Strengthening your communication skills gives you the opportunity to build close relationships where there is loyalty, support, and a beautiful balance of understanding. What’s more, as you understand others better, you’re able to gain insight into their reasons behind their thoughts and actions. Knowing what makes someone tick helps you predict and adapt to how he or she will react. Through your communication skills, you’re able to change the course of your conversations. And, by communicating well, you can improve your relationships.
Successful communicators look for patterns. Recurring themes are found when you’re reading between the lines. They know that by listening, they’ll be able to hear what is said and, also, what goes unsaid. This is because as they are listening, they are taking note as to common triggers and preparing for them. They are responding to other’s needs through their messaging and showing thoughtful consideration for their concerns.
If you have been wondering how you can communicate better with others, these 5 skills will help you improve understanding and strengthen your relationships:
1. Framing for Different Personas
It’s all about the packaging! How your message is framed makes a difference when it comes to how others will respond. You’ll need to present your message in a way that is not only simple, but also clear as to what kind of response is expected. When you’re considering how to match your messaging to your personas, here’s the type of information you’re looking for:
What’s making him or her stuck?
What issues is she or he facing because of these problems?
What are his or her goals?
What are his or her fears and hesitations?
Why do they want what they want?
Why would they want your product or service?
Why would they not want your product or service?
How will your service match what your persona needs? This needs to be reflected in the messaging and touchpoints that you use.
In order to understand what your audience is looking for or why they are reacting a certain way, the easiest way to investigate is through asking them. But, if you want to get a sense of what they’re thinking and feeling, a less obvious way is through mirroring. When you’re sharing a message, watch for reactions. Pay attention to visual cues and feedback.
Variations in behaviors will show you whether you’re evoking any emotions. Watching for reactions will help you understand where trigger points are — whether positive or negative. Being able to figure out what’s actually reaching others gives you the ability to connect in a way that matters and you’ll know how to get a response.
You can then refine your message by adjusting your tone and the words you choose in order to provide what others are looking for. As you adjust, you’ll be able to test for reactions to see if you’re getting close. Consider why your changes are or are not working and you’ll gain a deeper understanding.
Some things to consider:
Trace steps of the service and how emotions change
What are the touchpoints this person will encounter
How will emotions change?
Mirroring is a matter of responding to your audience in a way that shows you understand and you’re listening. You’re matching what they’re looking for by paying attention to their cues. You already offer what they need. But, you’re meeting them where they’re at. This is super important. You have the experience and the big picture thinking to see how you’re able to meet your audiences needs through all of your products and services.
So, by mirroring, you’re matching their need and adjusting based on what they’re looking for in order to better serve them. Your messaging may change so that you’re not overwhelming them. Or, your messaging may change in order to bond with them. That way, you’re finding common ground and understanding. Perhaps this may lead to finding analogies to help them understand complicated information better. Or, perhaps it may lead to creating more Know, Like and Trust.
3. Functional Empathy
Empathy is the ability to see something from another person’s point-of-view and consider how they’re feeling (and why). Empathy can range from being able to feel what others feel, to understanding the reasons behind why someone feels the way they do, to relating back to others with shared experiences or thoughts. If you’re looking to communicate better, think about how others are feeling during the flow of your interaction.
By looking at where people are getting distracted or no longer engaging with you, you’ll find out what’s no longer relevant to them. This is where they stop caring. Knowing how to hold attention and avoid a drop-off is especially helpful because you can better plan your conversations, messaging and experiences. Talk it out and imagine yourself as this person to work that empathy muscle. We’ll talk more about this a little later.
As you’re building out the steps of your potential customer’s experience, some of the ways in which you can better understand your audience include a number of emotional angles.
After getting clear on what you’re selling and the customers you want to attract, you can begin thinking about reasons why they want what they want and what kinds of emotions they’re going though. From thinking about questions ranging from what they frustrated with to why they don’t they like what they don’t like, you’ll be able to understand the emotions that are associated with their problems. Maybe it’s overwhelm or uncertainty that your potential customer if facing. Think about it — how can you adapt your messaging to show you understand what they’re going through and how can you solve their problem?
Once you’re able to understand your audience and you’ve discovered ways to connect with your potential customers, you’ll need to actually make the connection. And, to do this, you’ll need to build your relationship. How do you build a relationship with a potential customer? Well, that happens through bonding and relating to each other and showing each other that you have something in common.
By practicing your storytelling skills, you’re able to engage others in a way where they’re interested in hearing more and give more detail into how you can help your potential customer. Through stories, you’re able to share anecdotes, lessons and information in a way that’s easier to connect with. You can show how you can help someone by explaining how you’ve helped someone else in a similar situation. It’s an excellent way to create more connection and share information that is easy-to-relate-to; not to mention, build excitement!
With so much information competing for your audience’s attention, you’ll be able to draw in and hold an audience’s attention. A compelling story can be memorable and inspire others to share their own stories. Through sharing these stories, you’ll be able to build and develop more understanding and insight into other people’s experiences.
Branding even goes beyond showing your audience who you are and what you’re like. It’s also a matter of creating real estate in your audience’s minds. Your audience may know, like, and trust you… but will they remember you?
How can you establish a memorable brand through storytelling?
Well, here’s an example…
When you think of it, superheroes are like brands in many ways. In fact, superheroes ARE brands executed perfectly. All superheroes are good. All superheroes fight for good. But what differentiates a billionaire who likes to build high-tech suits of armor from a billionaire who likes to dress himself in a high-tech batsuit? Or a god who shoots lightning bolts from his fists from a man who runs as fast as lightning?
Simple. They all have interesting backstories. Not only that, but they all have distinct costumes that adhere to certain color palettes. They have symbols to represent them. They even use catchphrases that only they use (can you say “Smaaaash” without thinking of the Hulk?)
We are all magnetized towards superheroes. But, it isn’t simply because of their powers. What makes superheroes more appealing to the audience are the flaws that each superhero has. These flaws are what makes these heroes relatable to the audience. But more than than, these avatars of freedom and justice represent the innate ability of each and every one of us, as humans, to strive for self-development and self-improvement. They are the versions of us that are able to surmount the obstacles that bar our path to attaining the best versions of ourselves.
Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that while the Superman comics sold about a billion copies each year in the 1940’s, by the 1980’s, sales had plummeted to a paltry 175 million copies. It was during this period in the comic books that Superman was so overpowered that he could juggle planets, turn back time, and perform other feats that would simply be considered God-like. This created a rift between the hero and the intended audience because of his flawlessness and perfect morality. The audience could no longer relate to him.
But what saved the Superman franchise, and the comic book industry as whole, was the introduction of the Dark Age of Comic Books. This trend began in 1986 as a collective move by comics books to adapt darker, grittier storylines. In the case of Superman, this came with the introduction of Kryptonite (as we know is his only weakness). Depending on the color of the space rock, Superman would be weakened or mutated. Gold Kryptonite could even remove his superpowers – permanently.
As a result, people began buying comic books again. People like flawed characters because they can easily relate to them. After all, what is a hero if not someone who surmounts limitations to bring about the greater for all?
Now that you have a brand, a superhero if you will, you’ll need to make a profound story and a compelling mission for your brand.
At the most basic level, you have to determine the type of category of non-profits your organization would fall into. What keywords represent your organization? Categorizing and sub-categorizing parts of your organization makes it easy for your audience to understand the nature of your organization. By comparing it to other organizations in similar categories and determining what sets it apart, your audience can remember what makes you different and ultimately conclude that supporting your organization is their best option.
When you’re working on solidifying your brand story, always think in terms of simplicity and consistency, and in terms of disruption.
Make it clear who you are and what you do, why you’re different or what you’re doing differently to make a greater impact than what your supporters can individually do. This can be shown through your messaging and design, along with your tone and personality. The headlines, copy, typography, and imagery are what catch and hold your audience’s attention and draw them in to find out more.
Strong design will create a hierarchy of information that guides your audience through your content so that you can control the order in which they read information. Through placement, size, contrast, and style, the typography can show which text is most dominant and important. Structure affects the reader’s understanding and reaction to your messaging.
Once your audience knows you and your actual content, the style of your design will help them determine if they like you. In your content, you can connect with your audience by demonstrating the meaningful traits of your organization and by describing what drives its purpose. You can show them what it’s like to be part of your organization and by strengthening your relationships through lead-nurturing.
5. Receptive Language
Take note of where the people you’re talking with are coming from. If you’re speaking about one thing, but it’s completely different from what they need, they’ll quickly check out. But by encouraging responses through selective phrasing and questions, you’ll be able to determine if you’re understanding them properly.
If they continue to stay engaged, you’re on the right track when it comes to reflecting their interests. Your language and choice in words can encourage feedback and open-ended responses. These types of responses will help you find out if your audience can relate to what you’re saying. And, using the information you gather will help you determine what resonates best. As you genuinely show you care and take interest in others, you’ll find that others appreciate your interest.
It’s important to consider the tone of your content and style of your messaging because it affects your brand. The rhetoric an organization uses is an extension of your reputation. Pay close attention to your interactions with your community.
How is your grammar? Are you polite? Are you responsive?
I know you may be thinking: “My interactions are good enough.” Although that is quite possible, would you rather see what improvements you can make to delight your audience?
This tone and style also comes across through email marketing. People loathe when others try to sell them something. They need to feel like they have made a decision on their own. This means that it’s important to establish credibility before you begin to offer your products or services.
As we talk about using receptive language, let’s go back to thinking about personas and our plan for communicating with different groups of people.
Who are you looking to connect with? What are some of the clear distinctions between different groups within your audience? Can you identify different location areas or age groups to start out with? Looking at demographics is one way to segment. As you collect more information, you can segment further based on audience behavior and preferences.
What kind of customer profiles can you come up with? Think about what the people in your audience have in common. What does someone in each of your smaller groups look like? Can you give this person a name? What would it be?
The more that you’re able to familiarize yourself with your audience, the more specific you can be in your messaging and the more you can adapt your tone and style to receive the types of responses your looking for.
So lets wrap up.
You have your basics of your lead generation sales process which we’ve covered and the structure of the steps involved. We’ve talked about personas and then a plan to better connect with your audience.
One last point that I want to leave you with is that if you’re looking to nurture your leads, then organizing your data and analyzing your audience will help you see how you can segment and provide relevant information for your audience. A robust customer management system will connect with your website and enable you to collect information that you can later use to provide improved services, targeted marketing, personalized mailings, and overall better customer relations.
Your data will give you the insight you need to define and refine your lead generation process.
Your process may change over time as you acquire new data and get a better sense of what your prospects are looking for.
Developing your communication and lead generation skills will give you the ability to better relate to others, develop more loyalty, and build stronger relationships, all while increasing internal and external awareness and uncovering underlying needs to better serve your customers.
I wish you lots of luck connecting with your customers and building a brand to remember.