In a previous post entitled “6 Great Reasons for Face-to-Face Meetings” I wrote about the importance of connecting in-person when the situation warrants it and how sales people and others often miss great opportunities by opting not to have them.
That started me thinking about communications in a broader sense and how little we think about it in our day-to-day work. Every time we communicate, it’s a unique situation that happens only once. Most of the time we decide how to deliver the message almost unconsciously and I suspect that comes from years of practice and pattern recognition. Although this is undeniably efficient, there is also risk.
There are many factors that need to be considered when communicating. To keep it simple, I think along the lines of complexity and importance. Where “complexity” is about the nature of the information itself and “importance” is why it matters and how much impact it has. At one end of the spectrum are short “near-binary” snippets of fact – the “simple and usually unimportant.” At the other end, is when we need to express complex ideas and thoughts, or emotion – the “complex and usually important.” If a communication is more on the impactful end, I would suggest the following approach:
#1. Define Your Goals
Before pressing a button, picking up the phone, or grabbing your jacket – take a moment to think first about the purpose and objectives of your communication. Also, define what success will look like afterwards. Be clear about your intention. Are you trying to educate, persuade, smooth over an issue, share, or simply nurture a relationship? Don’t just go through the motions – have a goal in mind.
#2. Know Your Audience
Always the cornerstone of any effective communication, think about who you are reaching out to before you do. If you don’t know them, do whatever research you can ahead of time. If you have some history together, reflect on what they respond well to and what their preferred style of communication seems to be. You will be more effective if you can align with what works for them.
The age group of your audience may also play a role. In an interesting article by Ayaz Nanji called B2B Buying: Millennials vs. Gen X and Baby Boomers, he cites some IBM research that shows the changing communication style preferences between generations. The results illustrate how business people of different ages prefer different modes of communicating. It’s worth a read and you might be surprised by some of the findings.
#3. Choose Your Vehicle
Next comes the mode of communication. Whether you use a text, social media, phone, teleconference, web meeting, or an in-person meeting, decide on the vehicle that’s most appropriate. Make sure whatever you choose will deliver your message in a way that helps achieve your goals. Here are a few helpful hints:
- Never use email for topics that are emotionally charged – ever!
- If an email takes 1/2 hour to write or has 30 revisions, pick up the phone
- Use proper email etiquette – estimates are that we spend 1/4 of our time sifting through them
- If you’re writing, remember your personal brand is at stake – sloppiness doesn’t reflect well on anyone
- If using teleconferencing or a web meeting – have the technology figured out before the call, not during the first 15 minutes of it – can you relate?
#4. Get Prepared
If your communication is important, prepare some form of “call planning guide” first and with the right amount of detail. If it’s a crucial conversation of some sort, consider rehearsing out loud before you engage. It may sound silly, but it works. If you have ever done this before giving a presentation (if not, you really should), you will understand the benefits. Also, try to visualize how the flow of the communication might go and if you anticipate any possible objections, prepare your responses in advance.
#5. Execute Well
If you have gone through the first 4 steps, you should be feeling confident and well-prepared – now it’s time to deliver. This should be the easy part if you’re ready and relaxed, and you just be yourself.
I realize some of this may seem a bit obvious and certainly for the large majority of our daily touch-points, we don’t require this much structure. However, if you get in the habit of thinking this way about your communications, they will improve and you will be more effective. Every time you connect with a prospect, client, or anyone else who impacts your business, you have an opportunity to drive an outcome – make it count!