Posted: Wed 20th Feb 2013
We've covered everything from speaking assertively to negotiating successfully and mastering good body language in meetings. To round off, we've picked one lesson from each post that has made us think about why communication matters in business and how to do it well. So here are 13 things we've learned about business communication over the last six months.
Having confidence about what you want to say and how to say it can have an enormous effect on how well you perform generally - not least in your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate better outcomes for your business.
What are you trying to achieve through your communication? If you don't know, your audience won't know either. Be explicit. How will you know you have reached your goal? Ensure your audience will not have to make any assumptions to work out what you are asking of them. Other steps you can make to increase the clarity of your writing include the following:
Avoid jargon. Don't assume knowledge.
Keep paragraphs and sentences short.
Limit your sentences and paragraphs to one idea per sentence or paragraph.
Different channels are appropriate for different levels and types of communication. For example, if you're simply sending someone a quote they've requested, you probably don't need to speak to them directly - an email would be fine. But if you want to discuss the quote in detail, then a phone call might be the best thing - it enables negotiation and reinforces your personal credibility. Likewise, if you're discussing a supplier or employee's performance, then it's best not to do it by text. But it might be ok to tell them of a revised meeting time by text or voicemail.
A group of hand-picked freelancers can easily take on bigger companies and agencies. If you've got a project you'd love to pitch for, but can't do it on your own, web conferencing can be a great way of establishing a virtual office for your fleet of freelancers.
You don't have to be pushy to get what you want. Instead, you can use three key principles to persuade your listener that your suggestion, idea, proposal or request is a winning one.
Engaging minds and hearts
Technology enables contemporary businesses to adopt more flexible shapes than their predecessors - there are more freelance workers, homeworkers and mobile workers than ever before. Thanks to e-mail, phone and video conferencing, businesses on opposite sides of the globe are now able to share knowledge, skills and services in virtual teams. But going virtual has its pitfalls, especially if there's no face-to-face element to your team communication. Researchers found that seeing each other on screen can significantly improve team performance and prevent conflicts.
Negotiating between two people is finding an agreement that both are happy with. This is not just about setting a price. It's more than that - it's putting in time and effort to make sure that you and the person you're dealing with would be more than happy to come back and do it all again. The benefits of successful negotiation are obvious. You will:
Poor body language betrays lack of confidence or may even arouse suspicion; positive body language reinforces sincerity and conviction - and it makes other people feel confident, too. It's not a random thing - by paying attention to your looks and gestures when speaking or listening to others, you can create a strong and positive impression that fosters trust and is likely to make you feel more self-assured, too.
If you've invited someone to a meeting, presumably it's either because:
you value the skills, expertise or products they can offer your business
you have skills, expertise or products you can offer them.
In both cases, it's important to listen, either to their advice (that you're paying for) or to concerns and needs (so you can address or meet them). Don't talk too much - a classic mistake for chairs is to dominate the meeting with their view.
Assertive language conveys a positive impression to listeners. Being assertive doesn't mean being bossy; it simply means expressing your needs clearly and directly. Assertive language can help you to maintain control of your situation - and tell others that you know what you want. For example, when asking for something, assertiveness trainers recommend three levels of request, depending on its importance:
â€œI would likeâ€¦â€
Each conveys an increasing degree of urgency and the listener will pick up on this and prioritise accordingly.
When you're using video conferencing to connect your small business with the great wide world, there are a number of things you can do to come across as bigger than you are and as professional as your work deserves. Four tips from our selection:
Pick a web/video conferencing system that grows along with you and that runs on the most professional technical set-up you can afford at the time.
Be conscious of your environment when going on a video conference - control your background (and background noise!).
You're saving on travel, so invest time in preparing your virtual meeting - including any documents needed, instructions required for newbies, and so on.
Hone your video moderating skills - they're slightly different from those required in a traditional meeting, but can make all the difference.
Think of communication as an operational task and build it into your schedule. For example, this could be 20 minutes a day for social media or half an hour each evening to respond to queries. It could be a couple of hours each week for a newsletter or half a day each month to catch up with contacts. If you're organised about it, it needn't swallow up other jobs that are demanding your attention.
And finally, from Richard Thomas, Product Planning Manager for Brother International Europeâ€¦
In the age of Etsy, Kickstarter and Enterprise Nation it's never been easier for small businesses to employ hugely professional communication and business techniques. From high-quality printed marketing collateral and stylish websites through to sophisticated CRM systems and video conferencing, you've got everything you need and all the tools you can imagine to take on bigger firms. Plus you have one special ingredient: your passion for your business. So be proud of what you've built and let that shine through in everything you say, write, quote, produce, sell and ship.
Be seen and heard is supported by Brother, the technology company for small and medium-sized businesses. Brother can help businesses of all sizes communicate like big enterprises with OmniJoin, the new high-end webconferencing software at a small business price. Free trials are available here.