Turning Courageous Communication into Cash

The end of this year and the beginning of the next is the perfect time to assess where you’ve been and where you are going.  What have been your accomplishments? Your challenges?  What do you want to bring forth into next year?  And what can you do differently or add so you can continue to fortify and grow your businesses?

As you take into account your infrastructure, your people and technology, also ask yourself the question: “How well do we communicate internally and externally?”  While products and procedures often dominate the success of a small business, it’s sometimes the insidious lack of communication that can slow you down, personally and professionally.

So, in terms of how you communicate with your colleagues and clients, where do you excel?  Is there anything blocking the flow of communication inside the company? Is there anything getting in the way of you spreading your messages and proudly representing yourself and your services?  Are your interactions with current and potential customers strengthening relationships and building your business?

The most efficient way to do this is to consider each customer you communicate with.  Then think about the challenging people you interact with and how much extra time, energy and effort it takes to do so.   Is it worth the investment?

Experience has shown that when most professionals encounter someone who’s difficult to communicate with, they step away from the uncomfortable situation.  This choice can give immediate relief.  However, as we see from the following example, this may also mean we’re shutting the door to growing – both as a person and as a company.

Communications story:  Matt is a professional exit planner based in Southern New England. His service-based business means he deals with a lot of personalities, namely business owners who have worked for years building companies that they are now planning to sell.  Matt encounters these people in a very emotionally charged time. The business owners have attained a level of financial success, often after years of navigating rocky waters, with or without a small group of employees.  He or she has had the last word on numerous life or death decisions pertaining to their business, and they’ve done an outstanding job.  It’s no wonder that there’s some ego related to that.

Matt, meanwhile, is a mild-mannered, intelligent, gracious professional with tons of integrity.  He’s worked hard to set up important systems and processes to help his customers through this challenging time.  Matt is a “good guy” and most people truly like working with him.  It’s his goal next year and beyond to attain “ideal” clients; people who are also a joy to work with and know.

But these days, Matt is dealing with Joe.  Joe has been a nightmare since almost day one, disagreeing with much of the way Matt works as well as the potential buyers he brings Joe’s way.   Because the communication between Matt and Joe is seriously stressful, Matt is considering firing this client, something he’s never done before.

So, when Matt and I sat down, we spent time laying things out so we could “see the bigger picture.”

To do that, we first needed time to understand Matt’s essence and that of Joe. In this case:

  1. Matt believes Joe is slowing him down and wants him gone because it would bring immediate relief.
  2. Joe is acting like a bully (ego and control) and is difficult to be around, yet contributes to Mark’s bottom line.

We then took a moment to look at what would occur if Matt did indeed fire Joe.

  1. Matt would get immediate relief (personal).
  2. Matt would lose the income earned from working with Joe.
  3. Matt would lose this opportunity to learn how to better communicate with difficult clients, which will surely come again!
  4. Ultimately, Matt would know that in firing Joe, he actually chose to quit this job.

When considering sharpening your communication skills, it’s always important to know that you can indeed choose not to deal with people who are categorized as extremely unkind or disrespectful.  But keep in mind that difficult people are often put in our paths as opportunities for growth and advancement.  With that said, Matt and I developed a strategy for improving communicating with clients and/or co-workers who always seem to be disrupting the flow of our lives and businesses.

  1. Schedule time to speak with Joe about the importance of quality, intricate collaborations, which include difficult conversations.
  2. First, write down what needs to be said, making sure that you’re seeking a win-win for all.
  3. While writing, take time to note how the two of you are aligned.
  4. Rehearse what you will say, keeping things concise and anticipating objections, yet always allowing the other person to “save face.”
  5. Speak YOUR truth and then stand in silence.

Matt now understands that by doing this, one of two things will happen:  Joe will either run for the hills because his ego will need to win out over a successful business encounter.  Or, Joe will appreciate Matt’s honesty and candor and their relationship will become stronger than it ever has been.

By taking on the opportunity to become a more effective communicator, Matt has also fortified his business.  He will no longer wait to “speak his peace” until after he encounters a challenging client.  He now discusses the importance of open, honest, often challenging communication up front, before a customer agreement has been reached.

What a way to attain “ideal” clients!  That’s the bonus!

Do these steps take time and tenacity?  Yes.  But, like other investments into your company, the return will far exceed what you put in.  And like all other processes you’re upgrading next year, once you break old habits, your workdays will flow with much greater ease.

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