Every business owner knows the importance of effective communication. With digital communication now the norm, there’s no excuse to fail in this area. More and more platforms arise every year.
A few examples stand out as having transformed communication between small businesses. But besides the virtual communication tools we use, there’s still great value in understanding the rules of face-to-face communication.
Your communication skills will take you, and your business, to new heights when you reconcile digital communication with these principles of personal interaction. Join us as we explore essential communication tools and techniques for small business owners.
When crafting emails for business, there are a few things to keep in mind. The recipient probably gets dozens or more of these a day. So start strong, with a subject line that gets their attention. Once they’ve been attracted by that compelling headline, get to the point as quickly as possible.
A polite greeting, followed by a concise summation of your topic, is all that’s needed. Don’t weigh emails down with unnecessary banter. That’s best left to in-person chats. End off in the same manner; professionally.
An email signature manager is a simple yet effective tool for adding a professional touch to all your email communications. You can employ some creativity here but try to stick to the basics. A quality image, your logo, and perhaps your slogan or synopsis of your qualifications.
Instant Messaging and Video Conferencing
There can be no doubt that video conferencing tools offer flexibility and convenience. They are the closest thing to in-person communication, and as such have a more ‘natural’ feel to them than simply sending emails or talking on the phone.
Zoom, Slack, Hangouts, and Skype are all handy tools for instant communication, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Think about what you need most. Is quick messaging more important to you? Do you need to make video calls often for your business? Is communication on the go best for you?
Some of these tools allow for both, and you can enjoy a whole host of value-added features for free. Slack and hangouts, for example, allow instant messaging and video calls. They are quick and easy to install on any type of device, whether your desk computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone.
Project Management and Collaboration Tools
The benefits of collaboration tools are rather obvious. They allow the participation of all team members, whether office-based or remote workers, local or distant. Trello, Asana, Zoom, and Slack are all useful platforms for collaboration and project management, too.
Once again, take a look at their features to decide which is right for you. If you already have Slack as a messaging tool, their premium package will unlock other features necessary for effective collaboration. Inter-office communication, team management, and task management are all benefits of tools like Asana.
The first step in becoming a great communicator is understanding that it’s more about listening than talking. And when we say listening, we mean active listening. So, what is active listening? And why does it matter in the business world?
Active listening means you hear what your employees or colleagues are saying. It entails focusing on their choice of words, and what they mean. It involves paying close attention, and if necessary, checking afterward to be sure you’ve understood them correctly.
Active listening proves to the other party that you are engaged in their conversation, and value what they have to say.
- Pay attention
- Consider the choice of words and the emphasis placed on them
- Check with the speaker afterward, to ensure you are both on the same page
This may surprise you, but empathy has an important role to play in your business interactions. Empathy describes the ability to not only understand what the other person is saying but to ‘put yourself in their shoes’. It means truly understanding their perspective on things, and how they came to be.
Why is this important for small business owners? Empathy not only enhances communication and understanding but also strengthens business relationships. Empathy will go a long way, especially, in improving your interactions with your staff.
Empathy also aids you in delivering better customer service, increasing sales, and clinching more business deals and investment opportunities. An empathetic attitude is the hallmark of a great business owner and manager.
- Try to understand the other person’s point of view
- Think about what you would do or say in their situation
- Remember that everyone is entitled to their feelings about a topic
Whether you are aware of it or not, your non-verbal communication speaks louder than your verbal communication. Learn how to use this silent but powerful voice to your advantage. Also known as ‘body language’, non-verbal communication relies on eye contact, facial expressions, and hand gestures.
Have you ever had a meeting with someone who couldn’t look you in the eye? Or who looked around the room constantly while you were talking to them? We’re sure you made up your mind about doing business with them or not, based on these non-verbal cues.
Keep this in mind when communicating with someone. No matter if it’s in person or a video call, being aware of your non-verbal cues will help you to make a good impression.
- Maintain eye contact so the person feels you are focused on what they’re saying
- Limit your hand gestures as these may be misinterpreted as nervous tics
- Remember to smile, when appropriate. It helps put the other person at ease.