Business Online

12 Secrets Of Effective Business Communication

February 26th, 2010

By Alyssa Gregory

The ability to communicate, and communicate well, is one of the biggest factors in business success. You could be an excellent designer, but if you’re unable to promote your services and communicate effectively with clients and colleagues, your potential is limited. The principal areas where communication is essential include:

  • Pitching potential clients,
  • Client meetings,
  • Customer service,
  • Face-to-face networking,
  • Marketing your business

Pitching Potential Clients

When you freelance or own a business, your livelihood depends on your ability to sell your services. You need to be able to convince prospects that you are the best person for the job, and the communication secrets in this article will help you do this successfully.

pitch-services
Image by Mart1n.

1. Ask the Right Questions

Part of selling your services is being able to understand the client’s unique needs. You can do this only by asking questions that get to the heart of the challenges they are facing. Once you have a clear understanding of the problem that the client needs to solve, you can pitch your services as the best possible option for the client, outlining how you will meet their needs.

For example, when I am contacted by a prospective client, I have them fill out a website requirements document that poses various questions to help me better understand what they are looking for in a website. Some of the questions I ask are:

  • Describe the nature of your business.
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is the background on the project? (Is it brand new? Has it already begun?)
  • What are the goals and objectives of the project?
  • What is the timeline for the project?

2. Communicate Professionally

Your professionalism can win you contracts, and your communication skills add to the complete package. Take time to proofread all emails prior to sending; use a business email address with a proper signature; answer the phone professionally; and speak articulately and competently at all times.

While my email signature has evolved over time, below is the general format I follow, which has worked well for me:


Name
Company | Website
Email | Phone number

Client Meetings

Client meetings, even those that take place over the telephone, are an integral part of every successful business. Follow these tips to make your meetings as productive as possible.

client-meetings
Image by murielle.

3. Schedule and Prepare Thoroughly

We’re all busy these days, so scheduling your meetings in advance ensures that you and your clients have an adequate amount of uninterrupted time to speak. Once your meeting is scheduled, take time to prepare an agenda that outlines focus points and sets a structure. Sharing the agenda for the meeting gives both you and the client an opportunity to fully prepare.

Because you may not be using the same calendar or scheduling program as your client, confirming the date and time of your meetings in an email and sending a reminder and the agenda the day before is good practice. If you are unsure how to format an agenda, plenty of templates are available for free online.

4. Speak, Pause, Listen

When you have several topics to tackle, rushing through them to get all of your ideas out may be tempting. But this causes confusion and makes the client feel that their input is not important. Slow down, and remember that communication is a two-way street. Establish a give-and-take that allows both parties to have their say.

One way to become a better listener is to limit or eliminate distractions during your conversations. That may mean closing your email client, turning off the television and closing the door to your office. By doing these small things, you ensure that the client has your full attention, and they will sense that, too.

5. Follow Up in Writing

While you may be taking notes during phone or in-person meetings, the other party might not be, so follow up after the meeting with a written message, giving an overview of the discussion to make sure you are both on the same page. Summarize what was agreed, repeat questions that were raised and outline the next steps and responsibilities for both parties.

In addition to sending your notes, invite the other party to give their feedback on what you have sent. This way, it becomes a collaborative document and not just one person’s view.

Customer Service

Your clients want to feel that they are your priority. You can make them feel so by providing exemplary customer service. Try these communication-focused actions to improve your customer service.

customer-service
Image by Oreckel.

6. Ask for Feedback

One way to maintain long-term relationships with your clients is by keeping open lines of communication. This means asking them for their input on how things are going and how they feel about the service you’re providing. This can be accomplished by inquiring at the end of a project, during day-to-day conversations or through formal surveys. The format matters less than the actual act of it, so work it into your business and fine tune as you go along.

When conducting surveys, use an online service that tracks responses for you. There are several online services that should give you enough functionality to conduct client surveys. Here are a few worth checking out:

7. Address Problems

If a client is unhappy, don’t ignore their complaints. Ask them why they are unhappy and what you can do to fix the situation. The longer you wait to bring it up, the worse it will get. Addressing the issue and being accountable when appropriate puts you on the path to resolution. And your willingness to face the problem head-on tells the client that you care about the project and their satisfaction.

If a client complains about your turnaround time or responsiveness, you may need to create a more formal project plan to clarify expectations. A working document like this can also eliminate some of the uncertainty regarding responsibilities and keep everyone on track.

8. Try a New Format

If a problem with your client stems from miscommunication, try a different method of communication. If you have been handling everything via email, schedule a phone call to see if that clears things up. After the call, you can summarize the conversation in an email to the client, which will give you another opportunity to get both of you on the same page again.

Today, so much communication is done via email that the opportunity for major miscommunication is almost inevitable. A rule of thumb is to limit your email to one screen-full (i.e. above the fold); anything that requires more space than that should be handled by phone. This should help you avoid some of the pitfalls of relying on email alone.

Face-to-Face Networking

Networking events, conferences and other face-to-face opportunities can take your business to a new level. These tips focus on helping you get the most from in-person networking activities.

networking-event
Image by trublueboy.

9. Communicate Confidently

Be confident and use body language to support that confidence. Shake hands firmly, smile and make eye contact while communicating at live networking events. Don’t forget to bring business cards to hand out to everyone you meet, and remember to relax and be yourself.

Before heading out to a networking event, practice introducing yourself to new people to gain confidence. Working on your introduction with someone you trust and asking for their feedback also helps.

10. Prepare an Elevator Speech

An elevator speech helps you make the most of a first impression, while making networking situations easier and more productive. Be prepared with your speech and ready to answer common questions about your business and what you do. Practice your elevator speech ahead of time so that you are relaxed and comfortable with introducing yourself.

Your elevator speech should last no longer than 30 seconds and should convey how your product or service solves a problem for your target audience. An elevator speech could go something like:

Have you ever gotten completely lost on a website because the navigation was inconsistent, confusing and disorganized? What I do is redesign websites for small-business owners who need a stronger, more coherent online presence. By learning as much as I can about the company, I create a strategic plan for reinventing an existing website to be more functional and user-friendly.

Marketing Your Services

Whether you market your business online, in person or through traditional advertising, communication is key to brand awareness. Here are two secrets to magnify the impact of your marketing across the board.

writing
Image by ralaenin.

11. Be Responsive

A big part of marketing is being available to your target audience and following up when necessary. If you market your business through social media outlets—including Twitter, Facebook and blogging—watch for and respond to comments, questions and especially complaints. And when you are contacted as a result of offline marketing activities, respond quickly and professionally.

Plenty of recent examples on Twitter show how certain brands have been slow to respond to criticism, hoping it would die down, only to see it spin out of control. Also, when you do respond on social media websites, keep it professional, and avoid confrontation because that would only spread the fire.

12. Write Well

You can’t successfully promote your business if your marketing copy is not clear, concise and action-provoking. If writing is not your forte, consider hiring someone to help you craft copy that attracts potential clients, generates interest in your services and motivates potential clients to action.

To strengthen your writing skills, start a swipe file of marketing copy that you like and have found inspirational. Read through it and make notes of what you like in particular and what pulls you in. By making this a frequent exercise, you should be able to learn what makes good copy good and bad copy bad.

Your Turn to Weigh In

Being a tolerable communicator and an effective communicator is the difference between being good and great at what you do. If your design skills are up to par with your competition’s, then strong communication skills can put you ahead. Strengthening your communication skills is worth the time and effort, and you may be surprised by how much you benefit from more polished and professional interaction.

What do you think? What impact has communication had on your success? How have you improved your ability to communicate with clients and colleagues?

Related Reading

About the author

Alyssa Gregory is the owner of avertua, LLC, a full-service virtual assistant firm. She has a passion for supporting small businesses, and provides business tips, advice and news through her business blog, the Small Business Idea Generator, and as a regular contributor on SitePoint.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @alyssagregory.

(al)

The jungle is alive: Be it a collaboration between two or more authors or an article by an author not contributing regularly. In these cases you find the Noupe Editorial Team as the ones who made it. Guest authors get their own little bio boxes below the article, so watch out for these.

Tags:

72 comments for „12 Secrets Of Effective Business Communication
  1. Ryan on February 26th, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Good article! A lot of useful tips. Thanks for taking the time to write it up!

  2. Greta on February 26th, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Good stuff. Dealing with clients is one of the most difficult parts of freelancing for me, and I’m always looking for good tips to smooth the process.

    Most of my potential clients come from word of mouth of satisfied customers.

    • Mahendra on March 17th, 2010 at 10:15 am

      Right Greta….Satisfied customers are always a great source of new customers.

  3. Amberly | Web Designer on February 26th, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Excellent topic. I have to say “Elevator Speech”

    It’s important to think about effective communication, rather than just jumping into it.

    • amir gul on June 11th, 2011 at 6:06 am

      i also agree with u

    • Abrar on July 5th, 2011 at 11:41 am

      Agreed

    • Tam on June 30th, 2013 at 10:14 am

      The key to win new client is to satisfactorily serve the existing client…key points listen to your client, think of their expectation and deliver them…….
      No situation is difficult if you plan it through to the end….

  4. Brian Jones on February 26th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Another great article – thank you for the post! This will prove pivotal for freelancers in the making such as myself.

  5. Modern interiors on February 26th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Very good tips, and all true… especially the face-to-face networking!

  6. SCMIND on February 26th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Very helpful article. This is a very good guideline to follow. I have implemented many of these steps in our own business. Thank you for the post!

  7. raved on February 26th, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    very nice :)

  8. Alyssa Gregory on February 27th, 2010 at 1:28 am

    Thank you for all of the comments! Although much of the article is pretty commonsense, I think many of us (me included!), tend to underestimate the importance of communicating effectively on a daily basis.

    My biggest challenge is being consistent with asking clients for feedback and then implementing it into my business activities. What’s your biggest communications challenge?

  9. Sasha Baksht on February 27th, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Nice article. Listening to your client is extremely important.

  10. Peach on February 27th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Great read. Very well written. Great guideline for a starter like me. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Robin on February 27th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I would also encourage you to include your address in the signature. Also, make sure it is on the bottom of every email. I would rather scroll through it 15 times, then not be able to find your phone number to make a quick call to clarify something.

    Great article. You’d be surprised how commonly these “common sense” suggestions are not followed. :)

    • Fuad Abrhams on July 8th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Great Read!! well presented

  12. vapor king on February 28th, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Great article I am going to make my employees read it.

  13. cooljaz124 on February 28th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Yeah ! Thanks for the write up !!! Excellent one

  14. Kuroi Kenshi on February 28th, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Great article!

  15. Marco Barbosa on February 28th, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Great article indeed.

    Shut up and listen to the client. And be yourself, always.

  16. Urviho on March 1st, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Good one :) Thanks

  17. Yoni R on March 2nd, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Outstanding article! Thank you.

  18. Shin Dragich on March 6th, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I truly enjoy this blog. Discovered it on Google and you put up some great information. Look forward to the following post.

  19. Customized Web Design Studio on March 7th, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks for share!

    And don´t forget to use a template cuestionnarie!

  20. Nitin Singh on March 30th, 2010 at 3:33 am

    very nice Post!
    I really appreciate and admire the information you are offering in this post.
    Really helpful article.
    Thanks for sharing

  21. Deepa M Bhatnagar on April 15th, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Very good and readable article. Great tips for a successful business.

  22. Orville Abundis on April 29th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Excellent post, thanks. The blog just got a new permanent visitor.

  23. Teodoro Vicari on May 15th, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Anyone who has been to AA meetings and discovered the prevalence of individuals coming to their knees in petition to their Higher Power, mentions of “GOD” and Our Lords Prayer recognizes that AA is a faith set on spirituality – just like Christianity.

  24. Fritz Fruchey on May 17th, 2010 at 4:52 am

    I had a little trouble understanding right away, but I think I get what you’re saying now. Thanks!

  25. Eric on June 17th, 2010 at 5:11 am

    this is good general advice. I would also say that it’s important to be able to gauge the working style of your customer and to make adjustments accordingly.

  26. Dipty on June 18th, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    The 12 secrets are very usefull…..these helps for successful business and communication.

  27. pascal on August 26th, 2010 at 8:25 am

    your information is the most thankful to me. be blessed.
    how can i get other from human resource management?

  28. julian on August 31st, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I found this articel very usefull. Thanks

  29. ambrose on October 8th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks so much , your tips has broaden my thought immmensely.

  30. Kate Beckett on October 25th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Dear Webmaster

    While looking for the potential link partners, I came across your website and thus sending you this requesting mail. I feel that exchanging links (Non-Reciprocal) would be beneficial for both of us in order to get better rankings in SERP’s and traffic as well.

    I have all theme back links with good quality sites

    If you are interested to exchange links with us then kindly send us the exact location where our link will be placed. If you wish that your link should be added first, kindly send me details along with. We will add your link first.

    We hope for your co-operation and support. I assure you that this would be a long term business relationship. I appreciate your attention and wish you great luck for your site.

    Thanks and regards
    Kate Beckett
    Link Building Member

  31. Amresh kumar Pandey on October 31st, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I had a little trouble understanding right away, but I think I get what you’re saying now.I would also encourage you to include your address in the signature. Also, make sure it is on the bottom of every emailI would also encourage you to include your address in the signature. Also, make sure it is on the bottom of every email.Dealing with clients is one of the most difficult parts of freelancing for me, and I’m always looking for good tips to smooth the process.

  32. ducnt on November 30th, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Excellent :) thanks

  33. Jaye Puleio on December 27th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Despite being on vaca last week I did a lot of business development and got a TON of work done!

  34. Joe Abraham on January 29th, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Good and helpful write-up. Thanks.

  35. lee on March 24th, 2011 at 10:26 am

    thanks 4 ur article

  36. Shawna on April 9th, 2011 at 2:50 am

    These are great tips, like you said, a reminder of the common sense things we sometimes forget. I especially like Elevator Speech idea. It is smart to be prepared instead of stammering when you may only have a few moments to talk.

  37. kashif khan on May 9th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    its very thank for this

  38. professor javed iqbal bhatti on May 25th, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    these tips are of great importance not only for students of business badministration but also for teachers and businessmen.
    thanks.

  39. John Easton on June 9th, 2011 at 12:55 am

    I think these are great tips, it’s good to read tips on how to be more successful so you can realize the things that you aren’t doing.

  40. ishwar on June 20th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    well.. its so nice that you guys come up with such great points. the thing that might be considered is adding some more elaborate points on other areas of business communication too… thanx

  41. TahirYasin on September 1st, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you

    Good tips
    to win business.

  42. Mayambala Arnold on October 11th, 2011 at 8:08 am

    It’s great i din’t know that there useful articles to me like this one “i love it”

  43. Erma on October 26th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Great article! Thanks for sharing your tips.

  44. Robina Ali on November 1st, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Most of these tips were in my head anyway, but as i am totally new and about to start in business i wasn’t sure if they were the right ways of going ahead. So now my instincts match the expert advice, i will go ahead.

    I paticularly like the idea of the “elevator speach”, i often wondered why buisness professionals were so quick and easy to the point, now i know it’s practise.

    Thank you so much for the blog/info.

  45. Mancho Anthony on December 14th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Iinteresting tips for those of us aspiring to become businessmen.Thanks for sharing the knowledge. keep on

  46. fkei on December 31st, 2011 at 2:57 am

    Cool article
    I love it

  47. arjun on January 18th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    nice article it helps me alot

  48. Hassan on January 26th, 2012 at 2:10 am

    Great article, I’ve used these tips and it definitely helped my work flow run smoother.

  49. ssdpa on January 30th, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Oh dear it is blessing of God for the people like me who want to make money at home….

  50. Syed Tanveer Hayat Chitrali on February 19th, 2012 at 8:44 am

    The article is attractive and productive, though it can be made more comprehensive and useful.

  51. ssdpa on March 20th, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Thank you for a nice blog and creative thinking buddy.

  52. Alisa on April 25th, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Thanks a lot for nice article! A really informative one! Agree with you with all the points! Good job ;-) Maybe you will find my post concerning Business Etiquette at my website an interesting one.

  53. Anas on April 28th, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks and very useful tips.

  54. Melissa on May 20th, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Great article filled with helpful information for business owners!

  55. Mildred Khalayi on May 22nd, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Good article, thanks for the advice.

  56. Kat on July 25th, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Great write-up! Communication is definitely the key to success no matter which type of business you are involved in. I work as a Virtual Assistant and have found that much of my own success comes through the feedback and follow-up when a job is done. Adding that little extra bit when I finish a project almost always leads to the client being even happier and much more willing to recommend me to others. Don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation, a link to you/your business or a testimonial you can use later.

  57. mihratu temesgen on August 18th, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    this makes me effective . thank you .

  58. Ntakiyiruta on September 6th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    this article is very helpfull in the business thx.

  59. CBD on September 8th, 2012 at 2:45 am

    This is the best article for business owners. Alyssa Gregory you have done it again. I have been in a conference related to this topic an let me tell you that I have learn more reading your article. This is pure gold for business owners: To understand the client’s unique needs, professionalism, prepare an agenda that outlines focus points, communication is a two-way street, follow up after the meeting with a written message, customer service,Feedback, Address Problems, Face-to-Face Networking. This key points in not well practice by business owners. Well done Alyssa.

  60. cjs on October 5th, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    South America,

    Excellent ,efficient and so very applicable.
    Everyone studying Communication, especially at an Institute for Applied Sciences,needs to be familiar with these facts.Thanks for the article.

  61. Nagvendra Singh Parmar on October 5th, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Hell Alyssa

    Thanks you so much for doing the great job of knowledge sharing. Article is very helpful.

    Thanks you so much again.

    Advocate Nagvendra Singh Parmar

    India 0009987898168

  62. swaroop reddy koppula on October 8th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    the people who are dealing with clients can have a excellent stuff here.
    thankyou for providing us the valuable information

  63. cleon on December 18th, 2012 at 7:57 am

    great,am going to share this with my sales team in our coming meeting

  64. Nina on January 23rd, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Great article,will surely help

  65. Whitney on January 30th, 2013 at 4:52 am

    It helped doing my assignment. Thanks.and great article

  66. Wagumisi on February 25th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Great Article, has inspired me greatly with my teaching and learning profession, thanks.

  67. esther hassan on April 1st, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Nice one.