Talking Like Humans in Business

Right across my City right now, you’ll hear the excited groans and enthusiastic eye rolling that grips the city at local election time. I know – politics is likely to get you as excited as talking about soil density or tax, but bear with me here.

As a working mum who had just got my 3 year old down to bed for the night, I decided to let my hair down… and crack open the electoral ballot envelope.

Unlike other years, we’d been spoiled for choice in terms of candidates – nearly 4 times as many nominees as roles up for grabs. As I unfolded the 2 sided poster sized ballot paper and start deciding who would get my tick against their name, my eyes scanned the blurbs of the people crazy enough enthusiastic to throw their hand up for public office. It wasn’t long before something became very apparent; either some of these candidates had been abducted and replaced by robots – or – they have in fact forgotten how to speak like/to human beings!

You see, business, just like politics, is all about people and your ability to communicate your message effectively to your audience (read: your lovely customers), and your success can depend heavily on this. Ever noticed when friends, family, customers ask you about your business and suddenly you’re as pumped up as a kid on Christmas morning; your passionate, eloquent speech could quite possibly win you an Oscar. So why is it when a stranger asks us the dreaded “what is it that you do?”, our brains go into shutdown and we morph into Spock; these over thought, dulled down, unnatural sounding words start falling out of our mouth? Yes, it happens to the even best of us.

Back to the doona sized ballot paper. In what was essentially the candidate’s elevator pitch – the 150 or so words that preceded their names and photos – was their shot at convincing the voter that they were the right person to represent them, their concerns and interests in office. Quite a number of these cyborg’s candidate’s blurbs read at best like LinkedIn profiles; 150 clinically toned words of credentials, affiliations and memberships. Others, simply a paragraph of empty self-endorsement and cringeworthy name dropping. Insert facepalm here. How can you represent the people if you can’t speak to them? Similarly, how can we serve our customers if we can’t communicate clearly with them?

Many of us who have been in business (even for a little while) will understand that your communication should primarily be all about your audience/customer, and not all about you. Fortunately, there were many other candidates (and the ones who ultimately get my vote) who spoke to me and many others I know; earning our trust to act and speak on our behalf, through relating their story, sharing their passion and motivation, examples of their dedication and commitment, and their vision and plans for the future. Are these the same sorts of elements you look for when deciding whether a service or business is right for you?

We all know that politics and business often do walk hand in hand, and despite how brain numbing dry the topic may be, there are many lessons and principles we can draw from both:

  • Business is not in fact all about business, it is all about people.
  • No connection in business = no sales. No connection in politics = no votes.
  • People (vote for, and) do business with people they like and trust.

A group called Marketeer did a survey which found 68% of people spend more with businesses who they perceive have a higher personal value, more than a higher business value. This is to say, they spend more of their hard earned with people they value, then they necessarily do with well-known brands or businesses with perceived high value. Have you ever changed companies or stopped spending money with a business once an employee there you really connected with has left? My message to you is very simple: Know who you are talking to and why. You are the expert in your niche, so speak your audience/customer’s language. I am a firm believer that authenticity is the most important asset a business and business person can have (perhaps even more so in small business!). Therefore, aim to:

  • Be of service and build relationships, rather than make sales. If you look to solve their problems, offer them a helpful solution, share common goals, look for win/win partnerships and build relationships, sales will come organically.
  • Communicate for your audience. Communication isn’t in sending a message; it’s in how it is received. What does your audience ultimately care about? What do they value? How will you make their lives/businesses better? If you can’t put yourself in their shoes (because sometimes we are not the target market of people we serve), ask someone who is a potential customer/audience member and ask them for their feedback on your message.
  • Be unashamedly you. You are what sets you apart from your competitors. Many of us sell comparable or the same products or services as another, but there isn’t two of you. So communicate authentically, with passion and with personality. Don’t be a robot (unless of course robots are your target audience/ideal customer!).

Our words are powerful.  

Wishing you the very best in finding the words that give your customers meaning (and hoping you have more exciting Wednesday night’s than mine!).

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