To come off as the consummate professional, rely on both your talk and your walk to impress clients, partners and vendors. The true mark of a professional lies in your ability to meet and even exceed the expectations of your outside stakeholders. Others are watching not only what you say, but what you actually do and how you look when you’re doing it.
Look the Part
You may have a really laid-back office that doesn’t require you to wear a suit or to even wear clothes that match. But when you’re expecting visitors or when you have to call on clients, dress like a business professional and put on the suit. It’s always better to be safe than sorry by going with the traditional business garb. Right or wrong, clients and vendors will judge your business by your appearance. You usually can’t go wrong with business casual, but a suit works every time, especially when the stakes are high.
Know Your Stuff
Professionals are knowledgeable about their industries. Whether you’ve been working in the same field for years and can spout off the details of your work for hours or you are new to the job, you need to be able to answer questions or know where you can find the answers. Prepare for meetings with outside vendors, partners and clients so you won’t be caught off guard. Study your offerings so that you have the latest figures and stats. Watch your industry closely to stay on top of trends and changes to come off as the consummate professional.
Do What You Say
Follow-through is the hallmark of a true professional. Do what you say you’re going to do to earn a reputation for integrity. Your steadfast follow-through and consistent reliability with your clients and vendors are what’s going to help you maintain sales and a positive image for your company. Deliver on time within the deadlines you’ve promised and you’ll earn the reputation of a true professional. Professionals don’t lie, even it means losing a sale or looking bad in front of a partner. Hold yourself accountable so that others don’t have to.
Eat Problems for Breakfast
Separate your personal life from business. Don’t let your ups and downs affect how you relate with your vendors, partners and customers. Leave your own worries and self-doubts at home and truly listen to what others are saying in your meetings. As a professional, don’t bring your personal woes to the table -- unless, of course, a little of your own empathy can play a role in developing a closer relationship with the people that matter to your company.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."