Professionalism: The Breakdown. 

Your professional image is critical to building relationships at work and gaining the trust of clients and colleagues. It can make or break a business career or an entrepreneurial venture.

There is so much advice out there on influencing others and building a reputation, but the core principles for being professional and gaining the trust of clients and colleagues are simple.

No one is perfect. There will always be roadblocks along the way. Dealing with difficult individuals can be frustrating. Juggling multiple projects and deadlines can be overwhelming. An important part of being professional is admitting your mistakes, learning from them and showing others that they were anomalies, not your working pattern.

We all have setbacks, but the ability to move past them is what makes a person successful. Many entrepreneurs try and fail at multiple business endeavors before they find a product or service that works. The best never get discouraged but use their setbacks to inspire them.

The 10 basic principles of professionalism are simple, common sense rules that everyone should use to create and maintain an image that lets their inner qualities shine. If you follow these principles, you will set both yourself and your clients up for long-term success and satisfaction.

Help Each Other

Each client you obtain is a person with their own needs and deadlines. Anticipate your clients’ needs and think the best ways to meet them. The people you work with need to know that you are willing to go the extra mile.

While most clients will be willing to help you if they are able, perhaps by mentioning your business to others, or perhaps by giving you more orders or work, always remember that you are providing a product or service. Not all your clients will give you the same consideration that you give them. Help them anyway! Everybody values a person that can meet their needs. Even if they don’t say it, they show their appreciation by maintaining the business relationship.

Positive Words

If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. Sometimes people are unprofessional and rude. Always remember that you are not. You are the positive person that lets negativity roll off their back. Be the person that makes someone’s day a bit better by your kind words. 

If you have to give feedback or criticism, use what is called ‘The Sandwich Approach.’ Think of one thing the person did well, give your criticism in gentle words and then let them know something else you appreciate. Always keep the long-term working relationship in mind. Anger in the moment never solves anything. Staying calm, cool and positive always brings out the best in yourself and others.

Do the Right Thing

Always treat others the way you would like to be treated. If you or your company makes a mistake, own up to it and do everything in your power to set it right. A common saying in the US is that ‘the customer is always right.’ While sometimes this can be frustrating, in a business setting, it is true! Every telephone operator that handles complaints knows that many people are truly upset about errors. They want somebody to listen to their complaints and most importantly, to help them fix it confidently, competently and quickly. If a client is angry, listen! Trying to justify your companies position will not help and will simply drive a customer away. Acknowledge their frustration and treat them with kindness and compassion even if they don’t reciprocate. We have all been frustrated with customer service. Don’t let your ego get in the way of helping others resolve their problems and building a solid reputation in the process.

Tell the Truth

This is an important part of doing the right thing. Always represent yourself and your company accurately and honestly. Ensure that you have the skill set and quality products that you promise the customer. If your selling point is quality for a premium price, emphasize the quality. If it is a product made with cheaper materials, market to the people looking for a bargain! Know the true value that you can provide the customers. Know who you can help and who you can’t. Lasting business relationships and loyal customers are only obtained through honest dealings with clients.

Never Give Up

If you commit to a job or delivering a product, do it! There are many situations where things don’t go as planned. If your supply chain doesn’t provide the raw materials on time, put the pressure on their end to deliver. As a customer, you should demand excellence and as a provider, you should demand excellence of yourself. Always communicate with your client about what is happening and assure them that the job will be completed as soon as possible. Take on jobs that you know you can do. If there are surprises or the client wants more than you feel you are capable of, learn. For services, if there is a tight deadline, don’t be a perfectionist. Give the client what they need to the best of your ability in the time allotted. Believe in yourself and your abilities and never give up!

Do Your Best

Everyone should take pride in your work. The business world is competitive and the hard truth is, sometimes ‘your best’ isn’t good enough. The groundwork for making this important principle work is making sure you are in a job that fits your skill set. Always push yourself to learn new skills and improve your abilities. If an artist is working as an accountant, their best might not be good enough for clients. If you are in that situation, it’s ok! Everyone has talents. You must know yours and how to use them to give customers what they need. When you are in a job that you know you are good at, providing your best work delights customers. Ultimately, quality is what counts. Do your best and make sure your best meets, and if at all possible, exceeds customer expectations.

Ask Questions

This is especially important in the services sector. Identify your client’s needs, particularly if there are custom jobs or unique customer service complaints. In sales, questions that help you understand your customers are critical.  A great example is a car salesperson. They can’t sell a customer a car if they don’t know what the individual wants. Sometimes customers and clients are vague and don’t know exactly what they are looking for. That is often a golden opportunity for a provider. Ask questions to learn as much as you can about their needs and use what you learn to fill in the gaps. Anticipate further needs they might have, or create a new desire built on the ideas they gave you. Give them want they want and if at all possible, more!

Don’t Whine

This is a basic principle that most people learn when they are children. Whining to a client or customer when you fail to provide services or products or blaming others for your inability to produce is ridiculous. The customer does not care about your problems. Don’t use negative self-talk either. Focusing on your shortcomings and whining to yourself makes you less effective. Believe that you can do it. This goes along with staying positive. A happy person with a go-getter attitude is always more respected and more well-liked than a complainer.

Be Responsive

Since the rise of the internet, people are increasingly connected. Clients expect emails to be responded to in a timely manner. In some industries that means within a few hours, in others two days at the most. Know your particular clients, what they prefer and are comfortable with. If you will be unavailable for any period of time, inform your clients ahead of time so you can meet needs ahead of time and they can plan for your absence. Always, always communicate with the customer and be responsive!

Don’t Miss Deadlines

Make sure you communicate with clients and commit to reasonable deadlines that you fit your capabilities and their needs. If you say you can meet them, deliver. Occasionally things may happen that prevent your ability to keep your word. Make sure they don’t happen often and when they do, sincerely and professionally apologize, let your client know as soon as you know of the issue and give them another date that you can meet. If your client had an important deadline or a pressing need for a product, even one error could ruin the working relationship. Do not let this happen to you. Deliver quality work when you say you will.

Follow these ten simple principles to create lasting relationships and build a reputation through word of mouth alone that gets you more clients and keeps them coming back!

Comment below with your experiences concerning these principles!