I stand up when a lady arrives at or leaves a table. I know, that is nostalgic and even possibly risky as it might be perceived as sexist. However, it is one of a set of manners I was taught as a child that I still follow. Holding doors, taking hats off indoors, pulling out chairs and lowering voices all seem to be quaint throwback ideas that are dying rapid and unceremonious deaths.
Because of diversity training, political correctness and the changing mores of society, I think the clarity of what are considered to be "good manners" has become murky. The basic guideline of "treat others as you would wish to be treated" is less of the clear path to follow as individualism changes the interpretation.
Manners are still important and can be differentiating, often times in the negative. When you make a mistake, it sticks out and is memorable. For that reason, there are certain things that you must get right.
1. Use of names -- Get the names right. Phonetically write them down and make certain that anyone who is prospect or client facing knows their names. Spelling, correct titles and deciding whether to use a nickname or proper name are all on the "must-get-right" list. I have seen big sales blown up because of a repeated misspelling of a key player's name.
2. Confirm before you proceed -- Ensure that you have agreement at each step in a meeting, tour, phone call or visit and that all of the participants have their questions answered before going to the next set of ideas or concepts. Adults not only stop listening to you when they get stuck or are in disagreement with what has been put forth, they also begin building resentment towards the speaker who proceeds without clearing up the issue.
3. Declare your accountability and keep it -- At the end of each meeting, visit, or call. It is your responsibility to declare what comes next. It is rude to ask the typical question, "What are the next steps?" You asked for the meeting, now you need to be able to provide an encouraged path to follow.
4. Host well when you host -- If you are feeding your visitors, feed them well. Creature comforts including temperature, lighting, drinks and room conditions are all noted. In the better sales organizations, even when those companies are tiny, the handling of a visitor is handled like a guest at Sunday dinner. Even the little details can make the person feel honored and valued.
5. Be gracious as a guest -- Diana Ross may be able to pull of a diva routine, but you can't. Your goal is to be gracious for what you receive. I am amazed at the number of people who miss the most basic of "Please" and "Thank you" courtesy when support staff brings them water or provides help with the projector. Buyers notice and cast a broad net of perception as to what you and your company are like based upon how you handle the simple courtesies of interacting with support staff. Be gracious in every contact.
These manners probably seem like common sense. They are to the degree you get them right. They are deal killers when you get them wrong.