We have all been on the receiving end of poor communication - yet we all like to think that we are brilliant communicators. Even the best of us stuff up our communication at times (puts hand up and holds up a sign saying "Yep... me too!").
It's a Systems Problem
Often communications issues are systems problems, rather than people problems. You don't intend to be deliberately vague or to hide information. You just miss a step or forget some vital information.
The trick is to create a system to help you remember what you wanted to do, say and share. A communications checklist and standardised templates reminds you of all of the steps to follow and all the things you need to consider. It helps you to standardise your procedures, so that you deliver consistently great service every time.
But aren't checklists boring?
I'm a creative. Following checklists in my world is about as comfortable as asking me to dance the Rhumba with two left shoes. But I also know that without my checklists and templates, that I take up time trying to reinvent wheels that I could spend creating.
Over the past few years, every time I get feedback about a communication issue or problem, I go back and refine my system to help stop that happening again. I have all my templates saved as either Word templates or Outlook templates - so I can quickly whip up a response as needed.
So for me, checklists and templates are short-cuts or life-hacks rather than hand-cuffs or life-limits. They are the written version of, "Here's one I prepared earlier."
Communications checklists & templates
Let's take a sales process for a typical service business or trade. You can create communications checklists & templates for each stage of your sales process.
- First contact - Templates of FAQs and answers. What do you want your prospect to know? How can you demonstrate your expertise, skill and give them a taste of what it is like to work with you?
- Proposal/Quote - A template pre-filled with as much standard content as you can - but allowing for project specific information to be dropped in. Having this on your system will mean faster turnaround on your quotes.
- Quote Follow Up Process - How you follow up quotes if the client doesn't respond to the quote, or if they say no.
- Project confirmation - How you confirm the project, reinforce the buying decision by the client, and help them understand next steps and any information that you need or actions you need them to do.
- Commencement invoices - Invoices shouldn't just be about the money.
- Project updates - Templates for updating clients at least weekly on where things are at with their project.
- Stage completion updates - Conclusion of stages or project phase templates.
- Completion invoices - Again, this shouldn't just be about the money.
- Project completion - Information to complete a project, or to sign-off on the tasks.
- Feedback/testimonial requests - Build this into your client process rather than doing them once a year.
- Keeping in touch - Your processes to regularly touch base with past clients.
Communication clarification questions
Your business may not use all of these sales process steps. But you will definitely have at least some of these in your business. Pick one step where you have been stumbling with your communication and ask yourself:
- What do my clients need to know and do right now?
- What information do I need to provide at this step?
- Do the words I am currently using at this step reflect my brand and the experience of what it will be like to work with me?
- Are these the most powerful words I can use?
If you systematise your communications, you will remove many of the communications stumbling blocks - and you can get on with being the business rock star that you are.