How do I thank thee? With a note, of course. (business etiquette)
by Daniel Janal
When I was growing up, sending thank-you notes for gifts was considered a sign of good taste. But like most adolescents, for me, writing them took a back seat to watching ball games. Maybe that's why relatives stopped sending me birthday and holiday presents. Maybe if I'd thanked them, the presents would still be coming.
Hmm, what a concept. Maybe it works for businesses as well. You send business prospects thank-you notes, and they send more business your way. After all, a proper thank-you note serves many functions.
For one, you can keep your name in front of prospects and clients by honestly thanking them for their time, effort, and interest. Your note will stand out while a direct-mail piece might not even register.
One editor has a tremendously positive view of me simply because I sent him a thank-you note early in our business relationship. Even though our paths rarely cross, he still tells people I'm a gentleman--all because I took the time to thank him.
Why don't people bother with thank-you notes anymore? Let me count the excuses: sloppy penmanship, spelling, and grammar; lost addresses; too lazy.
Fortunately, your computer can solve these problems and more. You can use a word processor to write the letter, check the spelling, and correct the grammar. If you have horrible handwriting, you can use a font that mimics handwriting like Script or Architect. (Check with large font libraries from Adobe or with shareware sources.) If you're truly lazy, you can scan your signature into the computer and paste it onto thank-you notes.
Your note should contain certain key components: It should thank the recipient and refer to a specific incident the two of you shared. That way you avoid the look and feel of a form letter, while prompting the recipient to remember you. You then have permission to conduct business, addressing the person's requests and questions. Finally, you should end with a specific promise to follow up.
How do you remember enough about all the people you meet to follow up without getting them confused? When I meet people at trade shows and seminars, I ask for business cards and then make a note of the person's interests, my promises, and what we talked about. You don;t have to write The Great American Novel.
How does all this save time if you have to write 50 different notes to people you met at the Gargantuan Convention? Not to worry. You'll find that 90 percent of your letters fall into three categories: I'll call you to follow up, I'm sending you the product now, and I'll be sending you the product in the future. If you create three separate notes (or letters, if you have a lot to say) with such sentiments on your word processor, you'll have covered the majority of your thank-you-note recipients. Then, you can use the time you've saved to correspond even more personally with the other 10 percent.
Sort your business cards into three piles to correspond with the three note categories so you can "batch-process" the letters and virtually automate the system. Write the three basic notes, call up the first one, and either type the person's name and personal references or use the mail-merge feature of your word processor.
By storing the information in a file, you can retrieve it for reference and reprinting whenever you want. If you find mail merge confusing, you can make a copy of the master letter and manually type the information onto the copy, print it immediately, and save it for the future. Laser printing will allow you to send nicely printed letters and notes--even on fancy letterhead and odd paper sizes, such as note cards. Try printing a few sample sheets before investing in a load of paper, though. You also should print a few practice sheets until you get the margin spacing just right.
Taking the time to send thank-you notes to your clients and prospects is smart business. You'll be remembered for remembering them. By the way, thank you for reading this far. I wish I could send a note to thank each of you individually.