Are You a “Class Act”?

When I was growing up, I occasionally heard my father use the expression “He is a class act” when talking about someone he had encountered or done business with. I always found it an interesting and thoughtful expression, and I usually asked my dad what that person did to earn his term of high praise. In the ensuing years, I have used the expression myself, and now I am thinking about all of the class acts that I have seen and been a recipient of in the past few years. I wanted to categorize and then share them in some way so that we can all see them in a way that makes sense.

Here are my six “class act categories” showing ways that you can make good things happen.

  1. Follow up after each interaction – promptly and directly. Don’t leave people wondering what is happening or the status of a conversation, interview, or proposal. I have a client who runs a very large city-based services business. Needless to say, he gets hundreds of emails a day and many messages, all with different requests. What makes him a class act is that he always responds to my emails and answers my questions quickly and politely. I know exactly where I stand and what he needs from me. He has never said, “I was too busy to get back to you.” I am not on his “B” list as just a sales guy.
  2. Be courteous. I was struck by the notion again after having a conversation with a senior sales leader I know and respect. I had referred a sales candidate to him for a job he had open. Throughout the process, he kept letting me know what the status was, and when the process was over, he called to tell me the outcome. And he said “thank you.” I wish that many business leaders in today’s job market had the same attitude about letting job candidates know their status. You never know when the shoe might be on the other foot.
  3. Make vendors feel like guests. This past week, I was keynoting, and then I did some consulting for a client in Ohio. This client made me feel like a guest – and not a vendor – the whole time I was there. From the minute I arrived to when I left, I was greeted every day (by name), and every detail was taken care of. But it gets better – when I left, the VP of Sales gave me a gift and a thank-you card for my work with them that week. Multiple acts of class.
  4. Be nice in email. I am not a fan of email and make no bones about it. I am always amazed when I get an email and it has just a few words – no greeting or salutation. I pay attention to this and how it makes me feel. It takes about 5 seconds to say “hello” and “take care.” Better yet, do what I do – when you can, answer emails with a phone call.
  5. Be professionally egalitarian (from French égal, meaning “equal”). I have some amazing clients, friends, and colleagues who never ever let their status or their title be an excuse for treating someone in a classless way. This is especially important because, as I have made my mantra, we are all selling something every day, and every interaction leaves a buying or NOT buying impression. I often think of one of my first clients, the CEO of a good-size, successful company. To this day he treats everyone the same – as the professionals that they are. The fact that he is the CEO is not the issue. What motivates his people is how he lets them BE professionals. It is fun to watch him at work. A complete class act.
  6. Stay in touch. I am often asked for help – making a connection or an introduction or getting together to network. I make every effort to oblige. A class act stays connected and in touch with you even when he or she doesn’t need something. I got a call a few days ago from a person I really had taken the time to connect with, and he was just “checking in,” which I really appreciated. Getting a reputation as a “user” can happen very fast and takes a long time to get rid of.

The notion of being a class act is much more than acts of kindness. It’s about knowing the right things to do and then just doing them. I like to know and do business with people who just do the right thing. Being a class act is not an effort. It’s a joy and a privilege to see in action. The best part – and how this applies to us all – is that when we are in the presence of a class act, we WANT to do more. Every time I have been treated with class and respect, I was motivated to give that extra percentage. This creates an incredible energy and more sales happen. Take note of the class acts you see, and do more of them yourself. Watch the results!

17 thoughts on “Are You a “Class Act”?”

  1. Great article Todd. Two comments:
    1. I complete agree with the need for more civility in today’s environment. This applies to individuals who are still employed, when employers are taking advantage of them, both in hours demanded and compensation provided. It also applies to many experienced workers who may be out of work for the first time in their lives. They are accomplished individuals, accustomed to an atmosphere of mutual respect. They will remember those who treat them well as they will remember those who don’t.
    2. I think it’s always important to remember that communication styles vary. It would take more than a few words to explain but phone calls feel intrusive to me, even when from my closest friends. A phone call in response to my email can be frustrating. I understand the value in “just picking up the phone” but also think we need to be senstive to preferred communication styles – email can also be very effective when used appropriately. There is a tendency to cling tenaciously to our preferred method and that can work against us. Next time you get ready to use your preferred communication style, consider the other person’s preference and go outside your comfort zone if they have a different preference.

  2. I have to say I agree with Ed. Sometimes I would just like the sales person to leave me an email and say that “it’s been taken care of.” I can’t tell you how much I would value an email that simply says there’s nothing that I have to worry about! A phone call that interrupts my day did not build the relationship. Speaking only for myself… A small offer for coffee or lunch or small conversation after work does build a relationship. A class act sales person understands the world from my point of view and is ‘on my team’ helping me solve problems and maximize opportunities.

  3. Todd,
    Right on, bro! Polite, courteous and respectful never go out of style. I pound this into my 14 yr old Pony league players and the best thing is when an opposing coach, parent or league official comments about how “professional” or “nice” your team is. It does happen.

    1. Love that notion that it “never goes out of style” Steve – so true! I have seen so many friends get treated horrible by hiring managers. These are peoples lives they are playing with in very trying times. I hope none of these people ever has to sit around and wonder their status and thinking about paying the bills. Really burns me up.

  4. Well done Todd and great points – particularly #2. I often feel that common courteous is a forgotten practice. Thank you for reminding us of all these “class act” traits!

  5. Be courteous! I am working with another local wedding vendor to plan a bridal expo and when ingot in touch with him today to make sure he had all the info he needed to play his part in the event his response was “my time is very limited so you better be specific about what you want.” Wow! Needless to say I’ll never send any of my clients his way if this is how he interacts with people

    1. That is shocking and so unfortunate for that person – and it will come back to bite him. In today’s era of eEverything reputations its a bad idea to be that superior acting.

  6. Be courteous! I am working with another local wedding vendor to plan a bridal expo and when ingot in touch with him today to make sure he had all the info he needed to play his part in the event his response was “my time is very limited so you better be specific about what you want.” Wow! Needless to say I’ll never send any of my clients his way if this is how he interacts with people. How do you respond to someone who is not a class act or at least not in that moment?

  7. Todd,

    It amazes me that in these time people still don’t GET IT!! I hope that with people like you we can improve the business world and make it a better place for all.

    Dwayne Wimmer
    Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio

  8. Todd, I enjoyed your newsletter and emply a very simple philosophy in both business and personal interactions: treat each person in the way that I want to be treated. It works!
    best wishes,

    1. Thanks Chris! Your point is the only silver bullet to sales. I always get a chuckle out of every sales guru who claims the latest sure fire way to improve sales – its just as you say…the simple philosophy pays off.

  9. Linda Chowansky

    Todd, this is a good article to remind us all of the Golden Rule. Keeping business etiquette and becoming “A Class Act” is something we should all strive for. As we have become a tech savy world moving through our day in hyper-speed, there is a need to pause and re-read that email, text to pay attention to how we come across, as emotion and feeling is being eliminated. Sometimes a phone call may be the best response while a quick email should lend itself to a greeting and salutation. Self-checking is always good practice. As always I appreciate your posts and articles.
    Have a great day! Linda Chowansky

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