How to Communicate for Success
Originally published: 05.01.11 by HVACR Business Staff
Want more sales? More motivated employees? Better relationships? Master the art of communication.
Have you ever wondered why some people are more successful than others? Why some can sell more? Why some can keep climbing the company ladder while others get stuck on the first few rungs? The answer is pretty simple — they have mastered the art of communication. How well you can communicate will determine your chances of becoming a “high achiever,” which for HVACR business owners and managers means how successful you will be at selling and leading. Even if you naturaly are not a “talkative” type, this still applies. Communicating and talking are different. Talking is using the sense of speech. Communicating is exchanging meaningful information, whether it’s discussing why one product is superior to another on a sales call, or explaining to employees how a new workplace policy will benefit them. In John Maxwell’s new book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he tackles this head on. Maxwell writes that good communicators have stronger and deeper relationships and that these relationships help them become high achievers. Before I explain how this happens, I want to share some of the communication styles that I have observed and defined after reading the book. • Tellers: They tell you what you need to hear. These are one-sided conversations dominated by someone who feels they have all of the answers. If you’re anything like me, you stop listening soon after the lecture begins. • Babblers: I don’t think I could give a better definition of this type of communicator than what my brother said when describing his 3-year-old daughter: “She just talks until she thinks of something to say.” We’ve all been cornered by a babbler. They confuse speaking for communication. • Passives: This person can’t look you in the eyes when you are talking. They respond quietly and rarely do anything but agree with you. Passivity blocks the potential for communication to convey meaning, and it makes for boring conversations. • Confidents: These communicators look you in the eye, ask questions, listen to your full responses, and then have follow-up questions. They make you think, and you learn new things from them. Confident communicators know how to engage their audience. I think we can all agree that being a Confident is the best choice. So how do we do this? The first step is to identify which type of communicator you are. Above are my definitions. Use these or come up with your own. If you truly don’t know what type of communicator you are, Maxwell recommends asking someone who will give you open and honest feedback. In my case, I asked my wife. After a good laugh, she gave me — and continues to give me — communication “coaching” for 20 years. Becoming a Better Communicator The next step is simple: Strive to be a better communicator than you are. Even if you determine that you already are a good communicator, following these tips from Maxwell will make you better: • Be prepared: If you’re going to be confident, you must be prepared. If I ever stumble in a presentation, it is always because I’m not prepared. This holds true for sales calls or management. • Don’t be phony: People know if you are being fake or phony. No one can fake passion, so talk only about what you feel passionately about. • Make eye contact: Whether you are communicating one on one, in a small group, or presenting to a large group, everyone wants to see you. When they see you making eye contact, they know you are engaged. • Bring some energy: Act like you want to be there. If you simply go through the motions, you will lose your audience no matter how big or small. • Group speaking: Move. Don’t stand like a statue. People will follow you if you express yourself while speaking. • Relate: When preparing, study up on the audience. If you know your audience, you will know how to personalize what you are talking about so that it makes a connection. These are all easy things to do — if we can make ourselves do them. If you aren’t paying attention, it’s easy to unknowingly become self-centered in your communication style, which turns people away. The classic HVACR example is talking too much about equipment specifications and not enough about benefits when on a sales call. Becoming a self-centered communicator is especially problematic for those of us in technical industries because, in general, communication is not one of our strong points. So look at it this way: If you can master being a confident communicator, you will have a significant advantage over competitors. The Communication-Achievement Connection Effective communicators naturally build more meaningful relationships both inside their companies and outside because they are constantly exchanging valuable information. These relationships, in turn, help them become high achievers in their careers and personal lives. Maxwell supports this theory with a study of 16,000 executives. The best performers (High Achievers) exhibited attributes that foster meaningful information exchange. The lowest performers (Low Achievers) see communication as threatening. High Achievers • Care about people as well as profits. • View subordinates optimistically. • Seek advice from those under them. • Listen well to everyone. Average Achievers • Concentrate on production. • Focus more on their own status. • Are reluctant to seek advice from those under them. • Listen only to superiors. Low Achievers • Are preoccupied with their personal security. • Show a basic distrust of subordinates. • Don’t seek advice. • Avoid communication and rely on policy manuals. High Achievers are simply more secure with themselves than Low Achievers. Later in the book, Maxwell directly addresses why this is: “Maturity does not always come with age; sometimes age comes alone.” This is probably one of the best explanations I have heard on why people with the potential for high achievement never make it there. You simply cannot be a strong, confident performer if you hold on to youthful insecurities and allow them to block effective communication. High Achievers are O.K. with being wrong and don’t seek credit when they are right. Low Achievers seek credit in order to gain a false sense of security. The bottom line is that all of this begins and ends with communication. The more effective you are as a communicator, the better the relationships you have. Once you have mastered these qualities, you will be a very strong and confident person that others will want to work for or buy from.