Each and every day, every business person is communicating with different people ─ partners, suppliers, employees, customers, and so on. The way you communicate with all of them will not only determine the impression you leave, it will also either grow or diminish the value of your brand.
Business communication is more important that you might think. If you communicate successfully, people will have more trust in you as well as your brand. Simply put, they will want to do business with you. On the other hand, if you fall short at being a good communicator ─ if you are inattentive, unprofessional, or downright sloppy ─ you will put people off. This can lead to different consequences such as employee turnover or low sales, which is the last thing you want.
To prevent that from happening, you need to work on your communication skills. Below, you'll find five tips that are important in all forms of communication ─ from face-to-face encounters to phone conversations to written communication.
1. Always Be Attentive
When it comes to face-to-face communication, such as an interview or sales call, listening closely is crucial. This, of course, takes more than nodding and smiling: you really need to show a person that they have your attention. Looking a person in the eye and paying attention is a must, but you need to do more than that.
In order to understand the other party's expectations and needs, suppress your inner voice and focus on the conversation. Take interest in the ideas expressed. Repeat facts and ask questions to stay engaged and understand more fully what the other person considers important.
Furthermore, non-verbal exchanges are essential to forming effective human connections. The impressions we make on one another are guided less by the actual words than by tone of voice and body language. Facial expressions, tension levels, and confidence all play a part in how we gauge each other's character and reactions.
Written exchanges can be just as impactful. Always make sure to read and re-read the first written contact to be sure you understand what's required, and think carefully about how to phrase your response. Answers that are too formal, condescending, insistent, or too personal can convey the wrong attitude.
Try to note the way different people communicate with you and judge their reactions to make future conversations easier. Make note of personal details like a birthday or favorite sports team, and use that information to form bonds.
2. Behave Respectfully
Good manners are a must! Without being polite and following etiquette, all your other efforts to communicate effectively will simply fall short. The formula is simple: if you’re rude or unfriendly, you will drive people away. Therefore, in every situation, whether you’re dealing with a partner or an employee, you need to treat everyone with respect.
Let’s say you are talking to a furious customer and getting a little irritated by their behavior. The last thing you need is heating up and showing exasperation: it will only make things worse and you might lose a buyer. If, on the other hand, you show respect and try to resolve the customer´s issue with a smile, you will not only appease them but probably get yourself a repeat buyer.
So, keep in mind that your product might not be the sole most important thing ─ your behavior is equally important. Learn how to deal with customers’ emotions and make an effort to show respect even if the other party heats up. Avoid making statements that sound arrogant or condescending even if you feel compelled to do so.
Of course, to control yourself, you need to mind your own emotions as well. Negative feelings from time to time are inevitable. The best way to defuse escalating emotions is to remain calm, express humility, and try to be helpful. Let the person you're speaking to vent their anger without interruption, then calmly and rationally discuss the issue.
3. Find a Balance between Professional and Friendly
Behaving like a professional tends to inspire more confidence. This includes keeping repetitive words like "umm" or "like" out of your conversations. If you use them, it will make you sound like you're confused, uncomfortable, or just ignorant. Try to sound eloquent and knowledgeable instead.
The same principle extends to written communications. Typos, poor grammar, punctuation mistakes, and especially misspelled names should be avoided. Be sure to proofread and edit your documents, text chats, and emails before sending them. Nobody will take you seriously if your text is teeming with errors.
Of course, being professional doesn’t mean you need to be too formal and sound like a textbook. We are all people after all, and nobody likes to communicate with a corporate robot. It will not hurt to smile and make jokes from time to time, just find the right measure.
Also, you'll be more productive if you can articulate brand conversations in an amusing way, not by relying on stiff, scripted dialog. As far as the written correspondence goes, remain professional unless you're comfortable enough with the recipient to engage in some light banter, or add a cute emoticon.
4. Make Sure the Other Side Understands
Don't assume that your own statements are clearly received and understood: communication is a two-ways street! To avoid being unclear, don’t use too many technical terms, impressive-sounding words, or industry jargon and acronyms, especially is you are communicating with someone outside your field. Conversely, don't use street slang or cultural references that could misfire.
What you need to do is always adapt your message to your audience. Business partners may understand the jargon, but the customer typically doesn't. So, consider how you can express your thoughts clearly without making the customer feel you're talking down to them.
In both written and oral conversation, get to the point and state your case. Let the other side know what they can expect from the conversation by using phrases such as "This will only take a minute of your time" or "I'm going to take a moment to explain this policy to you". Ask the other party if they're clear on what you've said. You don't want to leave them confused or with the wrong impressions.
5. Keep the Communication Open
To communicate effectively, you need to keep your communication channels open: your employees, partners, and customers need to know where to find you if they need you. Here is what to do with each of those groups:
Try to consistently improve your company's internal dialogs. Ask for feedback from your team on any policy or procedural changes. Provide opportunities for them to communicate with you and with each other.
This could include instant messaging, or employee get-togethers like lunches or conferences where everyone can ask questions and share opinions. Be open to discussing individual concerns and suggestions. Also, keep your team motivated and engaged by informing them of what's going on in the company.
For partners, offer you congratulations on achievements like gaining a big new client. Send birthday or holiday greetings, and express your gratitude when they provide you a solution to a problem or excel in their obligations. Let them know they can call or email you if they have any questions regarding your collaboration.
Respond to all inquiries as soon as possible. Be sure to ask for feedback and follow up post-purchase to ensure buyers are satisfied. Keep in touch with your social media accounts to answer questions and respond to negative feedback, and your audience will notice you care about them. Communicating with customers will keep them engaged and coming back for more.
In conclusion, communication is a critical part of modern business. People skills are best developed through experience, but if you start following these tips immediately, you can improve the way communicate in no time.
When you communicate effectively, partners, customers, and employees will be more comfortable and more informative in their interactions with you. After all, better communication means faster business growth.
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