Fundamentally, successful business development depends on establishing and cultivating good business relationships.
A vital component of creating and strengthening these relationships is your communication. How you communicate with others can play a significant part in ensuring that your message is clearly understood.
It pays, therefore, to evaluate your communication style and adjust it to maximize the effectiveness of your business development approach with potential customers. These seven strategies may help you achieve this.
1. Understand your communication style.
Understanding how you communicate may help you be more flexible when you approach prospects. To that end, ask yourself what your default style is when speaking to customers. For example:
- Do you get bogged down in technicalities?
- Are you able to limit the details to what's relevant?
- Is your language laden with jargon?
- Are you prone to interrupting others?
- Do you move to the next topic too soon?
- Do you offer a solution before fully listening to the customer's issue?
- Do you pressure people?
- Are you a talker?
- Do you unwittingly lead the conversation back to you?
By raising your awareness of how you communicate, you can remind yourself of what you need to pay attention to before your business development meeting. If you know that you're a talker, plan to leave space for silence. If you use too much jargon, jot down some notes on how you will explain key points more clearly by eliminating inflated language.
To raise your awareness of your communication style, you can also take one of the many assessments available, such as Communication Styles Assessment, Everything DiSC® Sales Profile or MBTI® Communication Style Report.
2. Pay attention to your body language.
Years ago, I was considering the services of a financial advisor. Throughout the entire discussion, the person didn't smile once. Even though he explained well the services he provides, I still wasn't sure if I wanted to entrust my money to him.
His body language didn't put me at ease.
The words you say are only half of the conversation. The other half is what your body says. Maintaining good eye contact and smiling not only helps you look more confident and authoritative, but it also creates an atmosphere of friendliness and warmth.
Good body language establishes rapport, which can help the business development process run smoother.
3. Adapt your comportment to build rapport.
Is your style of communication formal or informal?
This is an issue you need to consider as it may require you to adapt your style to the situation.
Let's say you're dealing with a customer who sets a casual tone. Does the person project warmth and friendliness? If so, try not to hasten the discussion. Take a little time up front to build rapport.
If this is not a part of your style, consider preparing a more personal approach ahead of time. You can check out their LinkedIn profile or other social media presence for points of conversation. If you're meeting them for the second time, make sure you keep notes of any personal bits of information gathered from the first meeting so that you can refer to these as part of your rapport building.
4. Adapt your tone and language to connect with your prospects.
The way we communicate reflects our cultural background and context. In our North American culture, we may tend to communicate explicitly and directly. What is said is of primary importance. How it is said may be secondary.
However, as Kyoung-Ah Nam of The American University in Washington, D.C., explains in her 2015 scholarly article, in other cultures, such as Asia or Latin America, for example, messages may generally be delivered through more indirect and nonverbal means. How you deliver the message may matter more.
So, if your style is direct and to the point, you may need to adapt. Let's take as an example the use of the word “No." While we may feel comfortable saying no, in other cultures, it may be preferable to avoid the word and to express a more indirect refusal such as “It might be challenging" or “We will think about it."
Moreover, if your client is a non-native English speaker, practice verbal empathy. That is, put yourself in your client's shoes and make your statements clear and free of colloquialisms that may be harder to follow. Watch out for metaphors or idioms that are a given for a native speaker but may are confusing to a non-native speaker. "A ballpark figure," “cover all the bases" or “a rain check" may be mystifying for someone whose English is not their first language.
5. Adapt your pace to fit the business development situation.
Part of adjusting your communication style includes the pace at which you proceed. For example:
- Are you dealing with a harried, Type A personality? You might find it useful to quicken your pace and get to the point quickly.
- Are you dealing with a quiet, reflective person? You might be more successful if you allow time for ideas to marinate. Give them time to trust you.
- Are you dealing with a serious, no nonsense type? Cut the small talk and open with an executive summary of the critical points. Leave the details in your back pocket to present later if you're asked.
- Are you dealing with an analytical type person who asks a lot of in-depth questions? Put your foot on the brake and be prepared to delve deeper. Offer more than one option. Show the pros and cons of your plans or ideas. Spend time to analyze the various aspects of a problem before pushing a solution. Give them much time to decide.
6. Ditch the rigid script in business development.
While it can be important to have a prepared text that helps you cover all the critical points in your business development project, it's also equally important to be flexible.
Using a rigid sales script can prevent you from conducting a successful business development conversation. That's because you can achieve better results in business development if you set out to have a dialogue with prospective clients instead of delivering a canned presentation. The purpose of the conversation is to discover your buyer's motivation and aims.
So, consider using the script as a checklist to ensure you cover all the bases, but don't let the script be the central part of the communication.
7. Choose your channel of communication
Most people have a preferred channel for communicating. For example, many busy people today may avoid taking telephone calls, but they may respond and engage with you by email. Others may prefer face-to-face meetings over emails.
It pays to ask prospective customers what their preferred mode of communication is. Chances are you may have sensed a trend in the customer's engagement and responsiveness. Take note of it for your future interactions with that client.
Adjusting your communication style doesn't mean that you need to try to be someone you're not. It's just about making small adaptions so that your style is a little more familiar to your prospect. It's about appreciating the unique personalities and styles of your clients and not using a one-size-fits-all communication style.
Doing this may result in a more positive response to your business development initiatives.
Read more articles on leadership skills.