Good communication is the secret to every successful relationship. Business relationships are no different. Continually improving your communications skills is a key way to have great business relationships.
10 Ways to Improve Business Communication
1) Brush up on small talk skills.
Small talk is no small skill. Individuals who excel at small talk tend to be more successful overall, for very obvious reasons. Small talk makes others feel more comfortable and the talker more confident.
I personally struggle with this skill, and I’ve found it helps to have a few topics in mind before attending a meeting, conference call, or event.
Do you primarily communicate over the phone or through email? Small talk is just as important at putting others at ease through these less personal mediums. Ask others how their weekend was, or make a comment about the weather near them. While it might seem meaningless, these brief bits of conversation help to relax others and show them you are genuine.
2) Stay connected with email and social media.
Add clients or prospects to your mailing lists and connect on your professional social media accounts. It will keep you top of mind, and also help to build a rapport.
Also remember that we communicate in more ways than words and emails. We also have a digital footprint that follows us wherever we go online. If you are publicly posting on social media or anywhere online, your potential clients can find that information and it may sway their opinion of you. This kind of communication can be just as crucial as the information you are choosing to share with them.
3) Communication shouldn’t stop after the sale.
It is easy to invest a lot of time “courting” a prospective client, and then move on the next sale once you’ve completed the cycle. However, customer service is just as important as a good sales pitch. This is just as important for small sales to consumers as it is in business to business sales.
We use account managers to keep good communication without clients. More than one shaky project has been rescued due to the diligence and communication skills of our team. Good follow up, feedback gathering, and customer service is what makes customers into lifelong fans.
4) Use automation as much as possible.
We’re not all born with the skill to communicate effectively. In fact, even those who excel at communication can drop the ball sometimes when we’ve got a lot on our plates. Using an automated way to remind us to touch base with prospects, current, or past clients is important. This will help ensure no one falls in the cracks, and can create a seamless way to switch communication from one sales representative to another, or to the account management / customer service team.
5) Make time for face-to-face communications
Regardless of your business type and how easy it is to keep in touch via phone, Skype, social media, and other means, nothing will replace face-to-face interaction. The level of trust and rapport that can be built from meeting personally with clients or customers is huge. If you sell primarily online or by phone, try to keep have face-time with clients. They might mean creating a video they can view of you or your sales team talking, or attending events or trade shows to meet with clients or prospects.
6) Actions speak louder than words.
Body language is just as important as sending a message to people as are the words we choose. Dr John Lund
talks about communication in business. He said that when someone else communicates with us, the way we interpret their message is based on the following three things:
- 55% is based on their facial expressions and their body language.
- 37% is based on the tone of their voice.
- 8% is based on the words they say.
Dr. Lund said that these percentages above are the averages across both men and women together, but that if you looked at women alone they would even give greater weight to the facial expression and body language and even less on the words. This tells us that it is critical that we become very self-aware of how our body language is speaking to others as well as the tone we use.
Regardless of whether you have face-to-face meetings or phone conferencing, considering your tone and demeanor are just as important as the actual words you use.
7) Think about what you’re going to say before approaching your client / prospect
Men in general and women in business settings (so men all the time, and women mostly in a work setting only), want to know three things before they are willing to enter into a conversation with you:
1. Is what you want to talk about going to be painful?
2. How long is it going to take?
3. When you are done talking, what do you want from me?
If they don’t know these three things up front, they will make excuses to avoid your call or to avoid talking to you on the phone. Make sure YOU are aware of the answers to these questions, and be ready to communicate it up front.
8) Speak their language.
We spend a lot of time immersed in our industry. Our clients may not. For example, as a digital marketer, I am familiar with buzz terms and some of the technological components. It is important for me to keep in mind that some of my audience may not understand all the industry terminology and internal references used in our company. Don’t alienate your audience by using words they are unfamiliar with.
9) Be positive and transparent.
Everyone responds better to a positive message. Don’t speak negatively of your competition or team members, and don’t make excuses for your mistakes. Own up to them and focus on how you can improve, rather than trying to point the finger of blame. Most customers will be pleased by a positive response to their complaints, and will be more likely to remain a customer.
10) Communication is two-way
Don’t always be broadcasting your message. Take time to really listen to their needs and concerns. Ask more questions and seek feedback from your prospects and clients. It might be tempting to tell them what you think they need, but everyone wants to be heard and understand. By showing them you want to know more about their business and their specific situation, you will create a stronger rapport. And, you’ll also benefit from a deeper understanding of what your audience is looking for.
Successful relationship are built on good communication. How do you keep your communication skills strong?