This article also appears at www.B2Bbuzz.org

If you’re a sales person, you probably spend much of your day in someone else’s office (either physically or virtually.) Whether you’re a road warrior or a phone jockey sitting at your desk, you must first be invited into the other guy’s place of business for a conversation to begin.

Here’s a secret: The rules for engaging a person in his or her office aren’t much different from being in that person’s home.

We all know how to act when we’re guests in another’s home. Here are four important tips for engaging someone in his or her office:

1. Wipe your shoes before you go inside: Would you track dirt and mud into someone else’s house? Of course not. So don’t track your impatience, anger, or displeasure into his office either – it’s worse than mud. Before the phone is answered or the door is opened, you need to clear your mind of petty distractions. Relax, breathe…and approach your prospect or client with a fresh attitude.

2. Bring something for the host(s): OK, so you can’t bring a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer to your prospect—but that doesn’t mean you have to show up empty-handed. Every call or visit should include important information, the offer of a good deal, useful updates, or something else of value to the prospect. “Uhhh, I’m just calling to see if you’re ready to buy yet,” is boorish and rude.

3. Pay a compliment: When you enter someone’s home, you will often spontaneously say, “Wow, nice artwork!” or “Oh, what a cute dog!” People appreciate that you notice – and that you’ve taken the time to compliment them.

If there’s nothing of note in someone’s office (not even a picture of his family?), or if you’re chatting by phone, it’s OK to be more generic. “I hear that your department has been producing some impressive numbers,” or “It’s a pleasure to talk to someone who graduated from UCLA!” are both appropriate. Just make sure that whatever you choose is truthful. There’s nothing worse than a cheesy sales guy blowing smoke.

4. Don’t be a hog. Does a good guest shovel an entire bag of chips into his mouth while talking non-stop and laughing noisily? Nope. So don’t hog the conversation, don’t make assumptions about what your prospect wants, and don’t act as though all his money rightfully belongs to you.

Remember; a question is better than a story, speaking softly is better than carrying a stick, and what your prospect needs is more important than what you want.

So it turns out that selling isn’t that much different from other normal human interactions. It’s only when we start to act like, “The Sales Guy” rather than the “Invited Guest,” that we begin to court trouble!