As skiers, curlers, hockey players and bobsleigh teams near the end of their competitions in Beijing at this Winter Olympics, they not only had hopes of standing on the winner’s podium, they were also ambassadors for their sport and their country.
Like so many people in the public eye, Olympians are expected to not only excel in their discipline, they are also expected to do the rounds of TV and radio interviews to represent their sport and and their sponsors. The way they communicate will have a direct impact on their reputation, as well as that of their country, their sport and their sponsors and there’s a lot of pressure on them to perform well.
It’s understandable that Olympians would feel their focus should be completely on their sporting discipline, just like we’re focussed on running our businesses. However, whether we are athletes or business leaders we have to consider the way we are perceived by those we communicate with.
When it comes to reputation I’m constantly reminded of this quote by the author, speaker, and corporate trainer, Bernard Kelvin Clive. Just like Olympic athletes representing their countries, every time we communicate with our clients and prospects, we are representing our companies.
Whether we communicate well or poorly, promptly or late, we will leave a lasting impression, that will impact our business relationship, so it’s important to get it right.
When it comes to communication, I believe in a personalised model made up of 7 P’s:
Are you just reactive and responsive with your communications or are you ahead of the game and thinking about how you can help your client or prospect before they call you? Can you save them an email or a call, by communicating first?
How long does it take you to respond to an enquiry, question or request? The longer it takes the more damage you’re doing to your reputation. Even if it’s not something you can answer straight away, at least acknowledge the communication and let them know exactly when they will get a full response. We may be working on our response, but unless you tell them, they don’t know. Way too often we leave clients and prospects just left waiting and wondering when they’ll hear back from us.
By keeping your communication positive you’ll keep your relationship positive. People are less interested in why things can’t be done, so help them focus on what can be done, how and when.
I always like to put myself in my client’s shoes and think about how I can add extra value. I look at what might be behind their request or question and think about their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). By understanding them better I can nurture our business relationship and show them that I really understand their needs.
Simply put, being purposeful means “get to the point”. We all have limited time, so consider your client’s objectives as well as your own, and make sure that’s clear in your communication. Also, consider whether all the information you’re putting in to that email or proposal is really necessary. I suggest looking at creating headlines for each point, so they can be clearly identified and easily understood.
How many emails and proposals do you get that are full of typos and errors. Although you may feel under pressure to get your message out quickly, it’s crucial that you take the time to proof read your content and double check everything. If it’s a detailed proposal, it’s definitely worth getting someone else to look over it. You’ll be judged by its accuracy and you’ll probably only have one opportunity to get it right.
Finally, I believe the most important way to establish and nurture strong business relationships is to make your communication personal. Show your prospects and clients that you understand the problems they have, and that your solutions are tailored specifically to their needs. I hate generic communication where the receiver of your email or proposal, is left to feel processed and just like any another client. Copy, cut and paste may save time but double check your communication is a perfect fit that that individual.
The next time you communicate with your prospects and clients, have a quick look at the 7 P’s and make sure you’re representing your company in the best way. It’s definitely worth taking the time to communicate in a considered way to ensure you get your message across and leave that positive long-lasting impression.
So how about you? When you communicate, what does it say about the type of ambassador you are for your company?