It came to me once again as I was calling commercial lenders around Denver that this basic skill we should have all learned as children and fined tuned as adults has become a lost art in business. Let me first say that my own weakness is being patient with those who don’t possess the communication skills that I would hope are more common in both personal and professional settings. In midst of trying to secure financing for a client of mine, I spoke with many lenders and I have to say that I was impressed by a few. I was prepared for a certain amount of rejection given the circumstances and even in those moments, some of these individuals had solutions or other referrals to my problem.
This is not the first time in my career that I have made a few lenders upset by their ability to communicate effectively or provide the answers I was seeking. The problem that most professionals fail to see is that when a client gets passed off from one to another in any vendor relationship, this continues to eat away at the trust already established and can leave clients feeling hopeless at times. My job is to always keep the momentum going and know as the team leader guiding every action and decision — which can be a daunting task at times!
Why is communication so difficult for so many people? Why is it so common for people to not meet expectations when clearly defined from the beginning? I’m not here to discuss all the excuses that I have heard and rather focus on the habits to prevent the situations from occurring in the first place. Here are some guidelines to follow in making communication a key aspect and skill to master.
Nobody cares how busy you are. This is the most common response when you question on person’s ability to communicate effectively. Whether you personally are dealing with a lot at home, or your staff is overwhelmed at the office, these only say that I or my client is enough of a priority. Nobody wants to say that because being truthful is frankly harsh at times but if it was a priority, it would have been completed. A simple text or email response literally will only take seconds so I would hope that its a life threatening situation that would prevent a courtesy response.
Take ownership and apologize if needed. Admitting your own weaknesses to someone you barely know is very vulnerable — I know because I have had to do it numerous times in my life. A simple apology goes really far in mending a relationship and as long as you can also show improvement or corrective action moving forward. This is also a great way to employ tactical empathy in the relationship as well.
Define your expectations without assumptions. Everyone works at different speeds and unless you specify your sense of urgency, you will most likely be disappointed. As we constantly here in our news outlets, given a growing economy with limited unemployment, most professionals are pretty busy with existing client relationships. It is important to know upfront if a business partner or referral can deliver in the time allotted before moving forward.
Answer your phone. I thought this was a “no-brainer.” I happened to talk to a residential mortgage broker this week and he said he would be asked to teach some of his competitors his tricks or marketing strategies and this was it — answer the phone! He said most borrowers would just go through their contact list and if there wasn’t a response, they move on. I tell people that my answer rate from commercial brokers is probably 40% or less and I’m a broker! This information is troubling as we live in such a digitally-connected world but yet we can’t get in contact with the people we need to make business take place.
Despite your robust marketing database, online social media presence, past testimonials, professional certifications, it means nothing unless your front-line support can effectively communicate to your targeted audience. Mastery of communication is a lifelong skill but its a critical component to providing the best level of service and attention to those in your life. I would say don’t be shy in asking others for feedback and really think about the strategies outlined above to be self-aware of your own weaknesses. Good communication will set you apart from almost anyone and that is why it is a crucial skill to master daily.