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Being a great communicator is probably the number one skill you can have as an entrepreneur. In fact, in an interview with CNBC’s “Make It,” Warren Buffet said he only has one diploma hanging in his office: the communication diploma he obtained from Dale Carnegie in 1952. If Buffet attributes his success to converting -I’m a great communicator, I’m everywhere.
Communication with your customers is important throughout your relationship. But it is especially critical when you are engaged or bought for the first time. Those early interactions set the tone. They can build trust and loyalty, or they can leave people irritated and confused.
Here are some tips to improve this initial interaction.
Speak your language
Learn to communicate in your client’s language. I don’t mean translating from English to Swahili (although depending on your business, this may be important). It’s about translating what you know in a way that anyone unfamiliar with the industry or topic can understand.
Each industry has its own language. I specialize in digital marketing, so terms like search engine optimization (SEO), ad extensions, conversion rates, and pay-per-click (PPC) are part of my daily conversation. But most of my new clients and students have no idea when they start with me. When accountants talk about ESOP or GAAP, or architects mention fenestration and tectonics, most of us are lost.
Unless you’re talking to another professional in your field, avoid industry terms and acronyms. The language of the industry doesn’t make you look smarter. It makes you feel like you don’t care if the person you’re talking to understands or not.
Related: Change your way of speaking to change your mindset and unlock your potential
Communicate about your process or product
Regardless of the type of business you have, you have certain processes that you take for granted. The product you offer has features that are familiar to you, but your customer may not understand them.
For example, real estate is second nature to me. It took me a while to realize that running through our process of selling a home in a three minute presentation was not really communicating it to customers. Everything was new to them. I learned that I had to take time and break it all down, because they don’t have my experience and they don’t know what I know.
Customers or clients may treat you infrequently, or perhaps only once. How often will someone come to you to handle their divorce (hopefully not so often)? How many times will you need to design your landscaping or train your business through a merger?
And for many industries, process and technology can change a lot over time. A friend of mine used rental cars all the time traveling on business, but that was a few years ago. When he recently rented a car, he didn’t even know how to turn on the damn thing. I didn’t know that the headlights come on automatically, or that the car turns off automatically at the traffic light and comes back on when you hit the gas. He had been driving cars for many years, but the technology had changed drastically. A few minutes of explanation in advance would have saved him a lot of frustration.
Related: Use this powerful persuasion method to keep customers coming back for more
Put on your shoes
Stop and think about what your customers may not know about your process or product. Maybe it’s how expensive the process will be, how long it will take, or how long it will take to participate. They may not know how much maintenance the product requires or how its special features work.
Remember what other customers have questioned or misunderstood. Are they usually surprised when the bill arrives? Do customers often call you saying that the product “doesn’t work” because they don’t know how to work it?
Maybe it has to do with the results they were expecting. Clearing expectations from the outset will save you and your customers a lot of headaches. If your wrinkle-reducing cream doesn’t show results for six weeks, say so. If you are giving your client a lot of homework between sessions, let them know in advance.
Related: 6 strategies for leaders ready to make magic happen in 2022
Explain and then repeat
Consider going to a doctor’s office and getting a diagnosis. Even if it’s not life threatening, your brain is so busy trying to absorb how it can affect your life that you lose 80% of what your doctor says. If they break it down to you, you might understand it right away. But as soon as you get home you realize you don’t quite understand what was said or what happens next.
The same goes for our clients and customers. Even if you take it easy the first time, you can’t expect your customers to hold back from everything you tell them. They often smile and nod, but once they walk out that door, they are full of questions. Have you ever been out of a car dealership after the seller told you all the bells and whistles on your new car? How many could you really remember five days later?
I create videos for my clients to remind them of what is expected during each phase of both my coaching and my real estate business. You can make quick videos to show the features of your products and how to use them. You can create written tracking pieces. Just make sure the writing is clear, concise, and not full of unnecessary details.
Your first communications are critical to your ongoing relationship with your customer. When you take the time to put yourself in their shoes and speak their language, explain your process clearly, and continue to follow up, this relationship is built on a solid foundation.
Related: How to develop lifelong customers