As a Communication Coach and trainer for 3V, and as a Program Advisor for YEDI, I frequently meet, network with and teach entrepreneurs from both non-profit and for-profit sectors, representing businesses and organizations of various sizes and stages in business. The titles of the workshops I provide may change but the core values requested and delivered do not. The question we must ask ourselves as entrepreneurs is what are the essential communication skills needed for success in business? I want to share with you what I believe, so you can start to develop your talents as quickly as possible, and assess your personal and team communication strengths and weaknesses.
To be a successful entrepreneur you must be able to:
1 – Make a winning first impression – every time. We must network constantly, right? Every person we meet, by chance or by appointment, could be our next client or lead us to a big partnership or deal. We all judge a book by its cover, so it’s important that your first impression is great. If you need to hire an image consultant, do it. If you need to learn the art and science of small talk and first impression management, then hire a coach, attend a workshop or buy a book. We are not allowed to have an ‘off-day’ as so much of our income depends on our first impressions, over and over again, as we build up our database and word-of-mouth referrals.
2 – Speak well in public. For the most part we cannot avoid speaking in public. We have to give presentations to banks, pitch to potential funders, sponsors and investors, chair team meetings, give keynote addresses, lead information seminars, etc. If you are shy or uncomfortable speaking into the microphone, it could damage your company messaging and brand image. A local ‘Toastmasters Club’ might help you to improve quickly, or you might bring on a public speaking or presentations coach to run a seminar. They can often help you with the organization of key speaking points and making influential core messages to help you get more comfortable speaking and presenting.
3 – Persuade, influence and sell. It is funny how many entrepreneurs hate the idea of selling, when in fact we would go nowhere fast without marketing and sales. We like to imagine that salespeople are slimy con-artists, when in reality a really great sales rep is highly interpersonal and very empathetic. They’ve read Dale Carnegie books and studied NLP, and you can too. We have to get over the old stereotypes and realize that picking up some experience and theory in sales and persuasion is truly beneficial to promoting and growing our business.
4 – Handle difficult people smoothly. The fact that we are self-employed does mean in theory that we can pick and choose good clients, but if we can’t handle difficult people, i.e. people who are stubborn, see things differently, hard to sell to or hard to work with etc. then we are going to end up having a very small client base and only a few people we can work with. Learning how to manage conflict and disagreements is essential as you expand. Rule number one: it’s nothing personal. Get over your ego and deal with the core issues and emotions. Turn enemies into friends at every opportunity.
5 – Manage people. The definition of interpersonal skills could be the ability to manage people in a friendly, fair way without alienating them. People management skill is essential and makes you a better manager or leader. Think of a boss you previously had that was great. Now think of one that was terrible. Which job did you want to escape from? Don’t be that boss!
6 – Read people accurately. Observe their eyes, face and body language. Do not ignore your intuition. Ask questions and actually listen for the answer, but even ask yourself if there is more to the story than the surface communication. Quite often there is a lot of ice underneath the water of an iceberg – 90% actually – and in our communications the statistics are often comparable. Listen to what people are saying and at the same time listen for meaning underneath. Are there emotions, core values and hidden messages behind their words?
7 – Communicate with confidence. If you don’t seem to believe in yourself, your team, your brand, product or service, then why should I? Getting your message out there verbally and in print is important, and you must instill confidence and trust in your soon-to-be customers and partners. Use confident language; let people know your credibility, sell them on how they can avoid ‘pain’ and move towards ‘pleasure’ when they follow you. Display logic to help seal the deal. Most purchases (if not all) are emotional, and logic is used to justify the decision to buy. Be confident and clear, but do not go too far. No one likes a bully, and no one likes over-the-top cockiness. Be calm, cool, confident and in control.
Start thinking of how you rank yourself or your team on these 7 communication issues. Hold a quick meeting to discuss them, and where you can improve. There are more than 7, of course, but this is a good start to getting you focused on the importance of excellent communication in business and will help you grow as an entrepreneur and as an organizational leader.