It’s safe to say the pandemic forced many of us to re-evaluate the way we communicate. With many in-person conversations shifting to video conferencing, instant messaging, emails and phone calls, effective business communication skills have arguably never been so important.
Not surprisingly, ineffective communication is often to blame for poor morale, unmet project performance goals and lost sales, among other shortcomings, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit. Perhaps most startling, however, was those who reported lost sales indicated 30% of the forfeited business was valued between $100,000 and $999,999. (Ouch.)
So how can you ensure you’re using good business communication skills with employees, stakeholders and clients alike and not leaving money on the table? Here are 9 techniques you can start using today.
1. Actively Listen
Listening isn’t always thought of as a form of communication, but it’s actually one of the most effective strategies you can use. And active listening takes things one step further.
Rather than just hearing what the other person is saying, make it a priority to understand where that person is coming from. In turn, this makes the person you’re speaking with feel valued and builds trust. Miscommunication also is avoided and problems are more easily uncovered and addressed.
Here are ways you can become a better, more active listener:
- Be open: Avoid internally criticizing or coming to a conclusion before hearing everything the person you’re speaking with has to say.
- Stay present: When the other person is speaking, just listen. Don’t begin to formulate a reply based on where you think the conversation is going. Focus your attention exclusively on the speaker.
- Don’t interrupt: Along the same lines, listen to the complete message. Respond only when the person you’re communicating with has finished speaking.
- Give your full attention: Avoid distractions (e.g., checking your cell phone or email). Give the other person your full attention to effectively listen to what they have to say.
- Ask open-ended questions: Be sure you understand what’s being said by posing clarifying questions that avoid a yes or no response. Using phrases such as “tell me more about that” is another way to uncover additional details.
- Recap what you heard: Paraphrase what you understood to ensure you’re on the same page, and ask for validation or correction if needed. (e.g., “So what I’m hearing is ___. Is that correct?”)
2. Use the Right Communication Medium
To communicate effectively, it’s important to use the right methods, the right way, for the right purpose.
Dr. Pooneh Ramezani, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Dr. Brite, says: “People communicate in the modern business environment via text, phone, email, written letters and verbal communication. In order to communicate effectively, you must select the communication medium best suited to the message.”
Ramezani adds, “Business people who are fluent speakers may not be articulate writers, resulting in misinterpretation of messages in email and written contact.”
In contrast, she says, “Writers who can produce detailed communications in writing but struggle to communicate verbally are in the same boat.”
“Learning to be eloquent in all kinds of communication may not be easy, but a great communicator is aware of [his or] her limitations and chooses the appropriate medium for the message,” Ramezani says.
In any medium, be respectful and courteous. Also, keep in mind that certain nuances that can be conveyed in person with tone often won’t translate the same in written communication.
3. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Cues
Another one of the best communication strategies for business leaders is to pay attention to what’s not being said. After all, the words we use account for just a small percentage of the message we send to others.
When meeting in person or through video conferencing, the use of body language is important.
“Your body language should support what you’re saying,” says Adam Garcia, founder of The Stock Dork. Additionally, “It’s just as important to pick up on the other person’s nonverbal signals,” he shares.
Observe the person you’re communicating with. Consider their tone and emotion. Keep stance, hand gestures and eye contact in mind too.
Also, think about how your nonverbal cues will be perceived by the person with whom you’re speaking and how that can make someone comfortable (or uncomfortable).
4. Adapt to Different Communication Styles
Everyone has different modes of communicating, whether you’re interacting with clients or employees. Certain people may prefer a direct approach, for example, while others would appreciate a softer touch.
According to The Economist, there are 4 major communication styles:
- Personal: Personal connections and human relationships are emphasized
- Analytical: Consists of data, facts and precise language
- Functional: Based on processes and step-by-step planning
- Intuitive: Details take a back seat to big-picture thinking
It’s important to know what kind of communicator you are. However, you also want to be adaptable to communication styles that aren’t instinctive but which might resonate well with your audience.
Similarly, Nikita Chen, founder and CEO of LegitGrails says the most important communication skill is “cultural mirroring,” whether in international business meetings where different norms or behavioral patterns may come into play or in an everyday office setting.
“Try to step into the other person’s shoes and imagine what kind of communication they’d like to experience,” Chen says. “Adapt your personality and communication style based on the person you choose to interact with.”
“It is by far the easiest way to break the ice in business meetings, make people feel more comfortable around you and improve your cross-cultural communication skills,” says Chen.
5. Show Empathy
Another important communication skill in business is having empathy and emotional intelligence. According to a Businesssolver study, 84% of CEOs surveyed believe empathy is responsible for better business performance.
Of empathy, Brooks Manley, owner of Manley Marketing, says you need to understand where people are, how they feel and what motivates them to move them. To do this well, you must be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, Manley says.
6. Go Easy With Feedback
As a business leader, there’ll undoubtedly come a time when you need to review your employees’ work performance or offer clients suggestions for improvement. To offer constructive feedback, Anjela Mangrum, president of Mangrum Career Solutions, suggests phrasing the conversation in a nonoffensive way.
First and foremost, you want to make the person you’re speaking to feel appreciated. As such, Mangrum suggests starting with a positive. For instance, if you’re reviewing an employee’s performance, begin by thanking the employee for a noteworthy job on a particular task before advising improvements.
7. Communicate With Clarity and Conviction
Have you ever spoken with people who seemed inauthentic, unclear or didn’t appear confident in their own words? Politicians, salespeople, coworkers or even family members – we’ve all had an experience or two.
What impression did it leave? Probably one that underscored how important it is to be poised in your presentation and believe in what you’re saying.
“Having conviction when communicating touches every part of business, and leaders exude total confidence,” says Melissa Reeves, founder and CEO of Fortune Avenue Consulting.
“It communicates clear instruction and expectations to employees, contractors, vendors, etc.,” Reeves says, and “it communicates confidence and assurance.”
Communicating with conviction shows that you have a “strong belief in the products and services the business provides,” says Reeves. It also shows you’re confident in the success and satisfaction you and your business are able to provide.
8. Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
Sometimes, a moment arises in business when you must be clear and concise, a moment when an elevator pitch is all the information you need to communicate.
Trevor Larson, CEO of Nectar, reminds us that “As a business owner, your most important goal is to sell your business to potential buyers and investors.”
“In order to do this successfully,” he says, “you need to be able to communicate your value proposition confidently in a short amount of time, so spend time honing and refining your 30-second elevator pitch whenever you have free time.”
“This is what you will use to attract attention at trade shows, close deals during cold calls and convince banks and other creditors to help capitalize your business.”
9. Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
“A key part of demonstrating leadership confidence is based on your ability to adeptly speak to audiences of all sizes, in-person or virtually,” says Erin Urban, executive career accelerator coach at UPPSolutions.
“When visual media surged in popularity, the ability to speak with clarity and confidence became non-negotiable for business owners,” says Urban.
“From local professional organizations to international conferences, from panel events to podcast interviews – the modern entrepreneur’s market strategy needs to include visual media and/or in-person speaking events,” she says.
That said, fine-tuning public speaking skills is a critical communication skill in business management.
Good Communication Strategies in Business Are Essential
While we are awake, we spend 70%-80% of our day communicating. Needless to say, good communication is a critical component to business (and personal) success.
Effective communication strategies go beyond the conventional methods of speaking and listening, however, extending to body language, tone and delivery, among others.
The benefits of effective communication can’t be understated either. Here’s how communication skills help in business:
- Ensure clarity
- Improve social skills
- Help close sales
- Improve morale
- Help overcome obstacles
- Enhance the way others see you
So now that you’ve seen several examples of business communication skills, which ones will you put into practice?