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Building bridges of communication
Building a 'bridge of understanding' between parties is fundamental if your business communication is to succeed.
If you are a consultant to a client, or a salesperson attempting a closer relationship with your customer, here are five techniques that help achieve just that.
1. Eliciting clients' views and perspective on issues.
The consultant or salesperson should not be the final arbiter of what the client or customer should think.
It is invaluable, both as a dialogic tool and as a way of building rapport, for you to ask the other person how they see the situation: "What are your thoughts about what we are trying to achieve here? What are some of the solutions or approaches you've thought about?"
2. Helping clients think aloud
In any good business partnership, both parties participate in the thinking process.
"Have a think about what options the team has available... what ones most appeal to you? Don't throw out any ideas just yet - no matter how weird they might seem now, you'd be surprised at how workable they might be later." "What are the implications of some of these approaches to other teams or the project?"
3. Summarise the client's views and test your understanding of them
You really need to understand the other's perspective in any communication process.
The most useful tool to achieve this is 'playing back' what the client has said, in order to ensure that both they feel you have listened and you feel confident in your understanding of what they said. "Let me summarise what I've heard and see if I have it correct..."
4. React to how the client feels as well as the business implications
Business relationships are made up, primarily, of people. People with frailties, aspirations, achievements and fears. Failure to deal with the myriad emotions of clients will lead to failure, of both the relationship and the project.
The more successfully the relationship handles personal 'ups and downs', as well as the feelings of both parties, the stronger the bridge of communication is built.
Wise consultants and salespeople encourage their clients and customers to express their views.
5. Allow the client (and yourself) time to pause and reflect
We all have a tendency to want to be seen as an 'expert' in our field. So we all jump in and answer a question straight away, hoping to both impress our client with our ready supply of wisdom and allay our fears that they will 'find us out'.
In reality, no one knows all there is to know about a subject. But it is the rare and wonderful client who openly acknowledges to you their failure to understand fully or have a mapped out set of tactics for any given situation.
Allowing the client (and yourself) time to pause and reflect on a situation or question allows greater opportunity for bonds of mutual understanding to develop. The discussion will become more thoughtful, less reactively spontaneous (not all 'first thoughts' are good ones), and calmer.
Unless you are fighting fires, or taming lions, a calmer, more measured approach to a project always pays the greatest dividends.
Reports I have written:
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing
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Contact me to discuss how we can bring your company into this new and exciting communication universe.
View many of the presentations I have given over at Slideshare
Why does employee communication matter?
Download a presentation I gave to a group of PR students on slideshare
For your consideration:
Writing for a web audience