Never put anything in writing that you wouldn't want printed on the front page of your local newspaper!
My experience this week was so nasty that I've developed a new cardinal rule of business communication: Never put anything in writing that you wouldn't want your minister to read in front of the church congregation!
While working with one of my clients to help her jazz up her sales we encountered a potential customer that was definitely not interested! He was so "not interested" that he took the time to reply with a scorching email that insulted her personally, her staff and her business and went on to state that he was going to use this experience in his consulting business on how NOT to do business. I'm sure his negative remarks helped him blow off some serious steam but the fact is that he was incorrect in his accusations. And his credibility has been diminished by his lack of professionalism. And my client is very well connected within her industry.
In light of this experience, here are my tips for proper business communication:
- Business communication takes many forms. It includes letters, emails, advertising and print media, fax cover sheets, business signs, business cards, invoices and receipts, and contract documents.
- We all know there are conversations we have with clients in person or over the phone that include information we will not (and should not) put in writing. An example of this is information about your competitors, personal information about anyone (especially someone's health or medical condition) and information about your business that you don't want to be public knowledge. Assume anything you put in writing could end up in your competitor's hands!
- Always use proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. Be careful not to take a "too casual" tone with email. This is the current business communication and it needs to be professional. Make sure your emails include a greeting like "Dear Jane" or "Hi Jane," and end with a salutation that includes your name, title, company name, phone number, email address and website address. Always use spell check!
- Stay away from business slang words and never use profanity.
- If you have a beef and want to put it in writing stay away from personal assaults, exaggeration and slanderous language. Keep the correspondence formal by stating actual facts and using objective words that do not have an accusatory tone.
- Keep it short and simple. If possible, keep letters to one page. Use short paragraphs and get to the point quickly. Using bullets to make your points helps your reader stay on track and the spacing on the document is pleasing to the eyes.