Successful Communication A Critical Business Tool

  • Tuesday, 29th August 2023

The phrase “people do business with people” is a well-worn cliché.  Many people use it on their websites, in their business materials, on social media, when talking to others and much more.  Its use may be common but sadly most people fail to understand the deeper power and significance behind these words.  Understanding what you say, and how you say it is the key to better use of language and developing confidence in those all-important conversations and messaging when reaching out to others.  Better communication means more business opportunities. 

What is Communication?

In its simplest form it is the interaction with others in the hope of building relationships designed to achieve mutual success based on trust and understanding of others’ perspectives as well as your own.

Unfortunately, for many, communication appears complex.  What does this mean?  People are different naturally; some are supremely confident while others are much more reserved.  These reservations impact the ability to portray confidence.  Someone may be highly skilled in what they do yet can inhibit themselves when trying to engage with others.  A big factor when communicating is that it’s not all about ‘you.’  While everyone is important it is essential to give space and respect to other people’s perspectives.  We spend so much time talking about ourselves (after all nobody knows us better) and a little less engagement listening to what others have to say.    

How do People Communicate

Think about the people you already do business with (not the company) but the people behind it who make the decisions to continue doing business with you.  This may be a long-term arrangement or something more recent.  Some obvious responses are “we have always done business with them,” we trust them (their service and products are great).  This is correct; however, how did it begin?  Someone started a conversation.  Is it someone you knew from school, college, or a former work colleague?  Were you introduced by a friend or family member?  Was it a cold call to a stranger (based on your research)?  Were you at an event, exhibition, or reception?

The point is no matter when the conversation, someone initiated it, kick started the relationship that led to agreeing to do business together.  That initial premiss, communication (and business success) is about that first conversation, building a rapport, and allowing it to develop.  Not all conversations lead to a successful outcome.  Move on, there are other discussions to be had.      

Communicating Successfully

The main factor for successful communication is to open the conversation and have the confidence to engage with someone you have never met before.  It doesn’t matter if you are at an event or meeting someone you have been introduced to, the basic principle is to engage with them in a conversation.  It could be an informal discussion over a coffee. 

Another important aspect is to aim to avoid bias or preconceptions based on what you think you know about someone else that you’ve never spoken to.  This is even more important if you have heard of them through someone else or your own knowledge from whatever source it came from.  Take it that you know nothing is the best approach, you may learn something valuable and begin to develop a conversation from their perspective. 

Remember “it’s not all about you”.

Hints for Success

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone you don’t know.

Start the conversation with “how are you” (add their name if you know it).  Most people appreciate the thought rather than the classic I’m John, Peter, Mary, Claire or whoever.

You should put others before yourself in the initial conversation probably until they ask about you.

Once the conversation has started, be aware of your environment and open up about the event or wherever you are at the time. 

If you can, very early on where possible consider the cultural aspect of business.  You may have thought about this beforehand especially if you're aware in advance of the occasion taking place.

Some cultures prefer to discuss formal business knowledge right from the start before they engage formally (The UK for example).  Others like to talk “get to know you’ before even considering the possibilities for doing business.  The Irish are well known for talking often informally before they think business.

If you sense the person, you’re in conversation with is not engaging make your excuses and move on.  Try again with the next person.

Following up is important a few simple tips can help build a potential relationship for doing business.

Get their business card or contact details.

Always write the date and event or occasion you met on the card.  In addition, add something you learned about them on the card that they are interested in or involved in.  See why at the end of the article.

Have a follow up discussion preferably on the phone (to set up a further meeting) or by sending an email.

Always aim to do so within the first few hours (where practical) especially if you promised to send them some business information.  At the very least within 24 hours.

Always keep a record of who you met, when, and where.  If you don’t need it now, you may do in the future.

Once you have met or have had a follow up engagement you may not contact or hear from them again for some time (it could be months, or not uncommonly even years) following that earlier engagement.  Take the Pandemic, many of us have lost touch (especially from a business perspective).

Are you ready to re-ignite those past conversations?

The best way is probably a phone call (or an email if needed).

One critical factor here is that someone may not remember meeting you at an event even if you tell them who you are or where you met.  They may say they do but reality may be different.

It’s almost like a cold call and can be tricky to navigate the conversation even if you have something to offer.

This is where the Golden Nugget (on the business card) becomes the most valuable currency.

Asking someone if they still enjoy Tennis, Classic Motorbikes, Collecting Vintage Wine, Mountain Hiking (or whatever their thing is) absolutely gets their attention.  Even if they don’t recall you, they will almost certainly engage with you as you took the time and effort to understand and learn something about them the first time you met.

This last tip is what may make the difference between communicating successfully or being just another face amongst many. 

Getting it right from that very first conversation using three simple words “how are you” provides the greatest possibility to “Doing Business with People” and building those all-important trusting relationships. 

This is the beauty of effective communication.