Being an effective communicator is vital. In his book "Leadership Jazz", author Max DePree writes, "If you're a leader and you're not sick and tired of communicating, you probably are not doing a good enough job."
This was written fifteen years ago, and it is even truer today. You need to be communicating so much that you get sick and tired of doing it.
Unfortunately, for many people being an effective communicator is not natural. Even people who are gifted communicators in social circles are often not as effective in business communication. In general, everyone has room to improve their communication effectiveness. As you read through these tips, choose one or two that you want to work on over the next week to improve your communication.
- Be clear and concise - In business communication it is vital that you are clear and concise. Whether you are making a presentation, writing a letter, or developing your web site, you need to be sure that your message is clear and that you don't spend longer than you need to share your message. People have other things to do, and if you are wasting their time you will not keep their attention.
- Understand your audience - You must know your audience to be able to effectively communicate with people. If you are going into a job interview, you will be more effective if you understand more about the company you are going to interview with. The same principle applies in every aspect of communication in your business. If you are communicating with a potential customers or clients you need to understand what they are looking for. The best way to understand your audience in this way is to ask questions and listen carefully.
- Relate your message to your audience's needs - Once you know the needs of your audience, make sure that your message connects primarily to their needs. Don't share information that you think is exciting, share the information that will help them meet their needs. Change your communication accordingly. Focus on benefits instead of features and in particular benefits related to their individual needs.
- Be audience centered - On top of writing about the audience's needs, you should also write with them as the center of your writing. Use the words "you" and "we" rather than "I". You should try to avoid "I" as much as possible. The exception to this is when you are sharing negative information. If you are sharing negative information you want to avoid the use of "you" as much as possible.
- Focus on the positive - In your writing, whenever possible focus on the positive. This will help you to create a positive environment for your communication. This means choosing language in such a way that avoids unnecessary negative words. For example rather than saying that 80% of your prospects turned you down, emphasize that 20% of your prospects accepted your proposal. It is the same information, but it is more effective in business communication by focusing on the positive.
- Admit mistakes - If you or your business makes an error, it is essential that you accept the blame for the mistake and apologize. You should apologize as soon as possible. Your apology needs to be sincere. You need to be heartfelt and follow your apology with action. If there is anything you can do to improve the situation for the customer, do it right away.
Fixing a mistake is an opportunity to shock your prospect by giving them a remarkable experience.
- Don't send angry emails - There are times when it is important that you talk to a person face to face rather than by email. When you are angry or frustrated with someone or some situation, this is vital. It is very easy for words of anger to appear even harsher when in an email. A small difference of opinion can quickly escalate into a full-out war if done over email. When you are angry or need to help someone take corrective action on an issue, be sure to do it directly - either on the phone or better yet person to person. It allows you to measure your words with gentleness, get reaction, and come to an agreement about the course of future action.
- Listen and ask questions - One of the most overlooked skills of communication is listening. Effective listening can help you to learn a lot more about your audience and how to share your message and how to respond to their message. We should always aim to spend more time listening than speaking whenever possible.
The partner of listening is asking good questions. Without asking questions you may not be able to learn from the person you are talking to, but by asking questions you can probe deep into what they are thinking. This is where Stephen Covey's philosophy of “seek first to understand, then to be understood” comes in. We should aim to do this in all of our conversations.
- Aim for win-win - Another of Covey's “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is to seek a win-win. When you are communicating with someone, it is essential that you look for ways where you will both win. If only you win as a result of a transaction, your customer or client will not stay with you for long. You may get a one time sale, but you'll never build a life-long relationship with that customer. If only the customer wins but you don't win, you won't be able to afford being in business for long. If you both win, you can develop a life-long customer, create positive good will about your business, develop relationships, and make a profit.
- Use stories - Finally, use stories well and you will communicate your point more effectively than any other way. Stories allow you to connect well to others and provide a memorable framework for sharing your point. If you watch effective communicators in action you will find that they always tell stories. If you think back to the best public speakers you have heard, you will likely find that their message was filled with stories. You need to use this same idea in your business.
Stories will help your prospect remember far more about you and your business than simple facts. Stories can stimulate emotion and help your potential customers to connect to you as well. Aim to respond to questions from your prospects with stories or other questions and your business will move forward.