Tag Archives: proactive communication

What’s Next in Communication?

Effective business communication is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.

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 significantly.

When asked to identify this habit, most people think it involves the conveyance of one’s message – either a smooth or powerful delivery, or a pleasant voice tone. Others suggest that the best communicators are good listeners, and some opine that the art of asking good questions is the key.

These are all very important elements of good communication, but none of these represents the habit to which we refer. The critical skill we have in mind is the one that helps you make things happen. It is the habit that brings about action! And, as promised, it is simple…

message_in_the_sand_18916It 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 — and doing so while the details of those interactions are fresh-in-the-minds of all parties.

If this seems too simplistic, please think again. Consider the fact that all business communication, regardless of its form, must be purposeful. We conduct meetings to share information on which people must act. We make sales calls so that people will buy. We run training sessions to help people perform better. We go on interviews with hopes of being hired; we conduct interviews with hopes of hiring. Each form of business communication has a purpose, and that purpose involves action.

So, for example, at the end of each sales call, what can we do to make something specific happen… the next step in the process? What can we say at the end of each staff meeting to make sure everyone is on-board with the conclusions drawn and that each participant is clear on his or her role in implementing agreed-upon solutions or processes? After meeting a new prospect at a networking event, is there a way to end our conversation that will result in a meaningful future discussion about a business relationship?

The answers to all of these questions may vary in content, but in principle they’re all the same – we must identify and then arrange the next steps, and we must do so definitively.

For instance, after meeting a good prospect at a trade show, it is far better to arrange a specific follow-up plan such as, “I’ll call you Monday at 3pm,” rather than a vague plan such as, “I’ll call you next week!”

“It has been nice meeting with you today, Ms. Buyer. Based on the information you’ve shared, I’ll put together a formal proposal for outfitting your facility with widgets. Can we schedule a brief meeting to review the proposal’s details? How about next Wednesday or Thursday…?”

“OK sales team, our goals for the upcoming week are clear. Along with our regular sales calls, each of us will make twenty-five additional courtesy calls to current customers because we’ve all agreed that retention levels must be improved. These calls will be documented in the newly-created section of our CRM program, and we’ll get together on Wednesday at 4pm to discuss progress – any questions?”

 

 

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…

Remind Me

persistence2How often must we remind our customers of the value we bring to the table?

Is a once-per-year reminder sufficient? How about twice per year? Three times?

Most people agree that, ideally, they’d like to “remind” their customers many more times each year; in fact, they say they’d like to keep a reminder of some sort in front of their customers as frequently as possible.

This leads us to a couple of critical questions:

  1. How often should we remind our customers of the value we provide?
  2. How should we do it?

How Often is too Often…?

Questions about the ideal contact frequency are among the most frequently-asked. People are often concerned about coming across as too aggressive or, even worse, alienating their customers or prospects with information overload or too many sales calls.

Yet statistics show that most orders are received only after five-or-more contacts! So, how often is too often?

Generally speaking, sales calls and marketing messages become “over-done” when they fail to provide value to the customer or prospect (see related article on persistence).

This leads nicely to our second question how will we accomplish this value-added approach? How Should We Do It?

Here are three simple and proven best-practices that can help turn each contact into a value-added contact, and that can help us maintain a sufficient frequency of value-added contacts:

  1. Master the practice of pre-call planning. The most successful sales people plan their calls very carefully, based on research and record-keeping (i.e., effective use of a CRM or contact management system). Consequently, they are able to learn a great deal about their customers or prospects during each well-planned and well-executed call, and are able to use this information to make strategic decisions about the frequency and content of future contacts. Even better, use the written pre-call plan as a post-call review tool.
     
  2. Questions are the answer! Most of us tend to plan interactions or presentations by listing our “speaking points.” In other words, the things we plan to say. When planning and executing sales contacts, it’s best to put an equal amount of focus and thought into the things we will ask.

    Asking the right questions is how we learn about our customers’ needs, interests, priorities and challenges; it is how we determine what to do and say next; it is how we solidify true selling relationships.

    As a rule-of-thumb, try to craft questions that focus on what people are trying to accomplish rather than on what they “think they need.” In addition, asking good questions helps us to enhance our ability to listen, because it’s much easier to listen if we stop talking! Good listening also sends a strong implied message to our customers: we care!

  3. Develop a proactive style. This simply means that we end each interaction with a specifically-defined consequential next step a call to action in which we take the proactive position. This helps in several ways.
    • It sets the stage for a higher contact frequency
    • It shows the customer or prospect that we care and that we value their business
    • It often makes things easier for our customer, by helping them to get things done in a timely fashion
    • It shortens the selling cycle
    • It confirms our professionalism