Why do we communicate?
There are many reasons why we communicate, so to avoid wasting too much time, I will go through just some of them.
We communicate to:
- provide and ask for information and knowledge,
- build and maintain our social relationships,
- express our feelings, ideas, wants, needs and protests,
- persuade other people, to incline them to change their views or opinions,
When it comes to client communication, some of these reasons are more prevalent than others, but none of them should be ignored.
How do we communicate?
As for how we communicate – according to studies, we mostly communicate in nonverbal ways.
Nonverbal communication consists of body language, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, etc.
Do our methods of communication change with time?
Our preferred methods of communication are constantly changing. It is amazing that just 30-40 years ago, the world was a completely different place.
Technology plays a big part in that – we can connect easily with people on the other side of the world. Unlike several decades before, mobile phones and email are invaluable parts of our everyday lives. We communicate where we want, when we want.
COVID-19 pandemic has also changed our lives drastically. Remote work, at least temporarily, has become the norm. Water cooler conversations are no more. Coworkers now interact mostly through screens.
Nonetheless, one thing never changes – communication is still of the utmost importance in all situations. Used accurately, it can be a very powerful tool. However, a lot of people don’t think about honing their communication skills, which can lead to disasters both inside the workplace, and with their clients.
Guidelines for effective communication
Every client is unique with their needs and business. You should always adjust your communication accordingly. Even so, I will share with you several guidelines that are sure to help no matter who you’re communicating with.
1. Be prepared.
There are a few different ways you should prepare yourself. First of all, you should be familiar with the person/business you are talking with. Research them beforehand. You should know what it is they do, and how they do it. If their business is too complicated for you to grasp, don’t worry. Until you master the terminology, try to speak using allegories and examples you are already acquainted with.
Also, you should know exactly what it is that YOU do, and how you do it. What are your products/services? How do you provide them? This might seem like a basic thing, but I know many people who were completely caught off guard by a tricky question. Such situations can easily be avoided with a little bit more preparation. Have some notes ready for the meeting. Put together a list of talking points you would like to go through if the conversation permits.
Nowadays, many people work remotely from the comfort of their homes. If you are one of those people and engage in business video calls, make sure to dress appropriately. Usually, there is no need for a fancy suit and tie, but also don’t greet your potential clients while in your pajamas. Also, if your room is visible on camera, tidy it up before the meeting. You don’t want to leave a bad impression.
2. Listen to your clients.
I can’t emphasize the significance of this point enough. Communication shouldn’t be a one-way street. When your client is speaking, you shouldn’t just sit there silently and wait for your turn to talk. You’d be surprised by how much you can achieve by actively listening. Some of the best and most productive partner meetings I had were the ones where I spoke the least.
During the meeting, don’t think exclusively about your pitch, or your products/services. Always listen to what your client has to say. This skill isn’t easy to learn and can take quite a lot of dedication, but it will do wonders for you. After all, your clients are people too. They’d rather communicate with someone who has empathy, truly listens, and understands them. By listening to them, you will gain more valuable insight and ultimately do a better job.
3. Be honest with your clients.
Many businesses think they should humor their clients and do everything they can to make their clients happy. This is horribly wrong. If your clients insist on implementing a bad idea, tell them why they shouldn’t do it. During meetings, a lot of people are afraid to be disagreeable and thus avoid any kind of ‘conflicts’.
Those people are afraid that if they voice their true opinion, they might lose the client. But what is more important – your client’s short term happiness or their long term financial stability? Learn how to say ‘no’ and push back on bad ideas. Of course, always be polite and transparent. Back your opinions with data and arguments.
4. Try not to forget anything that was said during the meeting.
Mild forgetfulness happens to the best of us. You might struggle to remember everything that was said – especially if the meeting was a big one with many talking points. You can prevent that by taking notes.
I always try to take as many notes as possible. It is crucial that I not only listen to my clients, and am honest with them, but that I also remember what they said. Additionally, if during the meeting you ever make a promise, try to overdeliver on it, if possible.
5. Be natural.
Some meetings start with a few minutes of small talk, some jump straight into business. Sometimes a well-timed joke will help you seal the deal, sometimes you should avoid humor. Always try to feel the flow of communication and run with it. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so you have to be flexible at all times. However, you should try to be natural and comfortable in your skin. Otherwise, people will notice your phoniness.
In the end, be aware that silly mistakes and situations are sure to happen sooner or later. I had a cat or two interrupt some of my video call meetings. Don’t panic, simply be ready to accept and address such situations. Who knows, they might even help you achieve a more successful/productive meeting.
Communication is often taken for granted. People believe they can communicate effectively and are taken aback when they don’t get the expected results. Like all skills, and especially when talking business, communication must be practiced and improved constantly. I hope you will try these communication guidelines I have laid out for you. I am confident they will help you, and that you will feel their results in your everyday work.