Sunday, March 10, 2013

21 Tips to be a Professional

Recently, I've noticed more how much I appreciate true professionals...and how quickly NON-professionals  lose my respect.

I'm realizing that none of us is professional 100% of the time; however, many people act professionally a lot less than that.  It is one thing to be informal and avoid being stuffy (when the situation allows it), but I don't know anyone who appreciates being inconvenienced in ways they should not even have to consider.

Unlike what many other people seem to believe, being professional is not (necessarily) dressing in expensive clothing nor acting like you come from the most esteemed social class.  It's about making people want to do business with you because of the way you do business.

I asked myself, "What DOES it mean to be a professional?"  I might have missed plenty of important things, but here is a good start.

1. Complete what you promise.

2. Inform the client when that promise might be in jeopardy.

3. Keep the client informed of the status of your problem-solving (because you will have problems - things are not 100% perfect 100% percent of the time).

4. Know what you have to offer the other person.  If you don't know, ask questions until you do.

5. Understand what it takes to secure the order; deliver it once you got that order.

6. Know your boundaries and enforce them with the client tactfully.

7. Listen to what the client wants and determine how you can meet his or her need.  Listening is the key here.

8. If you cannot meet a prospect's need, admit it.  Maybe even offer an alternative way for that person to meet that need.  (This can be a different service that you offer or an entirely different source to provide it.)

9. Set a scheduled day and time to meet and keep it.

10. Confirm scheduled meeting initially and shortly before the meeting is scheduled to take place.  That person probably did not forget, but we all get busy.  So that person might have forgotten, and we might need to reschedule.

11. Avoid being late to appointments.  Inform the party you will be late, gracefully offering the option to reschedule for the inconvenience that you might be causing (by being late).

12. Be prepared to take notes during meetings and phone calls.

13. Treat everyone with respect, but do not let anyone disrespect you.

14. Remove all excuses and opportunities for others to fail.  If they still find a way to fail, make the decision to bail.

15. Identify needs and take action--without someone else telling you (before you take that needed action).

16. Always look for ways to improve your skills and your service.

17. If you are selling something for cash, have change available and give receipts.

18. Look for ways to build a relationship with the customer after the sale.

19. Be prepared to pay for a service or product that you want to buy, having at least a check or credit card available, if not also cash.

20. Pay for services rendered.  If you suddenly cannot pay, be ready to propose a recovery plan.  Keep that vendor informed of that recovery plan status.

21. Provide service like you're a long-time friend, but deliver service like that person is a stranger that you are getting to know.

I take pride that I do several of these things--most of the time.  I slump my shoulders in shame that I miss the boat with some of these more often than I care to admit, even to myself.

Essentially, being a professional is holding yourself to a standard that you would like others to serve you while also allowing for differences in personalities and experiences, leading to different expectations.

What does being a professional mean to you?  Did I miss anything really important?

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