Holding a leadership position and being an effective communicator go hand in hand. It’s impossible for you to lead a team, company, or department, without being able to communicate well with those within your organization and those with a stake in the success of your organization.
There are many skills required to be a successful leader in business, and communication is indeed one of the most important. While most leaders have gotten to their place in a company because they have a strong set of communication skills, it’s always an area that can be improved upon over time. This blog post will detail the 4 communication pillars that guide you in learning how to communicate as a business leader.
The definition of communication is the ability to send and receive information between two or more people. When communication is discussed, verbal communication is often the first that comes to mind, but this method of communication is just one. There are multiple forms of communication as a business leader that must be mastered so you can lead effectively.
Listening is often considered one of the most important types of communication. The mistake many people make is to focus on listening only to respond, not to understand. This is especially true when under pressure, in a rush, or in a conversation where emotions are running high which happens very frequently in the business world. Without the foundational ability to listen, it’s impossible to maintain appropriate communication.
Here are a few ways you can improve your listening skills.
Face the speaker: It’s difficult to show you’re listening when your body is facing the opposite direction, or worse, looking at your phone or computer.
Maintain eye contact: This nonverbal form of communication shows that you are giving the speaker your full attention.
Keep an open mind: If you go into a conversation with preconceived notions and your mind set on how things will go, you’ll be unable to take in what is being said during the conversation entirely.
Minimize distractions: This includes internal and external disturbances. While it’s easier to reduce external distractions, your inner thoughts, feelings, and that running to-do list might be more difficult to forget. This takes practice.
Engage: When you engage in listening by asking questions, paraphrasing what was said, and providing feedback or advice when asked, you are an active part of the conversation, without only listening to respond.
Verbal communication includes your volume, enunciation, the words you use, and your tone. It is the most frequent form of communication in business and mastering it is vital if you want to be a strong leader.
Here are a few ways you can improve your verbal communication skills.
Be concise: Communication doesn’t always require many words. You want to learn to get your message across without adding information that isn’t relevant and without confusing your audience.
Think Before You Speak: Don’t be in a rush to answer when speaking. Take the time to consider what your response will be before you begin talking. This gives you time to check your emotional awareness, gather your thoughts, and formulate an idea of what you will say. Doing this also minimizes the likelihood that you will say something that you later regret.
Vary Your Tone: Speaking in a monotone voice will quickly bore the person or people you’re speaking to. While you don’t have to be an animated performer, you don’t want to sound bored during your conversation either. By varying your tone and the pace of your sentences, you will keep the conversation, or at least your part, more interesting.
Nonverbal communication is comprised of your facial expressions and body language. This form of communication can change the entire tone of the conversation, that’s why it’s vital that you always keep it in mind.
Here are a few ways you can improve your nonverbal communication skills.
Maintain eye contact: Eye contact is essential. Too much eye contact can be intimidating and inappropriate, but too little eye contact can seem as though you’re hiding something or not interested in the conversation. There is no hard and fast rule for how long you should look at someone before looking away. Do what feels natural and comfortable for you.
Check your posture: Think about what your body is saying to your audience. There’s a big difference between a person who is standing slouched over with their head down and a person standing straight with their head up. Who would you want to have a conversation with? Be sure that your posture is portraying your intended message.
Read your audience: It’s not only important to consider your nonverbal communication skills, but that of your audience as well. Are they looking at you or looking around seemingly bored? Are they engaged in the conversation or do they keep looking at the clock waiting for it to end? Do they seem guarded with their arms crossed, or open to the communication you’re having? Keep the nonverbal communication of your audience in mind as you interact with them.
Written communication is frequent, especially in this technological age. It’s often required that we communicate via text message, email, notes, etc. It is best to communicate using appropriate writing skills related to proper grammatical conventions, but using the proper tone and being clear and concise is also crucial.
Here are a few ways you can improve your written communication skills.
Be brief: Written communication should be clear and to the point. When it becomes more lengthy, it’s easier for your message to be misconstrued. It’s best to provide brief written communication and follow up with a verbal conversation on the matter when appropriate.
Reread: The tricky part about written communication is there are no nonverbal cues to indicate the true meaning of what’s being said. I can send an email stating, “I need to see you in my office now.” That might automatically put you on high alert that something is wrong. However, if I walk to your office smiling and say “I need to see you in my office now.” with a chipper and light-hearted tone, you might be curious as to the reason, but the same alarms won’t go off in your head.
Communicating as a business leader is a necessity. As you improve your communication skills, you will see your relationship with those within your company and stakeholders improve.
As you learn how to communicate better, you will see the engagement of those within your company grow as well. Working to enhance the participation of those you lead is crucial, and if you’re looking for additional ways to boost the engagement rate of those on your team, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.
Business isn’t all about the numbers, metrics, and analytical data.
The communication skills you have when interacting with your clients or potential clients can have a significant impact on your annual revenue goals. When your objective is to increase business sales, it’s vital that you consider how effective your communication skills are.
The definition of communication according to the BusinessDictionary.com is a “two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange information…but also create and share meaning. In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places.”
In sales, your communication skills are what move your clients from no to maybe to yes. They are what clear their confusion. They are what helps them bypass internal objections. They are what helps them decide to pay the invoice and sign the contract.
Improving your communication skills takes practice, but the more you do it, the more natural you become. Read on to find 6 steps you can take to improve your communication skills and increase your business sales.
Listening is a challenging practice for many because we often don’t listen to understand; instead, we prepare our response. Being an active listener encourages you to focus on what your potential client is saying. It gives them the sense that you’re interested in the conversation and boosts rapport.
These 3 steps can help you be a better listener and improve communication skills.
Give your client your undivided attention. Don’t get distracted by your thoughts. Don’t allow your environment to cause interference. Don’t prepare your response while listening. Instead, acknowledge what is being said and make your potential client feel like they have your full attention because they should.
Your body language indicates to your client how much you’re listening. Show you’re paying attention to what’s being said by using both verbal and nonverbal cues. Non-verbal gestures include nodding your head and smiling. Verbal cues include saying “uh huh” and “okay.” When giving verbal cues, be sure not to interrupt your client. At this stage in the conversation, your goal is only to make your client feel heard.
When communicating, it is okay to reiterate what was said or ask for clarification when you’re at the appropriate phase in your conversation. This might include you saying things such as
“What I hear you saying is…”
“Do you mean…when you say…”
“What it sounds like you’re saying is…”
Paying attention is a component of being an active listener; however, it’s worth mentioning again. As stated previously, it’s important to be physically and mentally available during your conversation. This includes ignoring all internal and external distractions.
When you are not paying attention, it’s off-putting to your potential client. It demonstrates that you’re not serious about your conversation. You also appear unprofessional and as if you’re only interested in how the partnership will benefit you. When you’re trying to make a sale, you never want a potential client to have those thoughts about you.
Professor Albert Mehrabian, current UCLA professor, came to the now famous conclusion that communication is 7% verbal, 55% body language, and 38% voice tone. When you’re engaged in a conversation, pay close attention to the body language of the person you’re speaking with. Body language is displayed in a variety of ways including
In some instances, it’s best to improve your communication skills by mirroring the body language and tone of whom you’re speaking to. If their tone is formal, make sure yours is as well. If they smile, you smile also. This strategy should be done naturally so as not appear to be a mime. When you mimic their body language correctly, it often makes them feel more comfortable with you and like your conversation is going well.
Honesty is a sales technique that doesn’t often come to mind. Just because you’re in the position to sell something, it doesn’t mean you have to reduce your moral capacity to that of a sleazy used car salesman. Be upfront about what you know and don’t know. Be honest about what your product or service can provide. Be forthcoming with the results of your product or service. If you come across as dishonest, it will significantly decrease the likelihood that a sale will transpire from the conversation, and your potential client will be unlikely to speak highly of you or your firm to others.
When you’re trying to get a potential client to purchase your product or service, you are charged with being the expert about that product or service. You should know the ins and outs of what you’re selling. Be aware of the benefits and what type of client it best suits. Know the typical objections people have to the purchase of the product or service and have a rebuttal ready for any doubts. Also, know what people love about what you’re selling. Having this knowledge will help you have a conversation beyond mere facts and figures. Being knowledgeable builds the know, like, and trust factor you have with your potential client.
When involved in a sales call or meeting, your goal is to listen actively to your potential client and showcase how your product or service can be a solution to their problem. Always discover what their problem is and take the role of a problem solver. In business, people generally make purchases to serve as solutions. If you can adequately communicate how what you’re selling solves their problem, you’ve won half the battle.
When you’re working to make a sale remember that you’re speaking to a human being, not a business. It’s acceptable to behave in a personable manner. It’s okay to have a goal based conversation without it feeling sleazy and sales-y. People buy from those whom they know, like, and trust. Help your potential clients know you, like you and trust you, so they feel comfortable signing the contract and paying the invoice.
Developing excellent communication skills shouldn’t just be geared toward one person in your business. This concept should be shared amongst everyone from the top down. Increasing employee engagement so they are actively committed to improving communication skills is the way to go. Whether you have a team of 5 or 50, you can download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement here. You will find tons of actionable strategies you can implement to ensure your entire team is engaged and ready to improve communication skills.