Good communication is not a natural skill — in business or otherwise. Our human instinct is to react with emotions and ego first, concerned with how a situation will impact me, and not to consider the impact on others. Excelling at communication means reversing course and putting others first — focusing on their goals, needs, or wants. This audience-focused, benefits-led approach brings better outcomes for everyone involved — so you win, too — and it takes work.
You and your team can be better, more impactful communicators who win for your organization and your customers through intentional reaction, modeling, and education. Here’s how.
Take ego out of communication
All of us spend an enormous amount of time in our own heads. When interacting with others, our reaction is often selfish — focused on the self, not necessarily pejorative. First reactions consider, “How does this affect me?” In a professional environment we might wonder, “How does this affect my next sale, my group, or my company?” Emotionally processing situations can lead to telling ourselves stories that aren’t necessarily true, creating unproductive dialogue, wasted energy, and time.
Let’s set the stage with a scenario that we’ve all experienced in one way or another — the capricious client.
A colleague and I had been working hard for months to prepare for a two-day live webcast that was going to two different groups across the globe. Eight hours before our scheduled “go live,” we got an urgent message from the client: they had to postpone the event.
We were deflated and sulky. We had put a ton of effort into being prepared for this moment. Fueled by frustration, our minds wove tales to explain the last-minute cancellation. Focused on our own perspective, we concocted assumptions about their dismissal of our careful planning and their willingness to make our lives harder with their actions.
Turns out the boss, with a key role in the webcast, had taken ill after travel and the team didn’t think it wise to go ahead without her. It made sense.
If my colleague and I had stepped into a conversation right after receiving the news, we would have been seen — rightly — as lacking empathy or understanding for our client’s situation. Without pausing and thinking through “what do we want to say, how do we want to say it, how do we want it to land,” we risked souring a healthy client relationship. Fortunately, we got the facts, had time to remove our egos and consider other possible explanations for the postponement, and quickly got a make-up date for the client event onto everyone’s calendar.
With the event rescheduled, and all details settled, we returned to our daily routines. However, later that afternoon, my colleague got a text from this same client that simply said: “Can we talk?”
Again our minds went to the darkest, most inconvenient place of what this simple message meant and how it was going to impact us. Instead of responding to the client right away, my colleague felt inclined to notify me about the text so that I was aware of the “situation.”
Heart pounding, palms sweaty, she texted back and arranged a call. I went back to my day, trying not to think about the situation and what might happen on this call, but I kept getting lured into worst-case scenarios.
In the end, the call resulted in a couple of innocent, and frankly, helpful questions that allowed us to add value to their preparation. Were we relieved? Certainly. Even so, we couldn’t help feeling a bit sheepish for our self-centered reaction to the situation instead of using a more client-centric approach.
Note: even the pros, who teach this stuff, have to be mindful and fight first impressions. It’s not that we’re perfect, it’s that we know how we want to show up for others — and we practice it.
The audience-focused, benefits-led approach to communication
I recently returned from Influence, the annual National Speakers Association (NSA) conference. Having recently stepped into the president’s seat for the Northwest chapter, I took part in a day-before session at which other chapter leaders and I got a sneak peek at a newly-articulated set of five values for the organization. The one I am most drawn to is the one most fitting for business communication: intentional language.
The right language done the right way helps every party achieve their objectives. Effective business communication starts with mutual respect and understanding — being intentional about what you say to highlight what’s in it for your listener.
When working with a client or customer, you want them to invest in your solution because it will solve their problem. But how do you get there? Lose the ego, get rid of the concern for yourself, and use intentional language that puts the other person’s needs and goals first.
Approach communication from a place of ❤️. Help your customer achieve their goal, and in turn, your goal will be achieved, leading to a more fulfilling outcome. Not only will you find your customer happier, but you will find yourself happier and more fulfilled.
Tools for better business communication
Business communication is like a muscle. It takes time and effort to become strong and commitment to maintain it. Fortunately, there are many tools and tactics available to individuals and business leaders to help themselves and their teams become better communicators:
- Model good behavior: Leaders go first. Use intentional language to model the approach and behavior you want to see from your team. Have thoughtful conversations with team members to help them achieve internal goals. Train team members how to have customer-centered conversations, conversations that center a true understanding of the customer’s issue to be able to show exactly how the product or service will benefit them. For individuals, find a mentor who you admire and who can coach you to become a better business communicator. This will help you establish accountability and continue to work on improving your skills.
- Individual and group coaching workshops: Bring in a communications expert to work with your team. Through individual coaching and group workshops, your team will learn to be more intentional, more successful communicators. My team and I can help, if we turn out to be a good fit for you and your style.
Feel free to reach out so we can understand your situation and your offerings to help your team communicate with each other and your customers. Watch us put you first, to help you achieve your mission while focusing on helping your clients achieve their mission!
Quality business communication takes lifelong learning and practice. Being mindful in your approach when working with others — whether family, friends, or customers — will reap benefits every day. Bring more ❤️ into your interactions and you will be more successful and profitable.
Do you want to bring more ❤️ and profit into your business? 3C Communications can help! Reach out to us today for a consultation, and to learn more about the ways we can teach you and your team how to be better business communicators.