Striking opportunities for client relationship-building are hiding in plain sight when good business etiquette reigns — whether in first-time prospect meetings or greeting longtime clients (no fist-bumps, hugging or kissing, generally speaking). So says Daniel Post Senning, great-great grandson of etiquette icon Emily Post, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
Indeed, the art of good etiquette (the French word means “prescribed behavior”) goes deeper than good manners, which typically evolve over time. Good etiquette is an expression of caring about others, which of course is helpful to gaining client trust, maintains Post Senning, 41, who, in the interview, discusses three scenarios in which good etiquette generates opportunities.
On behalf of the Emily Post Institute, based in Burlington, Vermont, Post Senning conducts business etiquette seminars for companies such as Barclays, Geico and UBS; teaches the train-the-trainer course; and hosts the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast with cousin Lizzie Post. Previously, he partnered with Bank of America as a spokesman promoting BofA’s new technology.
In the interview, the behavior expert cites the worst etiquette faux pas that can be made in business and explains why etiquette is critical to professional success. “Personal skills can make or break relationships,” the Institute stresses.
Emily Post, from a well-to-do Gilded Age family, founded the family business in 1946 after becoming the ultimate authority on manners with her smash 1922 bestselling book. It was sweepingly titled “Etiquette: In Society, In Business, In Politics and At Home.” Post died in 1960. Today, two generations and seven direct descendants and their immediate families carry on the Institute’s work.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Post Senning — Emily Post great-granddaughter Cindy Post is his mother — speaking by phone from Vermont. He is author of “Emily Post’s Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online (Open Road 2013) and a co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success,” 3rd edition (William Morrow 2014).
The Gen Xer explored, among several other topics, cell phone elevator etiquette and when texting can be a “seductive trap.”
Here are excerpts from our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: What’s the biggest etiquette faux pas one can make in business?
DANIEL POST SENNING: The worst mistake is to get caught in a lie. The easiest way to avoid that is to not tell lies. Is that etiquette advice? I think it is. The lie that’s most likely to catch someone is an exaggeration or a “white lie.” You can recover from most mistakes or accidents, but it’s harder to recover from the difficult situation in which you haven’t told the truth.
Do you think the rough-and-tumble Donald Trump administration has exacerbated a deterioration of manners in America?
No one in the audiences I speak to has pointed to that as their model for courtesy. When I ask, “Who is the voice you look to about how to behave in social situations?” the Kardashians, oddly, come up almost every time. I’m also hearing the royals and now, with her book out, Michelle Obama’s name again.
What role does etiquette play in the financial advisor’s goal to build client trust?
Etiquette isn’t only about manners, which change over time, but showing people that you care about them and value them. We focus on expressions of core values: consideration, respect and honesty.
How can respect and honesty be reflected in an advisor’s behavior the first time they meet a prospect?
The first meeting communicates how you approach building relationships. It’s a critical moment and an opportunity. The look on your face, the attention in your eyes, the smile on your face, your posture all start to create an impression about you. And then, how you greet someone — shaking hands and the way you begin conversations are part of a good self-introduction.
In greeting, is it OK for an advisor to hug or kiss a client with whom they’ve had a longstanding relationship?
The standard North American greeting in business is the handshake. That’s the format for touching that’s most accepted. If you’re going to deviate from that, you’ve first got to know it’s okay with the other person. Never just assume it.
How about a fist bump?
Slightly too informal for my taste.
The stock market has been extremely volatile of late; and worried clients are calling their advisors, many of whom keep them at arm’s length. Is that constructive?
It’s easy to be gracious and at your best when everything is going smoothly. One of the real challenges to our courtesy is when we’re dealing with difficult situations or when we don’t know exactly what’s expected of us. But taking those moments on and rising to the occasion is where the art of good etiquette can really serve you.