Is Communication a Problem to the Answer?

Man being interviewed by TV crew

Increasingly more and more business people are faced with the challenge of being able to communicate effectively and professionally with their customer base, their colleagues, their managers and their suppliers.

The ability to prepare and make an effective professional presentation to their Clients is becoming more and more a pre-requisite of the sales professional.Effective presentation techniques are at the very core of personal selling skills, especially where the size of Decision Making Units are increasing and in some cases becoming more complex. Therefore, the method and manner of the communication should match the communication style of the receiver and must, in its delivery, be clear, concise and avoid any risk of misinterpretation.

The responsibility of all communicators:Effective communication starts when “I accept that it is MY job to explain, not YOURS to understand”

Do you find communication difficult? After all, communication is a skill which we already possess, but communication like any other subject, has its own difficulties, pitfalls and not forgetting its own jargon. We all know how to communicate; how to speak, how to read, how to listen and how to write. Therefore we communicate and are communicated with every waking hour – but do we communicate well and clearly? Do we always know how to put across our messages as well as possible or, indeed, how to interpret those messages we receive?Communication is a skill and as such it can and should be learned, and anything that we learn can be developed in greater or lesser degrees. We can all find ways to develop or improve our communication skills.Successful communication is not possible without:

  • Clarity
  • Understanding
  • Common ground
  • Perception
  • Awareness
  • Self-confidence

Many managers ask if the email revolution has begun to kill the art of communication as we know it? – especially where thousands of emails are sent each day to people who sit no more than ten feet away from the sender. Also as the choice and variety of methods of communicating continues to grow, increasing choice does not automatically bring increasing effectiveness. Relatively few people in the commercial world have been trained in the art of effective communication or clear thinking – yet, as we have said before, they are vital skills.

The impact of reports, letters and emails will vary according to the way that they are written. Our ability to read quickly and improve personal levels of comprehension and retention are becoming more and more an essential skill, the tone of voice and vocabulary of the sender will dictate the degree of understanding of the receiver. A golden rule of communication: “Keep it short and simple”

A favourite statement made by a salesperson to a customer was: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is NOT what I meant”

As the above statement implies, feedback plays a significant part in speaking and listening. People hear what you are saying but do they hear what you think you are saying? When you are the listener, do you always let the speaker know how you feel about what it is you are being told? Listening is crucial and requires concentrated effort.

Response or feedback

Is the means we use to exchange views on understanding and communicating with one another. It helps us each to know whether the messages being transmitted are actually being received and more importantly understood. Communication should be used to overcome barriers of language and regional “jargonese”. It should be used to convey ideas and concepts, to make sure we find ways of making ourselves understood and of understanding others.We all need to be understood – our ideas, our recommendations, our solutions, our points of view, our abilities, our personalities. Equally, we all want to understand others, to empathise, to identify, to communicate.

In all businesses, communication has specific applications. Employers communicate with employees, employees communicate with their employers. Salespeople communicate – or not, as the case may be with customers. They make presentations to clients, give speeches, write letters, send emails, conduct telephone and face-to-face conversations, make decisions, sell themselves and their company and products.Their success is dependent upon their ability to present their views, ideas and products clearly. If they do not communicate their message successfully, professionally and succinctly then little is likely to happen.

It is widely acknowledged that the major problems facing business people today are:

  • Behaviour – Assertive, Passive, Submissive, Aggressive
  • Environment – The Perils of the Open Office
  • Clarity – Understanding v. Confusion
  • Knowledge – We don’t know what we don’t know
  • Skills – Practice makes perfect

Carrying out your Audit

When we assist clients in improving their Communication Skills within their organisation, it is first necessary to carry out a Communication Skills Audit.The first step is to identify who a company’s communications are aimed at. Clearly the necessity for communication between groups or individuals is a key issue to consider here. Overkill and supplying too much information can be just as negative as supplying too little information. Remembering that we only read and hear – what we understand.

So to begin:

  • Who should you communicate with?
  • Who do you actually communicate with?
  • Why are you communicating?
  • What should you really be communicating?
  • What is the best way of communicating this particular message?
  • What are you actually communicating?
  • What do you think you are communicating?
  • What types of information do those people want/need?
  • How should you communicate with your “audience/group/individual”
  • How do you actually communicate with your “audience/group/individual”
  • Do you openly encourage participation/feedback?
  • How do you involve your “audience/group/individual”
  • What do you present to this “audience/group/individual”
  • What should you present to this “audience/group/individual”
  • In what way are they likely to react to your presentation?

To complete your audit, some further questions to ask:

  • Who is responsible for ensuring your organisation is known for the quality of its Communication (s)?
  • How would you describe the quality of Communication (s) that emanate from your organisation?
  • Does the quality of Communications convey a professional first-class image?
  • Do they accurately reflect the quality of the products/services you provide?
  • Does your organisation have an effective email and a voice mail discipline that does not frustrate your client base – as they are unable to speak to anyone?
  • How often do you, personally, evaluate/audit the quality of your Communications – both verbal and written?
  • Do your “Customer” communications convey an impression of a well run, well organised and professional organisation?
  • Do your customers feel that their interests and needs are known, listened to and always addressed?

Many clients having answered some of the tough questions above have realised that a regular audit of their communication (s) and the methods in which their messages are transmitted – is essential, if they are to maintain and develop and effective communication system.

What Constitutes an Effective Communication System?

  • It is simple, concise, clear and easily understood
  • It is a two-way process – not a series of TELL scenarios
  • It is open, consistent and honest
  • It is regularly appraised and reviewed
  • It is always professional, appropriate and effective
  • It achieves the desired/best outcome for all parties
  • It consistently meets the highest possible standards – however challenging or difficult the situation/dialogue might be
  • It projects a more confident image/approach to work and day to day life
  • It should seek to:- create change- solve problems- influence people- provide a channel for the exchange of information- supply information to others- develop wider relationships