By Cheryl ElliottPackage Yourself as an Executive: Image shouldn’t matter…but it does. Psychologists tell us it takes less than 15 seconds for others to form an impression of us, and they base their impression on what they see. In that short time, they assume your social status, your economic status, your educational level, and your likelihood of succeeding. You represent the lender, title or mortgage broker who contracted you to do the signing. Your appearance and demeanor must reflect professionalism at all times.

Just as there are some basic rules as to how you should present yourself, there are guidelines for projecting a professional image in business attire as well. You want to dress appropriately (business or office attire) and always arrive to your signing appointments in a timely manner. You are a successful business entrepreneur operating a going business, and you must dress and perform like it. What is acceptable business attire? Slacks, polo shirts, sweaters and crisp blouses/shirts, casual jackets, closed toed shoes, men wear socks, women, please refrain from heels that will mark floors or catch carpet loops. Walk the talk; don’t just show up in jeans, tank tops, sleeveless sweaters or blouses, cutoffs, flippers, spandex or Speedos. Recently, one of my students said that her signing agent came to her home with documents dressed in a warm up suit. It’s just like on an interview for the job you desperately desire: no gum chewing, no overdone makeup or cologne, tattoo or facial/tongue piercing, anything that makes a negative statement about you or your body. The important thing is that you are professional, in charge, knowledgeable, capable and not the least bit CONTROVERSIAL. Many times, the lender’s representative will call the borrower to inquire about your demeanor, your dress and behavior. EXPECT IT!

A signing agent can easily lose control of the signing right out of the chute by walking up the sidewalk in inappropriate attire. We must always put our best foot forward.

We must be sensitive and respectful of others in their homes. Just as non smoking signing agents dislike walking into a home that reeks of stale cigarettes and dirty ashtrays, borrowers who are non smokers will be repelled by someone who enters their home reeking of the stench of nicotine as a result of that last cigarette you might have in your car before walking up the steps. Many borrowers give the run of the house to their pets, and dog hair covering the upholstered furniture and carpeting is an acceptable level of household order, but we must not react negatively to it. Simply carry a lint brush or masking tape in your car to take it off before the next signing.

If you are going to be late to an appointment, you must phone the borrower as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the time of the appointment to call. Give as much notice as possible to the borrower that you’re running a little behind due to traffic, weather, or whatever, but always let them know you’re running late. Of course, the correct time for arrival is always 10 minutes early, if possible. Always park your vehicle on the street and use walkways always stay off the grass. If there is no street parking, ask permission of the homeowner before in his or her driveway. Many homeowners are quite offended if people trespass boundaries, or if oil stains appear in their driveway after you leave.

In addition to our professional appearance, we as notary/loan signing professionals need to be aware of basic business etiquette.

Practice Business Etiquette: The old saying is true: actions speak louder than words. People will be observing your actions whenever they come in contact with you, and you want those actions to create positive impressions with the constituents in your business community. Here then are some tips on handling situations with poise.

Resist the urge to discuss your own family, friends, events, etc. Stay focused on the business at hand, and that is to move the borrowers through a successful, complete and error-free signing. Keep the conversation light upon approaching the borrowers for the first time. Although it is totally appropriate to make small, quick conversation about how lovely the home, the dogs, the kids, the landscaping, etc might be, in a totally sincere manner, it is not appropriate to discuss religion, politics, any controversial issues, or personal life situations. Leave the drama at home.

It’s important always to stand when shaking hands with someone. Shake hands with men and women alike; smile, make good eye contact, and shake web-to-web. (That is, grasp the other hand fully with your hand; don’t simply clasp the other person’s fingers).

Everything you do is a reflection on your image. How you dress, how you act, and how others respond to you are all part of that image. Therefore, knowing business etiquette can help you be more successful as a polite signing executive. Use these tips to present a polished image in the lending audience you serve. The best report card grade you’ll receive is when a borrower raves about you as a professional, timely, discreet, courteous, and NO ISSUES with your dress, your attitude, your arrival, the image they form of you in the first 5 seconds!