Every word counts when it comes to business communication.
Whether it's verbal or written communication, you can easily lose the core idea of your message(s) depending on how you say them.
"How you say them" doesn't exclusively refer to the words you choose, although that's one of the most important factors. It refers to your tone of voice (on the phone, tone is 86% of our communication), the structure/order of your message, and how you position it in the conversation.
I am going to write two messages below that are trying to convey the same thing: highlight a specific part of a report that is important to the client.
- Hey John, because of your concern regarding the effectiveness of the content on your website, we think the most important metric in this marketing report to pay attention to is session duration, because it tells us how long users are staying on your site; this indicates more engagement with the content. Let us know what you think.
- Hey John, pay close attention to the "session duration" analysis in this report. This metric can help indicate how users are engaging with your content. Once you have a few minutes to digest it we'll walk you through what happens next based on that analysis.
Which one do you think is more effective? Keep it in mind. We'll dive into some tips on more effective business communication and revisit this later.
1. Make your point up-front
If you have a conclusion, say it as the first part of your message. Although this, in practice, is mainly for writing, it's equally as important in a verbal conversation.
Your audience (client, spouse, lizard, etc.) does not care about the justification of a conclusion they haven't heard yet. Plus, they may agree with your conclusion and the reasoning for it, so why talk more than you have to?
- Rookie: Google analytics and HubSpot don't seem to be saying the same thing for the bounce rate of this website, and I've checked multiple times. This has me concerned about the accuracy of the report.
- Pro: I'm doubting the accuracy of this report for a few reasons that we need to talk through.
The second message gets the point across from the beginning.
2. Simplify Your Message
Cut the fat from everything you're writing and saying.
One of my college writing professors told us to write a 10 page story by the next class. When we all turned in our papers, he ripped 3 pages out of each of our stories. He told us to tell the same story in 7 pages.
When we turned that product in, he ripped out 2 more pages, saying that, almost always, 50% of your original draft is fluffy bullshit. He taught us to say more with less by showing rather than telling.
This has surprising relevance in the corporate world.
People are tired of workplaces saturated with bullshit. A report by IABC states that only 21% of business communicators keep their language simple and jargon-free. I'm sure when you scroll through your inbox or tune in to your conference calls you feel like that number is even lower.
3. The Lion Doesn't Ask the Lamb for Food
When you are in the position of offering your expertise as a service, selling a prospect, or proposing a solution, do not lessen the impact of what you are saying by ending your conclusion and supporting statements with "So what do you think?" or "How does that sound?"
In our industry, the client is paying for our expertise in Inbound Marketing. What they aren't paying for is you to ask them what they think about your expert opinion.
- Rookie: Here is the first draft of email copy for the nurturing campaign we'd like to launch next month. Please review and let us know what you think.
- Pro: Here is the email copy for the upcoming nurturing campaign. Take a quick look and we'll talk through what happens next in this week's call.
The second message is more confident and shows them that you know what you're doing.
Again, this technique is useful in both writing and verbal communication. Like I mentioned earlier in this post, tone of voice is 86% of a phone call. Using sales as an example, a lead will not buy from a salesperson asking them how they are doing with their pitch.
4. Humanize your messages
Talk and write to the person across the line like a human.
Thesaurus words do not show confidence or intelligence. Most of the time they make you look like an ass.
A study by a researcher at Princeton University confirmed a negative relationship between complexity of words and judged intelligence. The study's participants found that the more they could understand what was being communicated, the more intelligent they considered the message.
It shouldn't be shocking that people respond better to messages they understand.
Good business communication is, at it's core, effective communication. Articulate your messages with clarity, whether they are on paper or over the phone.
A strong, simple message is far more effective than a complex message that doesn't get the point across.
So, looking back at the message examples shown in the beginning of this post, would you choose #1 or #2? Was it the same as the one you chose originally? (Hint: It's #2.)
Our expertise is strongest in the inbound marketing world, and effective communication is at the foundation of what we do. If you can't make a buyer understand what you sell, you won't sell it.
If you have any questions about improving your business communication, or simplifying the marketing messaging of your products, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation.