It’s no secret that skilled communication helps make someone an excellent businessperson. But why is it so important for entrepreneurs and other small business owners to master client communication?
Of course, quality communication is crucial to coming across as a professional who is experienced in their field.
However, the benefits are much more tangible than just maintaining professionalism. Not only does mastering clear communication benefit your clients, but it can also make your day-to-day job much, much easier.
Why You Should Value Effective Client Communication
Still need convincing?
Here are just a few concrete reasons you should care about your client communication skills and learn how to improve upon them:
It saves you time and money
If you want to run a successful business, you need to focus on the bottom line. And do you know what’s responsible for some of the most lost money in business? Wasted time.
Not knowing exactly what your client is looking for from your product or services is a recipe for frustration and gratuitous revisions.
Learning how to effectively communicate with your clients is the only surefire way to understand their needs, wants, and everything else involved in their project.
Otherwise, you’ll just be left playing a guessing game.
It leads to repeat business
Getting to the root of your client’s project will, of course, save you time and money. However, your client will also appreciate knowing that you fully understand their project.
When you show that you’re not just looking to do the bare minimum, but actually want to deliver exactly what the client needs, they’re likely to return to you when they have future projects. In fact, they might even refer their colleagues or friends to your services, as well.
On the other hand, though, leaving your client feeling unsure about their project’s trajectory is a great way to lose any future business from them or their professional network.
It improves the quality of your work
No matter the industry, you want the final product of your work to speak for itself. But if this final product isn’t what your client was looking for, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Even the flashiest products need to meet their customers’ needs. If they don’t, they’ll quickly fade into redundancy.
By filling your work portfolio with projects that clearly identified and addressed each client’s needs, you’re likely to see the overall quality of your work improve, as well.
After all, prospective clients don’t want to see how creative you can be for creativity’s sake. Instead, they want to know exactly how you’ll solve their problems.
7 Hacks to Instantly Improve Your Client Communication Skills
So, client communication is clearly one of the most important skills in any professional toolkit. But how do you take your communication skills from just alright to the best in the business?
Well, you can start by implementing these seven, surprisingly easy tips:
1. Practice active listening
Research shows that those with stronger listening skills, both in and outside of the workplace, tend to build better relationships with others and garner more respect from their colleagues. While these studies focus on more traditional office settings, strong listening skills are just as important, if not more so, in client communication.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of someone listening to what we’re saying while looking at something else or replying with a disinterested, “Uh-huh.”
Even if they hear every word, this behavior doesn’t make us feel like they care.
Active listening involves showing the speaker that you’re truly paying attention to what they have to say, both verbally and non-verbally. Some core principles of active listening include:
- Making eye contact
- Paraphrasing (or restating) back what was just said
- Asking clarifying questions
- Nodding in agreement
- Allowing someone to speak without interrupting
- Mirroring the speaker’s emotions
By practicing even just a few of these active listening techniques, you can improve your listening capacity and ensure that your client feels like you care about their project.
2. Embrace "No"
Few people in this world enjoy saying the word. Still, saying no to someone is a crucial part of any healthy relationship, including that between a business owner and a client.
If you want to improve your client communication skills, you’re going to need to learn the when and how of using this word.
Especially for entrepreneurs first starting out, it’s tempting to respond positively to everything a prospective or current client requests. But doing so can quickly land you in hot water.
First, it’s ultimately your job to steer your client’s project in the right direction.
While you should be receptive to all input given throughout the project, you also need to remember that your client hired you for a reason. If they ask for something that you know will get in the way of their goals, you need to speak up.
Second, letting yourself turn into a yes-man can hamper the quality of your work.
Of course, it’s natural to want to give your client everything they ask for. However, you need to know when to accept tasks and when to admit that you don’t have the knowledge or skills needed to complete them.
3. Use your manners
This tip should honestly be a given. But countless professionals fail to use basic manners when communicating with clients and vice-versa.
A simple “please” or “thank you” can go an extremely long way when it comes to your client communication. Even if you don’t find yourself answering your phone in the middle of a client meeting, you might be slipping up when it comes to your most basic manners.
Whether you’re communicating in-person, over the phone, or through email, always keep in mind that there’s a real person on the other side. With some luck, your client will do the same.
4. Ask questions
Above, we mentioned how asking questions can help improve your active listening skills. While this is true, asking questions is so important to client communication that it deserves a mention of its own.
When it comes to client communication, you should do your best never to assume anything. Instead, if you’re ever unsure about a comment or request, ask your client to clarify until you do.
On top of letting your client know that you’re listening and actually care about what they have to say, asking questions can offer much-needed information for your own sake.
You’ll also eventually come across a client that doesn’t want to open up about their goals or needs, instead expecting you to take the lead. When this happens (and it will), knowing the type of questions to ask of them will be an invaluable skill.
5. Add a personal touch
As an entrepreneur or small business owners, one of your greatest assets is your ability to build an individual relationship with each client.
No, this doesn’t mean you should be inviting clients over for dinner with your family or sending them personal gifts on their birthdays. But it does mean that you should take the extra step to connect with your clients and get to know them as people.
Whether you work alone or with a team, try sharing a little about yourself when first communicating with a client. Small details like where you went to school, what sports your kids play, or your favorite local restaurant can be all it takes to spark a real connection.
6. Choose the right channel
We live in an age where communication can mean countless different things. You could be speaking face-to-face, over the phone, or even just exchanging text messages.
One of the key aspects of effective client communication is knowing which communication channel to use. Except, the tricky part is that the right channel won’t always be the same.
For example, you probably shouldn’t schedule an in-person meeting to let your client know something minor about their project. On the other hand, though, you don’t want to drop a major issue on your client through a casual text message.
7. Be accommodating
On the subject of choosing how you communicate with your clients, you also need to take their comfort into consideration.
Not all people are entirely comfortable using technology like video calling or text messaging. Even if someone technically knows how to use these communication channels, their unease could interfere with your ability to communicate with them effectively.
When first getting to know a new client, consider asking them which communication methods they prefer for different situations. This is also a good time to establish appropriate contact hours for both yourself and your client.
Improve Communication From Start to Finish
When you consider the importance of quality client communication going forward, don’t limit your focus to your clients’ projects alone. In fact, maintaining clear communication from start to finish is crucial if you want to leave your clients feeling happy and confident in your work.
One of the most important, but also one of the hardest, factors in any client relationships is discussing and coordinating payment for your work. Fortunately, easy-to-understand invoicing can make this easier on both yourself and your clients.
At invoicely, we offer a range of invoicing and tracking services that can help make life just a little bit easier for entrepreneurs and other small business owners.
Learn more about how invoicely’s software can streamline communication between you and future clients.