By Ric Phillips – www.CommunicationCoach.ca
As a communication coach, trainer and yes entrepreneur, I get the chance to run workshops for entrepreneur and small business organizations, as well as personally coach entrepreneurs, consultants and other coaches. Each year the titles of the workshops may change but the core values do not. The question we must ask ourselves is what are the essential communication skills entrepreneurs need? I want to share them with you, so you can start to develop your talents as quickly as possible, and assess your personal and team communication strengths and weaknesses.
To be a successful entrepreneur you must be able to:
1 – Make a winning first impression – every time. We must network constantly, right? Every person we meet, by chance or by appointment, could be our next client or lead us to a big partnership or deal. We all judge a book by its cover, so it’s important that your first impression is great. If you need to hire an image consultant, do it. If you need to learn the art and science of small talk and first impression management, then hire a coach, attend a workshop or buy a book. We are not allowed to have an ‘off-day’ as so much of our income depends on our first impressions, over and over again, as we build up our database and word-of-mouth referrals.
2 – Speak well in public. For the most part we cannot avoid speaking in public. We have to give presentations to banks and possible investors, we have to run team meetings, we may need to give keynote addresses, run information seminars, etc. If you are shy or uncomfortable speaking into the microphone, it will damage your brand image. Try joining a local ‘Toastmasters Club’ to improve quickly. Use organization of key points and influential core messages to help you get more comfortable speaking or presenting.
3 – Persuade, influence and sell. It is funny how many of us entrepreneurs hate the idea of selling, when in fact we would go nowhere fast without marketing and sales. We like to think that salespeople are slimy con-artists, when in reality a really great sales rep is highly interpersonal and very empathetic. They’ve read Dale Carnegie books and studied NLP, and you can too. We have to get over the old stereotypes and realize that picking up some experience and theory in sales and persuasion is truly beneficial.
4 – Handle difficult people smoothly. The fact that we are self-employed does mean in theory that we can pick and choose good clients, but if we can’t handle difficult people, i.e. people who are stubborn, see things differently, hard to sell to or hard to work with etc. then we are going to end up having a very small client base and only a few people we can work with. Learning how to manage conflict and disagreements is essential as you expand. Rule number one: it’s nothing personal. Get over your ego and deal with the core issues and emotions. Turn enemies into friends.
5 – Manage people. The definition of interpersonal skills could be the ability to manage people in a friendly, fair way without alienating them. People management skill is essential and makes you a better boss. Think of a boss you previously had that was great. Now think of one that was terrible (in your humble opinion…). Which job did you want to escape from? Don’t be that boss.
6 – Read people accurately. Observe their eyes, face and body language. Do not ignore your intuition. Ask questions and actually listen for the answer, but even ask yourself if there is more to the story than the surface communication. Quite often there is a lot of ice underneath the water of an iceberg – 90% actually – and in our communications the statistics are often comparable. Listen for what people are saying and try to determine what they really mean, and what emotions, core values and hidden messages are behind their words.
7 – Communicate with confidence. If you don’t seem to believe in yourself, your team, your brand, product or service, then why should I? Getting your message out there verbally and in print is important, and you must instill confidence and trust in your soon-to-be customers and clients. Use confident language; let people know your credibility, sell them on how they can avoid pain and move towards pleasure when they follow you. Display logic to help seal the deal. Most purchases (if not all) are emotional, and logic is used to justify the decision to buy. Be confident and clear, but do not go too far. No one likes a bully, and no one likes over-the-top cockiness. Be calm, cool, confident and in control.
Start thinking of how you rank yourself or your team on these 7 communication issues. Hold a quick meeting to discuss them, and where you can improve. There are more than 7, of course, but this is a good start to getting you focused on the importance of excellent communication in business and will help you grow as an entrepreneur.