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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 28, 2010 • Issue 10:06:02

Beyond professional courtesy

By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.

The term "professional courtesy" can be traced back to the times of Hippocrates, when physicians treated each other's families at no charge. The practice has evolved over the centuries to embrace a broader definition of special favors. Professional courtesy in the payments industry may include waiving cancellation and restocking fees and extending introductory offers to new customers.

Another important kind of professional courtesy is the way we treat each other in the workplace. Elizabeth L. Post, granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post, defines the golden rules of business as people "helping each other across all levels and treating one another with courtesy and thoughtfulness."

On-the-job conduct is just as important as industry experience and product knowledge. Elizabeth Post wrote in the introduction to Emily Post on Business Etiquette, "Whether you are making a first impression during a job interview or representing your company to others, your manners are often counted as highly as your knowledge of your subject matter or your brilliance in the conference room."

Six rules to follow

In times of economic uncertainty merchant level salespeople (MLSs) can establish credibility and help restore trust in financial service institutions by incorporating the following six rules into their personal and professional lives.

    Rule One: Be punctual

    Arrive on time or early to appointments and set the tone for a meaningful exchange.

    Earning new business is tough enough; why reduce the odds by showing up late? Effective time management is the hallmark of a competent executive. Tardiness sends the wrong message. It broadcasts that you don't respect other people's time. Arriving late is counterproductive and puts the latecomer on the defensive because he or she must start the meeting with excuses and damage control.

    Rule Two: Practice thoughtfulness

    Be the one who carries out random acts of kindness.

    Have you ever received a handwritten thank-you note? You may have one on display on your desk or filed away for safekeeping. Written notes are a rarity these days; that's what makes them special.

    Savvy MLSs routinely send thank-you notes to merchants, whether or not they win the business. Why? Prospects give us time they will never get back. They invest in us even when they don't buy our product. Personalized notes differentiate thoughtful agents from those so intent on getting deals that they ignore the people who help them along the way.

    Rule Three: Cultivate empathy

    Begin sales presentations with questions.

    Thoughtfulness begins with empathy, and empathy takes practice. It's "Habit Number Five" in Stephen Covey's best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in which the author appropriately advises, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

    Empathy is a prerequisite to consultative, solution-based selling. Covey wrote, "Although it's risky and hard, 'seek first to understand or diagnose before you prescribe' is a correct principle manifest in many areas of life. It's the mark of all true professionals. It's critical for the optometrist; it's critical for the physician. You wouldn't have any confidence in a doctor's prescription unless you had confidence in the diagnosis."

    Rule Four: Practice reciprocity

    Get in the habit of thinking, "Who else can benefit from this?"

    Reciprocity, defined as a mutual exchange of privileges, is another aspect of thoughtfulness. Unlike quid pro quo - the assumption that for every good action there must be an equally positive and immediate reaction - reciprocity is based more on compassion and less on keeping score.

    A sincere and compassionate interest in others is a prerequisite to authentic networking, where sharing ideas and information can lead to greater opportunities.

    Rule Five: Show respect

    Resolve to treat others as you would want to be treated.

    True leaders treat people equally and hold them in high regard, regardless of their stations in life or what they are able to bring to the table. Abraham Lincoln was known for his humility and his respect for everyone with whom he came in contact. In an address to German immigrants in Cleveland, Ohio in 1861, Lincoln stated, "I hold the value of life is to improve one's condition. Whatever is calculated to advance the condition of the honest, struggling laboring man, so far as my judgment will enable me to judge of a correct thing, I am for that thing."

    Rule Six: Volunteer

    Join like-minded professionals and make a difference in the payments industry.

    The best way to move up in your organization is to study the issues that affect your company's future. Pressing issues such as government control of interchange can have an immediate and lasting impact on all of us. We can't afford to look the other way. Send an email to your state representative and make your opinion count. Aligning your interests with your company and industry will place you side-by-side with your company's management as you work together to achieve common goals.

The art of the deal

How would you like to be remembered by your colleagues, co-workers and customers? Hippocrates left us a multifaceted legacy of best practices, professional courtesy, and the Hippocratic Oath, a timeless message that's relevant for all professions, including ours. An updated version of the oath, which I found at www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_modern.html, was written by Louis Lasagna in 1964 and is used today in many medical colleges. It states:

    "I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. . .

    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."

Let's honor the pathfinders who went before us in the payments industry and remember that there is also an art to selling merchant services. And let's make professional courtesy mean a good deal more than just a good deal. end of article

Dale S. Laszig is Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale_laszig@castech.com.tw.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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