The recent Wall Street meltdown is a wake-up call for leaders in every industry. In difficult times it is critical for leaders to communicate with clarity, certainty and confidence.
A leader with exceptional communication skills can calm frazzled nerves, articulate an effective plan and inspire confidence and certainty in that plan.
A leader with infinite insight yet average communication skills can appear inept.
In uncertain times leaders need to step up and face the music/audience. Take a look around and see who is out there communicating with the public about our current conundrum. Watch the Senate hearings, the Presidential debates or the talking heads and executives on TV. As an exercise, evaluate their communication skills. What do their communication skills say about their expertise, experience, believability and ability to lead?
Business is a contact sport.
We're seeing it in just about every industry. Companies are pairing back, retrenching, cutting the fat, battening down the hatches, restructuring and doing everything they can to spend less money.
Opportunities for new business are not as abundant. There are more companies competing for less assignments. It seems that the competition is willing to give away their services to win business.
In these times, less than exceptional communication skills are costly. Those who possess exceptional communication skills maintain a significant competitive advantage.
Tough times demand a greater effort to clearly define your message and articulate the value you bring to your clients.
Three tips for communicating in a challenging economy:
1) Don't retreat. Reach out.
Keep in touch with clients and prospects even if there is no immediate financial benefit to you; ESPECIALLY if there is no immediate benefit for you.
The financial service industry conducted a survey 6-8 months after the stock market crash of 1987. The survey asked investors who had left their financial consultant (FC) to list the reasons they had done so. The #1 reason was not, "bad advice," "poor investment choices" or "I lost money." The #1 reason investors left their financial consultant was, "Lack of communication."
Many FCs were frozen by the crash, stunned by the drop and afraid to contact their clients. Many didn't know what they could possibly say.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 30% over over 4 trading days. That would be the equivalent of about a 3500 point drop in today's market.
The truly professional FCs were on the phone immediately, communicating with clients, listening, discussing concerns and considering strategies. These FCs gained a level of client trust not achieved by the "frozen consultants."
2) It's not about you. It's about what you can do for them.
Every call you make is an opportunity to find out more about the client or prospect. Listen intently to their concerns. Put yourself in their shoes. Work to understand their issues and challenges. Only then can you add value.
3) Be prepared.
Don't waste an opportunity. Organize your message and make contact. Good things will happen.
Delivering an exceptional presentation does not guarantee a win every time. But you should never lose because your presentation was less than exceptional.
In a difficult economy, business is harder to come by. Make every contact, every interaction and every presentation count.
And remember: Every time you open your mouth to speak, you are a public speaker.