Tag Archives: how to communicate better

What’s Next in Communication?

Most people agree, communication is among the most frequently-used tools in today’s business world; and it is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.

One Simple Little Habit…
While there are obviously many facets of communication, there is one simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will improve your business communication and success level in a BIG way!

It is the practice of specifically identifying and scheduling the next steps that are consequential to your communication — consequential to your discussions, your meetings, your teleconferences, your interviews, your sales calls, and so on.

The act of setting a date and time for the next step is simple, but not necessarily easy. But once you make it a habit, you’ll be able to enhance your productivity as well as the productivity of others… you’ll save countless hours of trying to connect with others to finalize plans for next steps after sales calls, meetings, or conversations, because you will have already done it!

One Hurdle to Jump…
There is one obstacle of which to beware. This hurdle is often referenced as being the “thief of time,” and it can make it difficult to accomplish this habit and many others. We refer, of course, to the bad habit of procrastination.

If this seems too simplistic, please read on…

Are You Interested?

interested3Whether you are a sales professional, sales manager, business executive or business owner, becoming “interested” is an important component of driving your organization’s sales and business development effort.

While great amounts of emphasis are more commonly placed on striving to become “interesting” in our interaction with others — that is, we focus on our “speaking points” and things we might say.

Instead, consider the concept of becoming more “interested” and how it might influence the various people involved.

Read the full article…

Bridging the Communication Gap

apples_to_oranges_400_clr_5502Miscommunication can be a costly occurrence.

Defined simply by Merriam Webster as failure to communicate clearly, the causes of miscommunication can vary:

  • lack of forethought or preparation
  • poor verbal skills
  • intentional deceit on the part of the sender
  • lack of comprehension
  • poor listening skills
  • distraction on the part of the receiver, and more…

In an on-line article, author and conflict resolution expert Tristan Loo suggests that miscommunication is also the primary contributing factor to conflict.

“Miscommunication opens up the triangle of other factors that inevitably leads to conflict,” he says.

Loo goes on to explain that people tend to fear the worst outcome.

In moments of miscommunication, the mind will fill in missing information with its own creative insight, which is often fear-based. Our minds naturally seek logical explanations to events as well. Absent those explanations, our minds frequently switch to a fear-based mode in which we satisfy our need for answers with that of assumption.

Once we lock-into our assumptions the tendency is to believe them as truth, thus resulting in conflict.

The Solution – Trial Closing
In the selling world, a great deal is lost to miscommunication, conflict, and misunderstanding. Buyers tend to buy from people they like and trust – but miscommunication, as noted above, breeds uncertainty, conflict and distrust.

To bridge the gap, Loo suggests people adopt an open mind with respect to alternative possibilities. To facilitate this, increased use of clarifying questions by all parties during need assessments, business meetings, conversations and presentations is the key.

Since it is an accepted principle that the primary sender of communication must take the responsibility for the quality of the communication, then the person who is selling should be the one to initiate these clarifying  or “trial closing” questions which, when properly used, will confirm both understanding and receptivity.

Note that trial closing questions (which seek opinions) are not the same as “closing” questions (which seek commitment). Trial closing questions tend to be open-ended as well, where closing questions tend to be closed-ended (i.e., seeking a “Yes” (or “No”) answer.

Examples of trial closing questions include:

  • “How does that sound to your?”
  • “What do you think so far?”
  • “How would that work for your group?”

Read related posts…




Got a Minute?

60secondsuccesstipsPositive feedback on our “sixty-second success tips” series has prompted us to once again share this free resource in today’s post.

Pursue self-development, consider new ideas, learn new skills or refine existing ones in a convenient, fast-paced video format. Each “tip” will be delivered in approximately sixty-seconds.

Topics include:

  • Business Development
  • Business Communication
  • Effective Networking
  • How to Plan the Best Sales Calls
  • And more…

View playlist…

The Next Step in Communication?

nextstepContinuing with the theme of effective business communication, most people agree communication is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.

One Simple Little Habit…
While there are obviously many facets of communication, there is one simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will improve your business communication and success level in a BIG way!

It is the practice of specifically identifying and scheduling the next steps that are consequential to your communication – consequential to your discussions, your meetings, your teleconferences, your interviews, your sales calls, and so on.

If this seems too simplistic, please read on…

Communication Strengths Can Be Assets & Liabilities!

communication-breakdownFor those of us who are involved in selling, I’d like to suggest that communication is the tool we use most frequently in the doing of our jobs.

In addition, many who have chosen sales as a profession are very comfortable when communicating with others – which can be both an asset and a liability!

Consider that the high-degree of comfort many of us feel with respect to meeting people, making sales calls, presentations, and telephone calls can result in a tendency to place too little value on the importance of preparing ourselves…

As a result, the risk of miscommunication escalates… and the data shows that miscommunication happens more than most of us realize!

In fact, failure to diagnose communication-related problems is quite common. Consider that a person who is a poor listener really doesn’t know what he or she has missed! In other words, they don’t realize that they do, in fact, have a communication-related problem.

One Simple Solution
To take a step toward a heightened communication awareness level and better communication, consider that people have a tendency to think about communication in terms of speaking – as in, “So and so is a great communicator because she speaks so well!”

Instead, we’ll be better-off once we recognize (and appreciate!) the critical communication-related skills, which are:

  • Planning: list multiple objectives… the things we’d like to accomplish during each conversation, sales call or presentation, and how we’ll optimize both our verbal and non-verbal messaging
  • Probing: in addition to listing speaking points, list some of the key questions we’ll ask
  • Listening: set a target TALK/LISTEN ratio as part of the plan
  • Proactive Style: list desired outcomes (the things we’d like our audience to commit to) and the proactive next steps that we hope will be consequential to our communication

Those who have adopted this perspective, and who take the time to plan important conversations, sales calls, presentations and meetings,  consistently report that their interactions with others are better… that their sales calls are more productive, their presentations more persuasive, and their efficiency far greater.

But not only do they see the difference, but their customers and audiences see the difference as well!


The Most Important Communication Skill?

listeningWhat do you consider the most important communication skill?

It’s common for people to think of communication in terms of speaking, as in the “gift” of gab. But experts and researchers agree that listening is the most important communication skill. It’s also the most frequently used communication skill.

For example, a typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours communicating; but, of that time, we spend about 9% writing, 16% reading, 30% speaking, and 45% listening.

Unfortunately, studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.

Here are a few interesting facts about listening challenges, and three things that can improve listening effectiveness.

The first challenge lies in the fact that, on average, thought speed exceeds average speaking speed by three to four times! Thus, due to excess “thought” capacity, our minds tend to wander when we (try to) listen to other people speak.

In addition, there are minimal opportunities for training. Most people will acknowledge they have had much more formal training in other communication skills (writing, reading, speaking) and also find it more difficult to find programs that might help improve listening.

Numerous tests also confirm that we are inefficient listeners. Studies show that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained only 50% of what was said. Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50% to a final level of 25% efficiency. In other words, we tend to comprehend and retain only one fourth of what we hear!

Finally, various forms of distraction inhibit our ability to listen effectively; and on top of this list of distractions is the tendency to shift our focus away from what others are saying because we are instead focusing on what we will say or ask next.

If you’d like to improve your listening skills, here are three ideas based on research conducted locally and at the University of Missouri:

  1. Prepare… Preparation prior to interacting with others is a good way to reduce distraction during communication. If we are less focused on what we will say or ask next (because we’ve planned ahead, in writing), we are able to place more focus on what others are saying.
  2. Ask better questions… Anticipating what others might say, making mental “summaries” while they are speaking and asking good questions to clarify what has been said will enhance our ability to listen and comprehend.
  3. Take notes… Note-taking can improve our listening in several ways. First it uses-up some of the excess thinking capacity described above. The act of writing or noting portions of what has been said also improves our memory of the material as it turns our listening into a “multi-sense” activity.  Finally, many people confuse listening with having a good memory… so if we take notes we can also refer to them later if (when!) we forget some of what was said.


“4.0” Planning for Better Business Communication

4.0 Planning…

People often tell us that they would like to communicate more strategically during business meetings, presentations, or sales calls. However, most also admit that they have no formal plan for doing so.

A good first step is to plan our communication so that we can more easily stay focused on the right things and so that we optimize the effectiveness of each interaction.

Here’s a simple method you might find useful — we call it “4.0” planning — which is quick and easy to implement. Before important conversations or meetings simply ask your self the following four questions (which are based on four “o’s”):

  1. Objectives: If all goes well, what do I hope to accomplish?
  2. Outcomes: What next steps will keep the process or project moving forward? What observable actions do I want my audience to take?
  3. Operational Plan: What are some of the things I will ask or say to achieve my goals?
  4. Outstanding Benefits: Why should my audience listen to me?

If you plan your communication in advance (in writing!) using this simple tool, you will see an immediate difference in the quality of your communication… even better, others will notice the difference too!

View short video…

Engaging the Imagination of Others

In music, the pauses matter just as much as the sound. As many visual artists will agree, white space in art is just as important as the drawing. For example, the white “circles” we see in the image below don’t really exist… but they certainly command our attention!

grid-circlesYet in business, we have a tendency to rush… to fill any empty space with noise — a new offer, more features, another conference call, another statement.

Maybe, if we instead find ways to respect the “white space” or the “quiet” when communicating with others, we could allow them to fill the void, adding their own interpretation and impact. Maybe, if we instead find a way to talk a little bit less and listen a little bit more, we could learn more about the issues at hand or about other people’s perspectives, needs, priorities, and so forth.

Maybe limiting information engages the imagination of others?


How to Have Better Conversations

We came across a good and straightforward article from Carol Stanger, founder of Bright Torch Communication, that identifies “12 Most Engaging Ways to Have Better Conversations.”

Our favorites out of the twelve good suggestions are:

  1. Have a purpose
  2. Ask questions
  3. Know when to stop talking
  4. Come to a conclusion (know what’s next)
  5. Follow-up