Effective communication is a critical tool for any business owners. Effective business communication can be the difference between finalising a deal and losing out on a future opportunity.
You should be able to clarify company practises clearly to consumers and clients and answer questions about your products or services using effective communication. It’s also important to interact efficiently in negotiations to ensure that you achieve your goals.
Communication is also important in the company. Effective communication can help to build a good working relationship between you and your co-workers, which in turn can increase morale and productivity. Business communication is very important in business and it’s essential to have good and effective communication in the workplace.
This guide will help to clarify the importance of business communication and the main aspects of both verbal and non-verbal communication, how to listen to others and understand, and how to make the best possible first impression to people you meet in and around your place of work.
Understanding Business Communication
To progress in any conversation it is essential that you understand the importance of business communication and how it is likely to be accomplished by both parties listening and understanding one another. Poor communication can lead to a plethora of problems both internally and externally. You should practice the following skills in any business scenario in which you collaborate with others.
Key Effective Business Communication Skills
Useful communication skills to develop healthy interpersonal relationships include:
- maintaining eye contact
- understanding non-verbal signals
- being mindful of people’s individual space
- using positive body language
- dealing with different points of view.
- active listening
Personal awareness skills that help to communicate efficiently include:
- awareness of how others perceive you
- understanding the benefits of a positive attitude
- presentation — dressing appropriately for different occasions.
It also helps to understand the circumstances surrounding your communication, such as the situational and cultural context.
Effective Verbal Business Communication
Verbal communication can bring great benefits to your company if it is carried out effectively, but it can also be dangerous to your business if it is done in the wrong way. Words you use are very important, but the way you say them is just as important.
Using Positive Language For Good Communication
You are much more likely to obtain positive results by using a positive, rather than a negative, vocabulary.
Positive language is beneficial and encouraging; it offers options and provides solutions to problems. It is a language that emphasises constructive behaviour and consequences.
Here we have an example of good effective business communication:
If you’re negotiating with a supplier who is not willing to budge on price, your language should express a keen desire for a win-win situation (i.e. a situation with which both parties can be satisfied). This is likely to make your supplier able to compromise (perhaps on issues other than prices, such as delivery costs or payment terms) than if you also refuse to budge and accuse them of being rigid.
Using ‘I’ statements is Important in Business Communication
‘I’ statements, rather than ‘you’ statements, frequently show stronger results in verbal exchanges, especially in business.
For example, ‘I need more information to make a decision’ sounds a lot better than ‘You need to give me more information before I can make a decision.’ The reason the ‘I’ statement sounds easier is that you’re doing what you need to tell someone what they’re supposed to do.
Assertiveness VS Aggression In Business Communication
Assertiveness (often by the use of ‘I’ statements) is what you intend to do. Instead of coming off as hostile, you make a point about what you believe or feel.
Aggression is completely different and is typically viewed as hostile or unfriendly. The term ‘you’ is also used. People can get unhappy when you tell them what to do. Even when talking to staff, it is prudent to soften your language when asking them to perform duties, as they are likely to respond better to requests than to orders.
Reliable assertiveness demonstrates that you are constructive and open to suggestions, but will not be undermined, leading to a mutually acceptable outcome. This is extremely effective in internal business communication and external business communication such as customer service.
Your Speaking Style is Important in Business Communication
Speech style means the sound, pitch, accent, volume and speed of your voice – when working in customer service, it is important you understand how the tone of your voice and the words that you use influence others’ opinion of you and how you work and your communication skills.
The very same sentence can be interpreted and understood in slightly different ways, depending on the context in which it is said. People you’re talking to can be inspired by a positive style of speech, just as they can be put off by a negative speech style.
You should always strive to communicate in a positive voice — avoid monotonous reactions, or speaking too quickly or too slowly and poor communication in general. Be as straightforward as possible, and try to engage the listener, as this is far more likely to facilitate the response that you are seeking than if you deflate the conversation.
The more information you can find out about the needs, desires, preferences and circumstances of a person, the easier it is to achieve win-win outcomes. You learn more about a person by asking them the right questions and taking the time to listen to their answers and this can improve business communication within the workplace.
People tend to react well when they feel like someone else is really seeking their opinion, especially in a business situation where discussions can have important implications for both parties.
Types of questions
In any business scenario, you can use the following types of questions:
Open questions — questions that enable a person to clarify or explain, to help develop a relationship, and to allow them to open up. Well-chosen open questions promote answers to questions you may not have thought about; for example, ‘How has your company changed in the last few years?
Closed questions—questions that require only a brief, clear answer, such as ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ such as ‘Are you satisfied with the proposal? ‘This is useful for finding out the truth, restricting or directing a conversation in a particular way, and collecting the relevant details from which you can create an open query.
Follow-up questions — more detailed questions intended to develop a more specific interpretation of the other party’s view of the matter.
For, e.g., ‘How can I change my offer to make this proposal a win-win for both of us?
Confirmation questions — used when you need to be sure that the other person understands what you are saying. ‘What advantages do you think this plan would bring to your business in the coming quarter?
Summary Clarification Questions — used to clarify the understanding of the needs of the other group. For example: ‘Can I summarise what you just said to me so that I can verify that I understood what you have said? You said you want an integrated system that will allow you and your team to complete their duties in half a time and train all your staff to use this new format?
Using questions in Effective Communication
Generally, when you use a variety of query forms in a conversation, you will have the most success. By using open and closed questions simultaneously, you can help lead a discussion and allow the other party to participate.
Using only open questions will lead to digression — a discussion that strays away from the path. Using only closed questions will make it too easy for the answering party to say yes or no. Since they only promote a simple answer, closed questions are not good relations builders or conversation starters. Therefore it’s important to use both types of questions for optimal performance and dedication.
Question styles to avoid
Some types of issues do not lend themselves well to business situations. This includes the following:
- destructive questions — ‘So you are saying it’s my fault?’
- Multiple questions at once — ‘When do you want it? Or don’t you want it? Can you get it anywhere else?’
- leading or manipulative questions — ‘You will have that done by tomorrow, won’t you?’
Asking this kind of query does very little to improve your reputation or your ability to communicate efficiently and effectively.
It’s one thing to ask great questions — it’s another thing to actually take the answers on board. You can sometimes be distracted by your own thoughts, feelings and opinions, and so you tend to hear what you want to or, more often than not, what you expect to hear.
You’re always thinking about your next step, or what you’re going to say next, or you’re trying to predict where the other party could lead you. In order to listen effectively, you need to suspend these internal thoughts and give your full attention to the speaker. Only then do you fully understand what they mean?
Active listening needs the attention of the speaker, both verbal and non-verbal. For example, if you notice them looking down or seem uncomfortable in some way when you say, ‘That’s all the information I can tell you right now you can deduce that they’re hiding information.
This form of active listening alerts you to the potential for a well-constructed open or probing query to gather missing information. If you don’t actively listen, it can be easy to miss such signals.
It’s important to make sure you don’t let your mind wander around. Significant pieces of information can be missed if you are not aware and engaged. This could lead to misunderstandings later on, or perhaps embarrassing circumstances where you seem to have misunderstood everything you’ve been told.
A way to help you concentrate on your attention during a business conversation is to ask questions to the speaker. Not only is this going to help direct the conversation wherever you want it to go, and at the pace you want it to go, it will also ensure that your mind is focused on the subject at hand.
Confirm your understanding
At the end of it all, active listening can lead to a full comprehension of what another person said. You will do this by feeding back to them, in your own words, by remembering what they said.
A simple way to do this is to explain, paraphrase, or summarise. Examples of a review query in such situations include:
- ‘So what you’re saying is…?’
- ‘So what you need from me is…?’
- ‘So in summary what we’ve agreed is…?’
It’s typically a good idea to verify your understanding on a regular basis during a conversation. You can paraphrase or summarise:
When the other side has given a substantial volume of details
Whenever anything is not obvious to you
Moving to a new subject or area for discussion
At the close of the conversation.
Clarification is also a helpful method when the other party appears to ask for a lot of details. If their questions are not well organised, too broad or ambiguous, you might offer too much information by answering them straight away. It is a good idea to explain a question before you answer it.
A large part of the way we communicate is through non-verbal signals in conversations. This includes the language of your body, the way you smile at others during interactions, and the facial expressions you use.
Someone’s body language can back up the words they use and how they use them, but it can also betray their true feelings if they’re uncomfortable in a conversation.
There are two major aspects of body language to consider:
Posture — It’s important how you sit or stand during a conversation. Your stance should be accessible; your body turned to face the other person whenever possible. Bending forward slightly will show an obvious interest in what they say and that you are actively listening to them.
Gesture—simple movements, such as nodding your head and spreading your hands, can have a positive effect on communication. You can move your hands during a conversation to convey a sense of animation about a topic, but be careful not to overdo it. Maintaining eye contact is very necessary.
Negative body language produces a negative perception and appears to inhibit development. Someone gazing at their watch, playing with their pen and doodling during the negotiations, could come across as disinterested or uncooperative. This non-verbal contact generates an impression of disinterest and can lead the agreement to fail or disintegrate.
Other offensive body languages that you can avoid includes:
- folded arms
- rolling eyes
- clenched fists
- shrugs and shuffles
- imitation of the other person’s actions
You can quickly learn effective body language by watching how other people treat themselves during conversations. Something that appears positive is worth copying, while something that repulses you in a discussion should be avoided.
Looking at people in the eye when talking to them is a great way to let the other person know that you are listening to them and that they’re interested in what they have to say. Eye contact may also express honesty and trust, which is also necessary for business situations.
If you don’t look at the other person in the eye, it can often make you appear disinterested, anxious, or even shifty. When someone starts to hold negative views such as these in a business setting, it can often be difficult to reverse them, so you should continue to maintain eye contact and concentrate on whom you’re talking to, whether they’re a customer, a client or an employee.
Of course, it’s necessary not to look at them, inadvertently or otherwise.
Our faces are very expressive and sometimes give away our feelings before we have a chance to explain what we’re feeling. It’s crucial to try to keep your facial expressions optimistic during a business conversation.
Smiling is very important — a plain, natural smile is known to make the other party relax during a discussion. Keeping eye contact is also the key to success, as explained above.
Alleviate offensive facial expressions, such as:
- frowning or scowling
Meeting new people and introducing yourself.
Your first impression may be the difference between beginning a fruitful business partnership or finishing a one-off meeting. It’s really easy to make a negative first impression on others, even without recognising that you did it. It is a lot harder to make a good impression, so you will have to put some work into your introductions.
Making a good first impression
The way you introduce and present yourself gives people the first impression of you. Most people start forming an opinion within 3 seconds, and these judgments can be difficult to change.
When we introduce ourselves to another, we suggest that we’re interested in developing some kind of ongoing partnership for mutual benefit. There are three sections of our introductions:
- the handshake (often, but not always)
- introducing yourself
- moving into a conversation.
Your introduction should inform people who you are and invite people to connect with you. You need to sell yourself and feel secure when you’re doing so because that’s going to put everyone at ease.
When you present yourself, apart from your name, you should consider including:
- Your job or your title
- Your trade, your business or your industry
- A short overview of your organisation
- A ‘memory hook’ (quick, ear-catching phrase people are likely to remember)
- A value statement of one specific product or service that you sell.
The length of your introduction will depend on the circumstances of your introduction. It shouldn’t be too long, and it’s possible to incorporate those items, such as your business and your benefit statement.
Try to speak out plainly and smile, to make eye contact with the person you’re referring to. Using a bit of humour can make people feel better, but remember that some types of humour are offensive.
If the introduction doesn’t go according to plan, cultural differences could be one factor. Every culture has a different way of meeting people in business situations.
Here are three examples of how the traditional business practises of other cultures contrast with those used in Australia:
A handshake is considered to be very important in Brazil. A lot of small talk is likely to take place before the meeting starts properly, and the tone set can be very important to the development period of the relationship.
Meetings in Russia are also very formal, organised and intense. Many Russian negotiators agree that a formal meeting is a serious matter and should be handled accordingly. Humour is seldom used in such serious circumstances.
A Formal exchange of business cards is taking place in China at the outset of the first meeting. The respect that you show to the card is equal to the respect that you show to the person.
Written Communication For Business
Communication is important in business. The use of differing communication channels like social media, email, and text messaging between management and the team, communication with the customer, employees and also between team members.
Most of the business contact you indulge in may only include letters and emails. While there is less need to think on your feet than in conversation, writing well for business is no less important if you want your business relationships to last.
Many of the skills required during conversation can also be extended to written communication, such as the ability to ask questions and to use the right tone. You should be explicit about what you ask or say to another person, especially if your written communication needs follow-up action.
Formal language in written communication
It can be important to use the correct degree of formality in your written correspondence. Factors to be considered include:
Your personal relationship with the recipient
If you have not met the client or your meetings have only been held in a formal business setting, it is acceptable to remain formal in the form of letters and emails. If you have formed a friendship already with the receiver, you can be more casual, but make sure you keep a business-focused contact at hand.
The purpose of the communication
For example, if you follow up a transaction to confirm that a customer is satisfied with their purchase, you do not have to be as formal as if you were making a complaint or speaking with anyone for the first time.
Note that in some cases emails will switch back and forth between parties quickly. It is important to measure the tone of each email carefully. If the other party transitions to a more casual style while you stay rigidly formal, you will lose the opportunity to cultivate a more informal and cooperative relationship. Equally, being too casual too soon can in certain cases be seen as rude.
Rules of writing formally and informally
Some general rules for writing in each tone include the following:
Formal writing prevents contractions such as ‘you’re’ and ‘don’t.’
Informal writing may include more colloquialism and slang, such as ‘tons of’ instead of ‘many.’
Formal writing is less likely to use abbreviations, preferring ‘television’ to ‘TV,’ for instance.
Informal writing is more likely to use simple straight sentences, whereas more formal speech prefers longer sentences and more complex sentences.
It’s safe to apply the rules of conversation to writing. Generally, you can be more formal in your written correspondence than you would be in your conversation.
Choosing to send a letter or email
Letters are becoming increasingly scarce in the corporate world because of the speed and ease of email communication. You can only send letters if there is a clear need to do so, as the recipient has stated that they do not want to use email or that they do not have the means to communicate electronically. Alternatively, a letter may be needed, but you may be able to connect it to an email for a quick receipt.
It is common to use letter conventions such as ‘Dear…’ and ‘Yours sincerely’ in emails, although the latter is increasingly being replaced by ‘Kind regards.’
Style and grammar
Make sure you check your text and correct any spelling or grammatical errors. This is especially important when writing emails. It is more unforgivable to make such errors in an era of automatic spelling and grammar checkers.
If you don’t know the spelling of any words, there are a lot of online dictionaries you can use. Note that there might be variations between British spelling and spelling used in other countries-you should be sure to use British spelling in all your written communications.
Written Business Communication Channels You Could Use?
There are a lot of business communication channels you could use to be able to communicate effectively with both your customers and your employees. Without effective written communication solutions in place, it could be difficult to communicate with those you need to. Your company and employees would benefit from using the following written communications channels:
- Social Media
- Newspaper Articles
- Effective SEO
- A good website design
- An internal workplace communication network for your team