “cover” by introducing the person you do know first. “Do you know Joan Smith, one of our account reps?” This sometimes gets the unknown person to introduce herself. If not, admit you can’t remember. “Your face is familiar. Please help me with your name.”

Here are a few pointers about business cards:

  • Always have a supply of cards
  • Ask for someone’s card before offering your own
  • Present card face up
  • Take time to look at received card
  • NEVER turn down an offered card
  • Never write on the card
  • Be aware of international card etiquette


A great deal of business is completed over lunch, dinner and coffee. How and what you order can have an effect on people’s opinion of you. For a first meeting always select a restaurant where you have had a good experience. Select a place that is not too loud has good service and a variety of food. You can’t impress a prospect if he/she can’t hear the conversation. Of course, if the client recommends a place, go with that. Here are a few more basics about the business lunch:

  • Put your napkin in your lap  (if you leave the table, napkin goes on the chair)
  • Order medium priced foods
  • Wait for all people to be served before beginning to eat
  • Know which silverware to use with which food
  • Don’t order messy food
  • Break off small bites of bread and butter only one bite at a time
  • Hold wine glass by the stem for whites and by the bowl for reds
  • Don’t share food, unless you are friends
  • When done, place knife & fork side by side at 10:20 on  the plate

How not to impress a prospect or client:

  • Elbows on table
  • Talking with mouth full
  • Gesturing with silverware
  • Answering or placing cell phone calls at table
  • Dunking anything into coffee or water
  • Making a fuss over incorrect orders
  • Arranging hair or applying makeup at table
  • Picking your teeth at the table

If you are paying the bill handle it with the waitperson discreetly. As you leave, refold your napkin and leave it to the left of the place setting.

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