Your success as an entrepreneur is determined in large part by your ability to have a conversation. You can be the best at what you do, but if you’re not communicating effectively with clients, staff and the market, then you’re missing opportunities.
There are many different ways to look at communication in the small-business world — from the individual formats such as writing and speaking, to different contexts such as client communication and employee management. Each and every day you will be required to flex your communication muscles and interact; a bad conversation could spell disaster for an employee relationship, a customer or your business. Alternatively, the right words at the right time could propel your business into places you didn’t think possible and can deliver opportunities that were not available before.
It is no secret that successful businesses and entrepreneurs take every opportunity to sing their own praises and get their name out there. Whether that be through marketing, a phone call or email or simply through stopping and talking with somebody.
Every interaction requires a different skill and approach and, of course, everyone is different, so making sure that you are confident in your own ability to communicate is key.
Below, we give three ways to improve your communication and boost your business opportunities.
1. Listen deeply
Most of us are typically awful listeners. You might just be distracted by work or other things or keen to get your own point across to the other person and it can be hard to take a step back and actually just allow the other person to talk and to take it all in.
When you are talking with someone and you catch yourself about to interject and take over the conversation, take a breathe and focus on the other person. It might be contradictory to say the best way to talk to someone is to just shut up and listen, but hearing the opinions of others first and understanding them before rushing to put your own point across can be crucial.
This can be used when listening to a customer complaint or request, learning to listen to and understand their needs rather than trying to solve it before they have told you.
2. Interpret non-verbal cues
There are many experts out there who will tell you that body language is one of the most important parts of communication. We all know that folding your arms or looking away in a conversation shows resistance or disinterest, it doesn’t take an expert to see when someone is not interested in what you’re saying. Evaluating your own mannerisms and body language against the person you are speaking to is vital as it can inform you as to how the conversation is going and galvanise you into a better approach.
One study from UCLA suggests that as much as 55 per cent of the meaning in face-to-face interactions is conveyed non-verbally. Don’t just practice awareness of your own body language. Analyse specific cues — such as posture, expressions and gestures — being made by others when they’re speaking.
3. Manage expectations
“Under-promise and over-deliver” might be the most on-point summary of managing expectations ever devised. As an entrepreneur, you have many people asking for significant accomplishments from you in short time periods with limited resources (or so it often feels!). The easiest way to alleviate pressure as an entrepreneur is to manage expectations.
Be clear about deliverables, timeframes and results. If issues arise, communicate clearly and frequently. It’s always better to commit to less than raise people’s expectations and fail to follow through.
Developing the soft skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur takes time. Focusing on your communication skills — from reading body language to summing up your value in a few sentences — is one of the most powerful things you can do to advance your career and success.