Communicating has indeed become increasingly complex in our modern, high-tech workplace. Regardless of size, firms and companies invest time and financial resources to put in place communication systems, procedures, protocols and programs. However, the fundamental truth about communication is that it is as good as the results it generates.
On one hand, developing good communication skills and habits requires hard work and conscious attention. On the other, once mastered it can become your secret weapon to attract new clients, raise your credibility, grow your business and achieve brand recognition. Let me share with you four basic rules of communication that have helped my adviser clients engineer and deploy effective communication efforts.
1. Bridge the Intentions-Behavior Gap
Traditionally, we have a propensity to evaluate ourselves by our intentions, while the rest of the world rates us by our behavior. An effective strategy to fill the intentions-behavior gap is to unequivocally state our true intentions with your key audiences: “Our firm does not implement structured products or other illiquid securities to protect our clients’ capital, but rather through the tactical use of cash.” Seeking feedback provides another way to bridge this gap. Asking your clients a few well-conceived questions about your firm and its services can help you gauge if you are achieving your desired goals. In addition, your query is perceived as a courtesy, and the feedback you receive can be proactively used to defuse potential conflicts and resistance.
2. Know Thy Audience
Because advisers often have more than a single audience, it is imperative to fully grasp that communication has a different impact on each one of them. Crafting customized, crisp, clear and concise messages will ensure clarity and enable your audiences to act upon them. When you seek to convey a highly technical message, break it down in easily understood short sentences void of industry jargon and, when possible, accompany them with metaphors and/or anecdotes. Before engaging in any communication effort, attain an intimate understanding of your audience, recognize its level of knowledge and experience with the topic you intend to communicate. This may take an investment of time; however, the benefits will by far outweigh the efforts.
3. Who Speaks, Sows; Who Listens, Reaps
Listening is one of the hardest things for a human being to master. Many of us experience unconscious barriers to good listening that prevent us from clearly recognizing when we are not listening. One of the most valuable rewards of listening is the ability to learn something we might not know. Carefully listening to your clients enables you to gather good intelligence about what they care about, what motivates them and, ultimately, what they really want. Their answers will empower you to better address their demands and position yourself as their trusted advisor.
4. Keep Yourself Accountable to the Outcome
Improving your communication skills requires your commitment to measure the efficacy of your efforts; holding ourselves responsible for the outcomes ensures that our efforts are successful. Results come in different forms and shapes. At times, it is a simple confirmation that your messages resonate very well with your audiences. Sometimes, the proof comes in the form of increased trust or an improved relationship, e.g., a client bringing more personal assets to your firm or suddenly introducing you to his/her affluent friend who is in search of a good adviser. And sometimes, it is simply witnessing your success manifest before you—a client seminar where an engaged and excited audience of prospects asks for a next-day appointment at your office.
Do you have specific communication strategies in place? Are they working for you? What are your practice’s key communication challenges?
i-Impact Group Inc.