Sales, Business development, customer relations, project management or team handling, all of these areas have one very important attribute in common and that is Communication.
Communication is widely misunderstood with language and someone’s control over vocabulary of a particular language. Though it will always help individuals and teams to know business language thoroughly, but it is only one of the aspect of communication, there is certainly more to understand.
Whenever it feels that everything is right in place but still desired results are not our way, one can always look back at communication strategy. It could be one important reason easy to miss out.
The Basic Need;
You are writing, but are you talking?
You are talking, but are you meeting?
If not, then simplest change you can make to your communication strategy is, replace writing with talking and talking with meeting wherever possible.
Strategizing communication can really change the game for professionals and it is not so difficult to practice. To know why it is important and how to strategize communication, we need to understand science behind Communication.
Science!!!! Yes, correct Science.
Communication is not only art of talking, there is a bit of science behind and by understanding this science part, we can improve results for ourselves and around. Let’s explore!!
Part-I: Communication Science
Communication is a cognitive process. In any communication, two or more sides interact to exchange information, data is collected and then this data/information is interpreted.
General Communication Process
Interpretation happens in our mind by using our intellect, experience and perception. There might be entirely different versions of same communication on both sides. This happens almost daily in our lives.
What one is writing, might not be understood with same meaning by the other person.
And what is being told might be heard but not interpreted in same context by other side.
This happens because we all have different intellect, experience and perception. Now intellect and experience are individual traits and something which improves over a longer time horizon.
Perception on the other hand is factor which can be immediately worked upon to improve interpretation. Also perception plays an important role in data collection.
Let us dig little deeper. How one’s perception is made?
Perception is the sensory information; it is based on the data collected by our senses. Our senses involve in communication, collects data and transfers it to our mind. Our mind processes this information based on our intellect and experience to reach to a conclusive interpretation. When the information is not clear we tend to make assumptions and that is when interpretation is diluted and context is lost.
So, isn’t it better if more & more of our senses are involved to collect clear information for our mind to process? Simple logic, better the data collected, better processing and in turn better interpretation.
Just to refresh our 5 common senses are: Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. In next part of this article when we will go thru different modes of communication, always ask yourself in which mode more senses are involved, this will help to understand which mode should be preferred for communicating at different circumstances.
Part –II: Improving Clarity of Communication thru better Perception
First submit this:
What are most common 3 ways of Communication in our professional life?
We communicate In-person (Meeting), we communicate thru telephonic conversations (Talking) and we communicate thru e-mails (writing).
Let’s understand pros and cons of each, which in turn will help us strategizing our communication.
1. In-Person Communication: Meeting people face to face is most effective mode of communication.
When we meet someone in person, our most no. of senses are involved in communication and send information to our mind to help us perceive better.
To put it in simple words, we can see the person, we can hear and also we can touch. So, we can see and observe expressions of people involved in the meeting and it helps us understand better.
We do not only discuss about the particular topic in question, but after taking time in consideration we always have greater opportunity to discuss more topics.
We have greater opportunity to build strong customer relationship and confidence.
If it is a sales pitch, we can also show case our skills in other areas of work.
Only limitation in this case is, it is always not possible due to time constraint or there may be geographical limitations
So, whatever area of work you are handling always see possibility of meeting in person. If you are responsible for sales of your company, this is the only way to fast track growth, other two ways will be limiting in growing yourself and your organization.
*In the modern world video conferencing is a great technological solution to geographical or circumstantial limitations (e.g. unprecedented Covid-19 situation).
2. Telephonic Communication: This is second most effective way of communicating. Never think twice to call someone and have a small discussion or quick chat. Many times this is a starter for in-person meetings.
In Telephonic conversations, you cannot see the person but you can still hear them and assumption part will be lesser compared to what is in e-mails or written communication
The way other person is speaking, we can judge better to understand the situation
Calling someone prior to a fixed meeting, to re-check availability always helps to build confidence
If e-mail is not straight forward, pick up phone and make a call to clarify your doubts
Even if things seems clear in written communication(e-mails, .ppts, pdfs, docs etc.) it is always better to call and understand from person who has sent it
This way you will make sure that what you are reading and assuming is same what the other person has written and it helps in being on the same page with other side. This point is imperative for project management.
Just like in-person meeting method, this method also gives you opportunity to discuss more than a single topic, obviously after considering time & facts of the conversation
Limitation with this method is, other side might not always be happy or free to answer your calls. Even if so, never give up, keep trying.
Though it is basic, but just to remind, if you do not know the person very well then dial his desk number instead of mobile/cell/handy
3. Written Communication: This is true that written communication is most legitimate as things are recorded in writing. If things are straight forward, it can be the fastest way to communicate. But matters are hardly straight forward in daily professional life.
Being legitimate is the most advantageous point of this method, so use it wherever you feel it is necessary to have discussions in written.
Tip: If it is not possible or getting difficult to get in written commitments from your customer or other side, you can first have a verbal communication and then put things in writing and send it across, it will be equally effective.
This method definitely wins over when it comes to technical discussions, sometimes it is not possible to explain everything over phone and it is better to first put things in a presentation (.ppt or any other documentation) and then discuss it whether in-person or telephonic or web-ex.
Biggest limitation with this method is things are written and sent, other side will have to read and interpret it. Whenever we read, we need to interpret and judge and this can be sometimes entirely different then what other person meant, so we should try to keep it minimal.
An incident from my own experience;
One day I called Chris, one of my customer contact (I would say a good friend as well) upon receiving an e-mail, which was sort of escalation where he was asking us to prove functionality of our engineering design and my colleague who was working with him said we do not have software to prove it and we can’t do it.
Actually the issue was not functionality of Design but the software to prove it. Now our agreement is to provide functional designs using defined project software and this particular software was not mentioned in the contract. So in nut shell my colleague was right, but Chris didn’t like his straight “NO” as an answer and in turn wrote an escalation e-mail to me, as I was key account manager and 1st level of escalation.
For the record, Chris is an excellent person and very logical thinker. He always helps us to go in right direction to achieve our organizational goals, in simple terms to win business.
I decided to follow my own rule of strategic communication and made a call instead of replying his e-mail. My first step was right, as 1st thing he said after picking call is “oh, there you are, I was not expecting it to take 10 minutes!”
Okay! I started discussing about the problem and tried to calm him down, but actually I had no direct ready solution, as the reality was we did not have this software. While discussion I got that Darren was pressurized by his customer to prove the point in discussion by using specific software and it was not his own wish, only reason of his anger was reply he got from my colleague.
“we are not obligated by contract to use this specific software, do you know anyone who can do this for us?” I asked.
He said “I know one company, I will use them and send you the bill or take project back”.
Now, I did not like when he threatened me for taking project back and discussion was getting hot. I felt things were going out of control, so I offered him to meet and discuss this topic to find a solution together instead of resolving over phone. He agreed.
I immediately drove to his office which is 20 min away from my office.
In his office when we set down, we discussed and reach to a mutual solution, where he will use one guy from his team to check the design in the required software (which his company had) and in turn I promised to support him for some other work without any charge, so that project in question can be completed.
But back of my mind I was still thinking, what about taking project back? Why did he say it over phone and not even once in meeting? So out of curiosity I asked him “why would you say like that?”.
He started laughing and said “I was joking, because you were preaching contract to him”.
OMG!! I was thinking, I got saved by chance or by my simple strategy. Good that I did not write him anything, otherwise I would have spoiled a good long relationship or may be a good customer.
I learned three things out of this incident:
Calling instead of writing was a very good idea and something what customer was expecting as well.
We should not push to close everything over a call, I was inches away to go into a fight by not knowing that He was joking, because I could not see his expressions over call. So meeting him was a great idea and saved the day for both of us.
So submission is that Meeting (if possible) could be the best way to yield the positive results for anyone in any case.
Further to this basic practice, one should always look for clarity in communication. Clarity makes things simple and easy to understand. So, that could be our next read.