Most entrepreneurs understand the importance of clear and effective communication when building and maintaining a business. Many of you would have had the experience of agonising over a presentation to potential investors, or carefully preparing notes for a difficult conversation with a business partner or staff member.
However, the communication that really matters most to your business is often overlooked – and that is the connection you create with your clients and customers. Studies show that more than half of all consumers say they choose to deal with small businesses because of the special service they receive; it is the second most important factor, behind a desire to support local business. This means that being able to create a personal (and personable) connection with your customers is often the key to them returning … and your business thriving.
Each day, in my dual roles of university professor and executive/business coach, I deal with people as diverse as researchers and academics, students and young people, artists and performers, psychologists and therapists, lawyers, engineers and stay at home parents. I have learned that the first, vital step toward successful communication is to understand that everyone you meet has a different background, different values and a different outlook on life.
When dealing with clients and customers, it pays to keep your message simple and authentic but always change the style of your delivery to match your audience. If you are talking to a young person or student, it is probably appropriate to use a lot of casual language and modern slang. With other people, you may need to choose more eloquent language. Know your audience, and mirror their communication style.
Secondly, never underestimate the power of a cheery disposition. This is particularly important if you are in a customer service or sales but, as the statistics show us, developing a rapport with your clients is a vital key to creating return business, regardless of your industry. Therefore, regard a happy and fun personality as part of your essential job requirements. Your role, as a business owner, is not just to sell your product or deliver your service – it is also to smile, share a joke and uplift every customer that you come into contact with.
Next, it’s important to ensure that you are always, always, communicating truthfully and authentically. When you speak honestly, you speak confidently. Your clients will pick up this authenticity and will come to trust you and what you have to say.
It also helps to stay curious – not just about the industry you are in or the people you engage with, but about the world, in general. If you know a lot of things about a lot of topics, then you can engage a lot of different people in ways that are meaningful and interesting for them. Showing an interest in your customers and the things they value is a powerful way to create a deeper rapport.
Finally, be direct and concise in your communication. In our time-poor world, many of your customers and clients will appreciate communication that is quick, efficient and on topic. If you see an issue, bring it up. If you want to ask a question, ask it. If you are selling a product or service, keep your pitch brief and to the point. This saves time and shows you value your customers’ time and energy.
Effective communication with clients and customers is a vital element of any successful business. Whether you are a natural communicator, or a more reserved personality, I encourage all business owners to learn how to connect with clientele in authentic, friendly and effective ways.