Mind your business p's and q's

Pharmaceutical Representative

Good business protocol is an important way of communicating how you wish to be judged.

Most people, including your physician customers, will form an opinion of you within the first 10 to 40 seconds of meeting you. But even as your relationships mature, you will continue to be judged.

Good business protocol is an important way of communicating how you wish to be judged, initially and over the course of time. Your manners and the presence you project will affect others' perceptions of your level of professionalism.

Good protocol is more than knowing which fork to use. It encompasses basic rules in different settings, including how to conduct yourself in a doctor's office, how to work a room at conferences, how to make proper introductions and how to be sensitive to overall behavior.

Good business protocol is about helping others feel comfortable and at ease with you at all times.

Meeting with the doctor

When visiting a physician's office, know the receptionists and secretaries by name and greet them with warmth. During the winter, remove your boots prior to entering an office and take off your coat - regardless of the length of your appointment. Always thank the staff when making an appointment and prior to leaving an office. Reschedule your appointment if you see that the physician is overbooked with appointments.

The way you enter an office sets the tone for a meeting before a single word is spoken. Erect, energetic posture and a dynamic presence combine to make a strong first impression. The spatial distance between you and the physician also affects their comfort level.

Begin your meeting with a handshake. Where possible, establish rapport for a few seconds before beginning your presentation. Monitor the appropriate length of time by watching the nonverbal gestures of the physician. Thank him or her regardless of the length of time you have spent together.

When you are meeting a physician "on the run," be sensitive to the physician. Get to the point. Give bottom-line facts. Don't approach them if they are involved in a conversation or in a crisis situation. Remember that open body language invites the physician to listen to you.

Hosting luncheon events

Confirm several days before the event that all equipment has been booked. If possible, check the room a week beforehand. Find out how much rearranging you will need to do.

The day before the event, run through a checklist: speaker's curriculum vitae, handouts, overhead transparencies and other details. Also, call the caterer to ensure that the food will be delivered on time.

The day of the event, bring a spare bulb and extension cord for your overhead projector in case of emergency. Pack felt markers, overhead pens, pencils and paper. Show up at least 45 minutes early to ensure the facility is properly set up.

And finally, know the names of people attending the event. Practice their names. If you can, find out something about them in advance to help you make small talk.

Introducing a speaker

A proper introduction builds instant rapport between the audience and the speaker. It prepares everyone in the room to lend their ears. Duration is important. It must be a maximum of one to one-and- one-half minutes in length.

Establish the importance of the subject. Create a context and give a concrete example of the subject so that the audience can relate. It may be a new study, research attracting wide interest or a problem in need of a solution.

Relate the immediacy of the topic to the audience's current interest. Because of their demanding schedules, physicians have very little time to achieve specific goals and objectives. Explain how your subject will help them reach their goals.

Making small talk

Assume host behavior at all times, whether you are a host or an invitee. Prepare four topics before your event that will facilitate easy conversation. Make sure they are not work-related. Refer to current events, sports, human interest stories or entertainment and theater.

Ask tactful personal questions such as, "What did you do on vacation?" Avoid topics that pertain to politics or religion. Be discreet about talking business when you are having cocktails or dining in a restaurant when the event has been designated as social.

Meeting and shaking hands

Always introduce yourself first. Make immediate eye contact for the length of time it takes to remember the color of their eyes and smile. When introducing people, add on their title or some reference that will encourage people to engage in conversation. Always introduce a doctor with his or her title.

Always shake hands from a standing position. Hold the other person's hand for a split second longer than duty requires. If you are drinking a beverage, hold the glass in your left hand to avoid a clammy handshake.

Trading business cards

How you present your business card and how you handle the exchange is a very personal part of communication. It's like the handshake you leave behind.

Only give out business cards that are in excellent condition. If your business card is soiled, tell new acquaintances that you will mail them your card. Always present your card with your name and company name facing the person. Don't scatter your business card about in a large group of strangers. You can distribute your card in advance prior to delivering a presentation. Don't offer your card early in a conversation to anyone who is a complete stranger.

When receiving a business card, never stuff it in your back pocket. Put it either in the breast pocket of your suit or in your portfolio. Never jot notes on a person's business card. The exception to this rule is when they offer you their home number or an alternative number.

In order to be successful, it is essential to be savvy about business and social protocol. Be aware that your customers notice your manners. PR