Following up on a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a colleague, Sue worried that her communication skills wouldn’t be up to par.
My background is 25 years in admin. I feel I would be good as an Administrative Consultant, but my worry is effective communication skills with possible clients as in explaining processes, etc. —“Sue”
ME: Hi Sue. What kind of processes, in what context, do you worry about communicating?
SUE: Well, any process really. I sometimes have trouble verbally getting things across, so this worries me when trying to explain any processes from CRM to email systems.
ME: How about when it comes to the written word? Do you feel more at ease with that? Do you prefer one mode of communication over the other? Or is it communicating thoughts and ideas generally you feel you have trouble with?
I won’t mislead you. Excellent communication skills are extremely important in this industry. Everything we do in our work involves communication in one way or another. And you can’t be afraid of the phone or talking to clients. It’s a basic necessity for being in business.
That said, the great thing about our line of work and the way we deliver it is that we don’t necessarily have to talk to clients on the phone once we get past the initial stages of consultation and onboarding. Having a weekly telephone meeting is particularly beneficial with new retainer clients and something I strongly recommend during those first 3-6 months of working together. Beyond that, however, you can keep most or even all your communications to email if that’s what you prefer. It’s what I do in my own practice and it works just fine.
I’ve helped hundreds of colleagues over the years with this same issue. New people come into our industry, see others who are more advanced in their businesses, compare themselves unfavorably, and come to the conclusion that they must not be good communicators. They think everyone else they see is doing it so much better, that it comes much more easily to them.
But here’s the thing: with the exception of some naturally talented people, most of them didn’t come out of the gate like that. It’s the result of time spent honing, practicing and improving. Like any skill, communication is a muscle you can build and better and better at the more you practice.
In my observation and experience, nine times out of 10, it’s not that someone is a poor communicator, it’s simply that they’re unsure of themselves and lack confidence. After all, they’re doing something new that is equal parts exciting and daunting, and it’s pushing them outside their comfort zones. It’s natural to sort of trip over things when you don’t quite know what you’re doing yet and are still in the process of finding your feet.
The good news is that these are simple growing pains that everyone goes through and which can be alleviated with a helping hand and good guidance. It’s why I put together my business products and guides in the ACA Success Store. Instead of feeling your way around in the dark, these show you exactly how to proceed with consultations, what to say and do in them and when, how to set up your practice management for ease and dependability, how to price and package your support so that more clients say yes to working with you, and so forth.
Having a plan, an example, a blueprint/playbook, if you will, gives you the clarity to proceed confidently at every phase. This lends confidence to your communications. And each new interaction you have in your business with prospects and clients gives you valuable practice and you get better and better each time. In turn, your communication becomes more clear and straightforward because you don’t feel you are fumbling along doing something new.
SUE: I think that pretty much sums me up. I have always lacked confidence, and when nerves get the better of me, that’s when I stumble. I think this will help a great deal.
ME: I really feel like that’s all it is: new business jitters. Give yourself some credit! After all, you contacted me, a perfect stranger, out of the blue and didn’t have any trouble explaining yourself. Get yourself some of my guides so you have a roadmap to follow, and I think you’ll feel much more confident about how to proceed with things.
Are you new(er) in business? Can you relate to Sue’s situation? How did getting some guidance help you find your voice and confidence in your business?
My business benefitted tremendously with the creation of templates for the various service I offer. (I call them service agreements or statement of work.) The client loves them because they are absolutely clear of the services they will and will not get. This has helped to be more articulate during a sales presentation as well with my elevator speech.
Great point, Julie! Thanks for sharing.
There’s lots of information and communication in our businesses that is repetitive and can be systemized and standardized in various templates and documents so that you don’t always have to repeat the same things or have the same conversations over and over.
The bulk of the pressure I think is from the possibility of losing credibility, which is realistic. Danielle your points and suggestions would alleviate some of that potential, even if that’s not the primary reason for the steps you recommend.
Definitely agree with you, Deborah. 🙂
There are a lot of fears that paralyze people when they’re new in business. It’s normal to feel a bit of trepidation. None of us wants to say the wrong thing or feel foolish. I look back on a couple very vivid memories in my own business journey, and they still make my face turn red, lol.
We just need to remember not to let fear hold us hostage, to push past it and do what we need to do anyway. The alternative is to never take action, never grow as business owners and human beings, and never achieve what we dream of.
For anyone who struggles with fear holding them back, I have a blog post I wrote some time ago, but it’s a pretty popular one: Tell Fear to Take a Hike