Communication skills impact your success. Discover how they help you get your business development career to the next level.
Communication appears in different forms and shapes and it’s an essential part of our lives. Especially in a business environment, where the way we communicate can have significant effects on our outcomes.
How many times did you feel your conversation was not really going great? Not to talk about all the times in which we had a great comeback…but a bit too late!
The good news is that you can get rid of some ineffective communication habits and become a better communicator. After all, communication can really open new opportunities, help us establish relationships, and eventually support our growth. All in all, it’s very important to work on your communication skills!
Keep reading to discover 9 communication skills that will make help you get your message across and become a more successful business development pro.
1. Emotional intelligence
Before diving into communication skills, let’s take a moment to talk about the famous “Emotional Intelligence”. For those of you who are not very familiar with it, it’s basically the ability to understand and manage your own emotions.
As Daniel Goleman once said that “If you are tuned out of your own emotions, you will be poor at reading them in other people.” The bottom line is that you can’t be good communicator if you are not fully aware of how you are as an individual.
Being a good communicator means that you’re able to read the other person and adapt to them. This is not really possible if you don’t understand yourself and your emotions first.
So, how can you practice your emotional intelligence? You can start by trying this simple exercise.
Take a step back, and think of one of your interactions that didn’t make you feel very proud. When doing so, think about the emotions and feelings you had during that specific situation. Did you feel overstressed? Or maybe nervous or even angry? Write down your findings and repeat the same exercise for similar past experiences.
Most likely, you will identify a behavioral pattern that will help you become more self-aware and conscious of the way you react to your emotions. Moreover, the very fact of knowing yourself will make you much more attentive to the way other people react to certain scenarios.
Some people are naturally considerate and wise in their interactions with others, for the rest of us, it’s important to focus on these skills and keep improving!
But why is emotional intelligence such a crucial asset in your business development career?
I could bring you countless examples, but let’s stick to the basics! Business Development is pretty much a job focused on the relations with people and it’s important to really understand the people you’re dealing with. I don’t mean understanding what job they do, but really what type of people they are. What is it that really shakes your stakeholders and how can you be sensitive to it?
If you learn to understand other people on a profound level but also ask for your needs, it will get easier to develop trust, relations, and respect.
A bonus exercise is to get inspiration from people that you admire. I am sure you know someone successful in what they are doing. If you have the possibility, observe how they express themselves or learn something about their success stories.
If you manage a business development team and would like to upskill them, visit our corporate training for teams.
2. Pay attention to nonverbal communication
When we talk about communication skills, people tend to focus on words and spoken communication. But nonverbal communication is just as important in a professional environment.
In work life, you probably face it almost every day. Especially in negotiations, it can be an advantage if you can control your verbal cues and read them to others. Start by paying attention to the signals you send to others.
It probably sounds like a basic rule, but do you maintain eye contact while talking to others? When you do that you show interest in what the other has to tell and this will help build rapport.
Different situations call for different facial expressions and a simple grimace can say a lot about what the other person is actually thinking. The same goes for your posture, your tone of voice, as well as keeping personal space.
If you become more aware of your behavior, you can learn to adapt.
Are you ready to read the room? Whenever you are in a conversation, pay close attention to which signals your counterparts sends. Unless the other person is not really showing his/her true self.
For example, I’m more of an introvert. So when I just started my career, I had a hard time maintaining eye contact. I was very nervous and I tried very hard to look professional, so I put on a rather emotionless face. However, that backfired as people perceived me as a very serious person.
At some point, I moved abroad and I realized I wouldn’t have my childhood friends to support me anymore. This motivated me to go out there and push myself to meet new people and be less introverted. I started going to networking events where I would really exercise my nonverbal communication and improve the way I relate to people.
When you meet open-minded people, in casual, non-stressful surroundings, you have an easier time to test your skills. If you get to know someone new in such settings, you are more motivated to show yourself your truth. In my experience, it truly helped me practice my nonverbal communication skills.
Of course, there are many ways to practice but the point is: get out there and be more mindful when you’re in a conversation with someone else.
Gestures can say more than words!
3. Be an effective listener
Communication skills also include actually listening to your interlocutor. Poor listening habits are often a significant problem in today’s communication. Have you ever caught yourself lost in your thoughts while someone else was talking? Or did you notice people didn’t give you full attention while you shared your news, ideas, or opinion?
If we don’t listen carefully, we can really mess up our relations. We convey inattention but also a lack of interest. People like to be heard and listened to when they share their message. You can surely make a positive difference with active listening.
I sometimes catch myself waiting for the conclusion, while I ignored the valuable information already mentioned in the conversation. It happened often in my private and professional life and it wasn’t nice having to ask for the information again.
The good thing is, we can practice it every day. Whenever you are in a conversation, keep your mind open to what the other has to say. Try to listen actively until the speaker finishes. Don’t start to interrupt unless the other asks for your input. It can disturb the flow.
If you want to get the most value out of a conversation, pay attention as much as possible.
There is another obvious point that is still happening all the time. People lose attention when their phone shows any notifications. Be ahead of that and put any distracting devices out of reach and sight. It makes it already a bit easier to gather your full attention.
Active listening also includes engagement. Does the speaker pause and ask for advice, thoughts, ideas, or questions? That is the right moment to show you have actively listened and shared your message or pose relevant questions.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where we need to follow a conversation that may not align much with our interests. Especially if it’s something work-related that you don’t really like.
Well, it doesn’t change much: be present and give attention anyways!
4. Know when to be assertive
Can you recall a conversation where you were a customer and had to deal with a pushy salesperson? Perhaps you felt pressured about it. For many people, it causes more stress or compulsive buying than a genuine desire to purchase.
In situations like that, it can be much more beneficial to take a step back and consider an assertive but not intrusive approach. Assertiveness is a valuable skill when used judiciously.
It basically means standing up for yourself, but in a calm way that takes into account the other person’s emotions. In a way, it’s an alternative to being aggressive or passive.
Let’s take negotiations as an example. The goal of every negotiation is to get the fairest outcome for all the parties involved. In such cases, neither passive behavior nor aggressive one is ideal for steering the talk in the right direction. Therefore, the best way to get your best outcome is to use an assertive approach.
Depending on the situation, either one or both sides want to know where the conversation moves to. You want to understand whether you will close a deal or part ways. It is where being assertive can help to understand the state of affairs on both sides. For instance, insist on knowing a specific date for the decision-making. It is neither aggressive nor flaccid but sets a clear deadline for both.
Knowing when to be assertive isn’t always easy, but if you master it, you can use valuable competence in many situations.
5. Be clear and cohesive
Communication skills also include the ability to make your point clearly, without requiring too much time from your interlocutor. Many of us are busy during work time and aim to work efficiently. For this reason, it makes sense to think about how effective our communication is on different channels.
When you communicate, you want others to get your point. You prepared for the topic, but what else does it take to be effective? An explicit, direct message. Let me share an example from my experience.
In my early days, I used to write really long emails as I wanted to share anything that might help get my message across. However, I realized it was hardly successful. In fact, people just didn’t have time to email and eventually, the conversation just got lost.
When you think about it, communicating in a clear and concise way brings a lot of benefits. Your interlocutor is more likely to pay close attention to what you are saying eventually having a better understanding of your intentions and objectives.
A good way to exercise is to practice it in small, daily situations with friends, colleagues, or family. Don’t forget to ask for feedback.
The more you practice, the easier it gets, and you can use it to your advantage in crucial situations.
6. Be open-minded
Can you sometimes not wait to share your opinion or ideas? We all know that feeling. Of course, we want to show our interest, our passion, and engagement.
Imagine a circumstance where you negotiate, and meet new clients or colleagues. Do you feel like you need to get your message across? Keep in mind that it often takes more on top of that to get the full value out of conversations.
Remind yourself of how important it is to be open to what others are sharing with you. As discussed before, it involves active listening. It is essential to understand someone else’s perspective.
Why is it so important to be receptive to new things?
It grants a better flow of ideas and impacts creativity in different ways. Open-mindedness creates an atmosphere of sharing, free of judgment. If you are willing to hear and understand others’ points of view, it can help create new opportunities or find new ways of working together. Being open-minded also helps you to extend your network.
We all know the worth of sustainable connections.
7. Give and receive feedback
Whatever your role is, your communication skills need to include the ability to give – and receive – feedback. It is needless to say that feedback is valuable and crucial in many areas of life. But especially in a work environment, you need to give feedback in a professional way that will not undermine its effectiveness.
If you are in a position to give feedback, you want to get it across in a proper way. Whether it is recommendations or praise, focus on clear feedback. If you have ideas for someone about how to improve, explain them in a way that can help the other to take measures.
On the other hand, if you receive negative feedback, you do not have to suck it up. Feedback can be essential, so it is to act on it and implement changes to improve.
If you face criticism of yourself or your performance, make sure to understand it properly. Moreover, if it seems unclear to you, ask questions about it otherwise, you won’t get the benefit from it.
A little secret about me, I actually struggled to deal with feedback properly. I had uncomfortable experiences during my study years and it made me fear feedback for a long time. In fact, I could just not see it as an opportunity to improve, instead, I considered it a criticism of my personality. Simply put, I would just take it too personally.
I learned that is not the way how to react and it’s critical to focus on how we perceive feedback and which value it can create.
If you keep in mind the benefits of giving and receiving feedback, it will become a welcome companion.
8. Be Confident
A smile, eye contact, or an upright body posture – small expressions can be a powerful tool to influence how others think of you.
Do you believe gestures can express confidence? We surely do. Showing that you are confident is strongly visible through nonverbal communication. It can symbolize your dedication to what you are expressing.
However, self-confidence is not only shown in body language. Your messages and the way you speak also give a hint about how confident you feel. In many cases, you can prepare before the meeting and give your confidence a boost.
But what if you stumble upon an unplanned conversation? In this case, the experience is an excellent teacher.
In unplanned situations, you may sometimes feel insecure but start seeing them as an exercise. Think about how you have behaved and expressed yourself. Do you realize that you can handle stressful situations without tension? Even better. If you are like me and want to improve your self-confidence, start with a few simple exercises.
The good news is that life gives us many situations where we can practice this skill. Experiment with different situations. Reflect on your behavior and even ask for feedback.
Overall, confidence impacts how others perceive you. Make sure to keep the right balance, and it can open up doors for you.
9. Be Empathetic
Finally, a great way to improve your communication skills is to focus on your empathy. To be successful in a business or your career in general, it is crucial to build relationships with people you work with daily. This alone can have a huge impact on your success and your professional growth.
In this perspective, having a sense of other people's needs can help you to support them and work better together. As the saying goes, "One hand washes the other," also in this case you can benefit from helping others achieve their goals. Empathy can appear in different ways and actions. In the long run, it is essential to build sustainable relations, not only in work life but also in private.
Consider a case where you observe or are part of a conflict. If you would actively ask for each other's needs, it is more likely to find a common ground of understanding and a solution. Sometimes disputes arise from not understanding the conversation partner and not considering their needs.
In a business context, an open-door policy is essential. However, it is not always enough to get a full grasp of co-workers' needs and personalities.
You can improve communication if you actively get to know your interlocutor. Don't wait until they get to you.
Showing interest will enhance cooperation and foster productive collaborations.
Be open and try to understand their personality, how they feel, or what their ambitions and needs are. This initiative creates trust. You create a more open environment to share opinions and not be scared to do so.
Imagine one of your colleagues had a rough week. Even if the person did not talk to you about it, you probably notice it. You might think you are not able to do much to cheer your colleague up, but with a small gesture, like some kind words, you can maybe bring a bit of sunshine.
Empathy goes far. You don't need to be a full-time master of it but test it step by step and experience its benefits.
Would you like to learn more skills to boost your career? Apply for our Business Development Course!
And if you manage a business development team and would like to upskill them, visit our tailored business development training for teams.