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Communication, the heart of business, is the most important of all entrepreneurial skills. Why? “The destiny of your business depends on the quality of your relationships,” says Geneva M. Hall, owner and operator of the Hair Castle Inc. in Somerville, New Jersey. Your ability to transmit information helps “both clients and employees feel they can communicate with and ultimately trust you,” he adds.
Effective communication is especially crucial for new entrepreneurs and their employees, since they’ll spend a great deal of time recruiting prospective clients, investors and suppliers to help get the business off the ground. Hall used her seven years of corporate experience as an account representative at Lever Brothers in Parsippany, New Jersey, to develop a communication training program for her Hair Castle employees. The most important point of the program: “Ambiguous language only confuses clients and colleagues.
Always be clear and concise in what you say.” While good communication does include techniques such as speaking audibly and maintaining eye contact, what you say is just as important as how you say it. Here’s how to do both:
- Choose your words carefully. You don’t want to lose business with inappropriately worded questions. For example, “When are you going to sign the contract?” applies a lot of pressure to a client. Instead, try “What do I need to do to help you make a decision?”
- Don’t forget who comes first. When communicating with clients, remember that your feelings come second to theirs. Since they will be the ones buying your products or services, their opinions are the ones that really count.
- Never bad-mouth the competition. Denigrating statements about competing companies are always inappropriate — no matter how well they are communicated. This may offend your prospect and result in lost business for you.
- Be genuine. No one likes to feel patronized, so make a concerted effort to be honest and sincere. A less-than heartfelt pitch may get you the sale, bur don’t count on it to help you clinch the resale.
- Perfect your presentation. Practice until you can deliver it effortlessly. Videotaping yourself may help you to identify and fix any problems or quirks.
- Brush up on your writing. Of course, communication isn’t just limited to speech. Proposals, loan requests, referrals and other related business documents require special attention, since they are such an important part of the start-up process. A business writing course can help you fill in the gaps if your written communication skills are less than presentable.
- Research your audience. You don’t want to botch a deal by making an erroneous statement or assertion about a client and his or her line of business. Avoid embarrassing mishaps by doing a comprehensive investigation of your audience.
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