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The success of your business depends on the relationships you build with your clients and your team. Chris Helder can teach you the art of effective communication in seven simple steps.
For accountants and financial advisers, communication is everything. The strength of your firm hinges on your ability to build strong trust relationships with your clients as well as with your team.
But while it can seem like few people are born with natural communication skills, Chris Helder, communication expert and author of Useful Belief says that it is an art – and one that can be learned.
During his recent CountX presentation, Chris said, “Everything you need to be successful is here – if we’re going to grow our business and grow our ability to build relationships.”
Here are his seven essential steps to becoming a better communicator.
Step 1. Match body language
Chris pointed out that, typically, when people are connecting with each other they tend to share common body language. Whether it’s a couple in a relationship or friends spending time down at the pub, they match each other’s body language unconsciously. “When we’re connected, we do the same things,” he said.
So, when trying to put a client or team member at ease, try to read their body language and match it subtly. Chris said, “Most people are thinking about themselves. But the first idea is to match the intensity of the person across from us.”
Step 2. Improve your posture
The way you carry yourself can make an enormous difference in the first impression you make on others and the level of confidence you exude. Chris said, “There’s a way successful people move; there’s a way they hold themselves.”
What’s more, your posture, and that of your team, can even impact on the overall mood of your workplace – playing a pivotal role in the environment you create for staff and for clients. “Ultimately people respond to how we move our body,” Chris said.
Step 3. Make eye contact
It’s a cliché that your eyes are the windows to the soul – but Chris believes wholeheartedly that you can tell a lot from a person, even from a great distance, just by looking into their eyes. “The power of eyes is our ability to connect… actually being connected to the person we’re speaking to,” he said.
That’s why it’s so important to make direct eye contact when you’re communicating – whether to clients or colleagues – so they feel that you’re truly connecting and listening to them.
Step 4. Be present
As we become increasingly connected by technology, we are finding it more difficult to switch off from our devices and be in the moment – and this has an adverse effect on the way we communicate with each other. “It’s amazing how distracted we are,” Chris said.
“When someone comes to see us at our office … they’re giving us the greatest gift they can give us, they’re giving us their time.”
Chris recommends honouring that person’s time by resisting the temptation to look at our screens, and be present with them. He said,
“They always say about Oprah Winfrey, when you spend time with her, you feel like you’re the only person in the world. Do you make clients feel that way?”
Step 5. Smile
We all carry around a simple yet effective means of communicating with others: our smile. Chris said, “Every communication study says the same thing: when you smile at someone, it instantaneously makes them feel good about themselves.”
But many people overlook this powerful communication tool and forget to switch it on for clients. “If you told me you’d come up with a way to instantaneously make every client feel good about themselves, I’d give you millions of dollars for it,” Chris said. But that’s exactly what a smile does.”
Step 6. Be grateful
While it is easy to fall into the trap of negative thinking, Chris emphasised the necessity of actively breaking these thought patterns. “We suffer from something called CJT – cynical, jaded and twisted,” he said. “The most important words we say all day are the ones we say to ourselves. Most people are cruel in those moments.”
He recommended beginning each day instead from a place of gratitude, by focusing on the positive things in life. “When you wake up tomorrow morning, I want you to notice the first five or six things you say to start your day,” he said. “Start thinking about what you have, instead of what you do not have.”
Step 7. Choose energy
With our increasingly busy lifestyles, and as many of us juggle the demands of personal and professional commitments, it can feel like a challenge maintaining enough energy to get through the day. But Chris insisted that energy is a vital element of success: “I have never met a truly successful person that did not have energy in abundance,” he said.
While you may think that a lucky few are blessed with natural reserves of energy, he views it as a conscious decision we make – whether to feel revitalised or fatigued. “You can have as much energy as you want,” he said. “It’s a choice.”