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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!