Effective business communication is difficult to master at the best of times, especially when you are dealing with a wide range of stakeholders in a varied array of contexts and styles. But good communication is key to business success, so it’s vital for all entrepreneurs to develop their skills.
Seven steps to success are all it takes to become a better communicator with customers, colleagues, partners and all other stakeholders. Let’s take a look in closer detail.
Make it clear
Great communicators are brief and succinct. Don’t use obscure words in a bid to impress the reader. Instead, opt for everyday words which aid understanding. Remember, the prime objective of communication is to be understood, and this means using concrete words, minimal jargon, short sentences and clear phrasing.
Make it complete
Incomplete communications are a huge waste of time. At best, they require apologies and follow-up. At worst, they simply look as though you are trying to hide something. Sometimes, incomplete messages are because the sender lacks the detailed information, but more often, it’s because they have decided to omit it. Avoid this situation by always thinking about the reader and what they want. If you aren’t sure, then err on the side of caution and provide more. You can always summarise the main points for speed and then provide detail in an attachment.
Make it concise
Always put yourself in the shoes of the person receiving the message. When you open a communication of any kind, the automatic question is ‘what does that person want from me?’. Be concise and answer that question. Avoid the traps of repetition or wordiness. In addition to being more appealing to the reader, concise messages are also easier to remember.
Make it concrete
Back up your message with figures, facts and any examples which remove the risk of interpretation. Concrete messages are also livelier and more engaging to read and they can help brands to stand out with a clear voice. Just fact check everything as this bold style of communication requires confidence and knowledge to back up what you are saying in that forthright tone!
Make it considerate
The success of any communication relies on the receiver wanting to hear from you and interact with you. With that in mind, always apply emotional intelligence and be considerate. Show positive interest, optimism and thoughtfulness. Refer to ‘we’ rather than ‘you and us’ to create that connection. Focus on a delivery style that garners appreciation and a smile.
Make it correct
Of course, the ideal communication would be flawless, but in a rushed world, mistakes can easily creep in. But text-speak, emojis, poor grammar and incorrect spelling will give a poor impression of your business and brand. People judge on the basis of communication, so work on your written skills in particular. Use a grammar and spellchecker, but apply a quick sense check yourself before you hit send. Don’t use jargon excessively or informal slang which isn’t appropriate to your conversation context. When unsure, be overly formal. It is easier to embrace a more informal communication style on the other person’s invitation as necessary, and the respect that you show will not go unnoticed.
Make it courteous
A please and thank you still go a long way, even in a fast-paced digital world. Be respectful and thoughtful, sign off formally in written notes and maintain eye contact when speaking face to face. In a verbal situation, always practise active listening and show respect to the other person by focusing on them – and not your mobile phone. Add a warm handshake and show that you are interested in them and what they have to say, rather than just seeking to ‘force’ your message onto them. The art of verbal conversation lies in an exchange of ideas and messages and a great conversation will always leave a favourable impression of your brand in the mind of the other individual.
Keep developing your skills
Great business communication is a lifelong art and even professional communicators constantly work on their skills, especially in a world where styles and modes of communication are evolving, and where different generations of customers have different expectations as to what constitutes great communication.
Always look for opportunities to develop your skills, whether that’s by attending a formal course, reading tutorials and blogs, by networking to develop your face to face communication style or by delivering presentations. Learn how to communicate on social media, how to blog and how to write formally. Identify your different stakeholder groups and think actively about their varying needs and expectations so that you can better serve them.
With a conscious approach and a focus on your skills, your business communication will continue to refine and improve and you’ll see better outcomes as a result.