Talking the talk
Effective communication is an essential factor in running a profitable business. It doesn’t matter if you are a sole-entrepreneur, SME or large corporation; successful businesses know that effective communication is essential for a business to thrive. If your communication is ineffective or you get it wrong then the potential to damage your reputation, brand and ultimately your bottom line could be disastrous. In this the third in a series of articles about attracting the right type of clients we examine communication.
Communicating, but with a strategy
For communication to work it requires identifying the end point and then developing your goals, strategy and tactics to get you there swiftly. Your communication efforts need to be aligned with specific outcomes that can be monitored, measured and improved over time. To create an effective plan it should contain the following:
- Define your communication goals by your audience. This is big picture stuff. Ask yourself what is it that you hope your communication will achieve.
- Your objectives support your goals and need to be specific and measurable. For example, a goal of raising awareness for a new service you have launched might have an associated objective of achieving a certain level of awareness with a specific target group within a set time frame.
- The next step is to design your strategy. The key point here is that you need to focus on your strengths as a business to get the most out of your communication efforts. For example, if you have a database that is easy to use and full to brimming with great clients and contacts consider using social media as your communication tool to generate positive word of mouth.
- There can be a tendency to jump straight to tactics as this is the part that demonstrates results. However, the most successful communication campaigns always take the time to consider their goals, objectives and strategy and save the tactics to last.
- Measuring the outcome of your communication campaign is vital if you are to know how successful it has been and understand how it has helped reach your desired goals.
Don’t just talk, listen
Communicating isn’t just about making yourself heard, it’s about listening as well; most people think they are good listeners but often this is not the case. Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you’ve had to repeat the same answer to a question several times, simply because the other person was not listening? A lot of the times people are caught up in their own heads, they are thinking about something else, maybe their next question. This means the person asking the questions is not in the moment of having a truly beneficial conversation. Clearing your mind of distractions including what you are going to say next, where your next meeting is or what is going on around you or outside enables you to stay in the moment. Give your full attention to the individual whether it’s by telephone, Skype or face-to-face. Only when you are in the moment can you ask those powerful questions that make all the difference.
Ask the right questions
Asking your client the right questions is one of the most important communication tools as it creates a meaningful exchange of ideas and information. When you ask skilful questions it helps to build and hone your ability for getting the right answers. Below are some tips to follow so that you can become a master questioner.
- Suspend assumptions. Clarify and confirm what you understand to be correct and find out if that is the understanding of your client.
- A meeting with a client is often not just the two of you in a room but several people with different areas of expertise. Take time to ask thoughtful questions to each person. This demonstrates respect.
- Make sure you ask questions as opposed to stating your own views and opinions.
- Prepare for your meetings by writing down at least 5-6 questions you intend to ask that will open up the conversation.
- Be aware of your own intentions when asking your questions, don’t interrogate and always take note of the tone of your voice.
When you ask questions it demonstrates that you are listening and it actually helps you to listen better; it also has the added benefit of helping you to strengthen your relationship with your clients. Communication is key to all great relationships; those with a client or contact as well as a spouse or partner. Being able to listen and ask questions plays a vital role in understanding what your client needs and what their goals are, as well as your own.
Listen to Yourself
A good exercise to really understand how well you are coming across when engaging with clients is to record yourself. Ask a few friends, who are business savvy, to spare 20-30 minutes of their time to let you go through your client pitch. Encourage them to ask questions throughout your presentation. At the end undertake a reflection process where you ask them for honest feedback. How well did they understand your offering? Did you get to the point quickly or did you ramble? Did you sufficiently answer their questions? How well did you maintain eye contact? What was your body language like? Where there any difficult moments and how well did you cope with those situations? Armed with this information listen back to your presentation and see where you might be able to make improvements. Treat this as a learning and development exercise and you will soon be perfecting your pitch. And finally…
There are plenty of good businesses who can talk a good game. But talking is not the sole purpose of communication. Knowing how you want to communicate what your business does, and how you want to connect with clients and potential partners is at the core of a strategy that will help raise your profile. When dealing with clients and contacts, listen as well as talking. Sell yourself but remember often what a client wants to hear is how well you understand their problems. It’s a two-way street that ensures you are part of a conversation and not a one-way speech