Effective communication and interpersonal skills are often cited as lacking among the new generation of business professionals. The ability to connect and communicate with others is the single most important business skill a professional can have. It affects not only sales, service, and customer support, but also how effective your team is at communicating with one another. Poor communication anywhere in your company can become a weak link that affects the entire organization. Like most things in business, effective communication is a skill that can be learned, and it’s in your best interest to improve communication skills for yourself and your team.
According to a survey by Workforce Solutions Group, 60 percent of employers say today’s college graduates lack “soft skills”—specifically communication and interpersonal skills— which is up 10 percent from the previous two years. Today’s job applicants can’t think critically or creatively, they can’t express themselves effectively, and they can’t write—all skills vital to business success. In another study by the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of adults surveyed cited communication as the most important skill for children to learn to succeed in life.
Seven Tips to Improve Communication Skills
- Practice active listening – Too often, people listen politely only because they are waiting for their turn to talk. Instead, practice active listening that shows you are paying attention and interested in what the other party has to say. Active listening requires you to be able to mirror what the other party is saying and feeling. Also, confirm that you understood what was said, e.g., “So, what you are saying is … .” Be sure to ask relevant follow-up questions to clarify understanding.
- Use their name – Be sure to address the other party by name throughout the conversation. It not only shows you are being attentive, but also demonstrates your desire to make a genuine connection and personalize the communication.
- Ask open-ended questions – Don’t limit the other party to “yes/“no” questions. Give them a chance to talk to you and share their concerns and perspective. It will tell you more about the them and help you establish a connection.
- Show empathy – Make an effort to see the other party’s point of view and acknowledge it. Connect by drawing on your knowledge of the other party’s dilemma or situation. Show you understand, and ask probing questions to deepen your understanding.
- Acknowledge their expertise – Whether you are making a sale, helping a customer, or talking to a colleague, understand they know more than you do about their area of concern or expertise. You should know enough to understand their position, empathize, and possibly offer solutions based on your experience or specialty, but never presume to know more than they do about their job or role than they do.
- Be specific – Great communicators use specific examples that are relevant to their audience. Quips and rhetoric won’t make your point or close a sale, but staying on point and addressing the specific issue at hand will.
- Smile – Whether you are meeting in person or even via telephone, people know when you are smiling. A smile changes your demeanor and makes your voice more positive. So even if you are on the phone, smile while you talk.
Effective Communication Over the Phone
When considering ways to use some of these strategies to improve communication skills, consider the following statistics regarding sales and communication:
- 92 percent of customer interaction takes place over the phone.
- It takes an average of eight cold-calling attempts to reach the right party.
- 80 percent of sales require an average of five follow-up calls; most sales reps give up after the first call.
- 30-50 percent of sales go to the vendor that responds first to a query.
- Only 13 percent of customers think a sales representative understands their needs.
Clearly, the telephone is one of your most effective communication tools, especially for sales and customer support. If you can improve your telephone communication skills, you will be more successful.
In addition to having the right communication skillset, it also pays to have the right telephone tools. We created Spoke specifically to help promote effective communication, especially for sales and customer support.
Every successful transaction or interaction starts with effective communication.
If you can improve your communication skills, then you can step up your game—no matter what business you are in—and greater successes are sure to follow. Have you downloaded our free communication guide yet? Click here for your copy of The Pocketbook Communication Guide designed for you to distribute to your team.