If you think you can manage time, look in the mirror.
That’s what you can manage: your own Attitudes, Behaviors and Activities.
If you believe anything else, you might as well try to catch water in a sieve. So, let’s stop fooling ourselves and start working on the things within our control that will optimize the time we do have.
In our business, there’s nothing as valuable as time, but we seldom protect it as we should. This leaves us vulnerable to those sneaky thieves, the Time Bandits.
Time Bandits, such as distractions and competing demands, lie in wait and, when you forget to defend yourself, swoop in and steal your precious minutes and hours.
Thankfully, there is good news. Starting right now, you can make changes that will protect your time and immediately improve your results, performance and stress levels, if you have the drive and commitment to follow through.
Let’s start with the hungriest Time Bandit, Weak Communications. If you’re constantly sorting out misunderstandings and struggling to correct mistaken assumptions, you’re a victim of the Time Bandits. Also, chances are that this behavior is not only affecting your professional life, personal relationships will suffer, too. Things fall apart when we fail to really listen or get our message across on the first attempt.
So, if you’re sick of repeating yourself and making no progress, dodging arguments or wallowing in misunderstandings, here’s a surefire guide to Proactive Communication that will kick that Time Bandit to the curb, where it belongs.
Effective and efficient communication gets more done in less time and successfully builds rapport for future interactions. Let’s consider those really important connections, where you have to meet face-to-face (even if it’s on Skype) and explore how you can add even more value into the experience:
1. Decide on your specific goal for each communication. What exactly do you want to learn from the other person? Or, is there a particular message you want to be understood? Whatever it is, if you have it clear in your mind before a single word is spoken, you will boost the probability that your communication will be successful.
2. Actively listen to understand before trying to be understood. Active listening is the most powerful tool you can use in communication. It encompasses several key activities:
a. Patient focus. Make the other person your only priority; ignore competing distractions like your need to speak or to check your phone. Look them in the eyes, buy using your peripheral vision to pick up on other clues.
b. Nonverbal communication. Body language and micro-expressions can speak volumes, so pay attention to what’s being said without being stated. This is particularly true in negotiations when the other person may be straining to mask their true feelings.
c. Listen for vocabulary levels. Concentrate on the types of words the speaker uses. If you can identify and speak at the level at which they’re comfortable, you’re halfway to getting your message across.
d. Ask for clarification if you’re confused or paraphrase what you’ve heard as feedback to the speaker to confirm you have understood what they’ve said completely. This not only puts you on the same page, it’s also a sign of respect.
3. Respond to what’s been said before you introduce your message. By acknowledging the other person first, you again show respect – this is key to building rapport. When you answer their points first, you make it clear that:
a. You’re equals and not competitors in the conversation. This is important because, in most situations, you will have more experience and knowledge than they do and they will be conscious of that.
b. Spending time now on any questions or objections will save you a lot of stress and effort later – their concerns won’t disappear if you ignore them, they’ll simply grow in stature.
4. Speak naturally, without jargon, but modify your speech and non-verbal language to reflect the other person’s communication style and to frame your message positively. Don’t try to sound smarter or slicker than you need to be, you’ll come across as fake, even if you think you’re just adopting your work persona. The more natural and true to yourself you are, the stronger and more lasting the rapport will be.
5. Be patient and respectful with difficult communicators. Remember, you are the professional here, not necessarily the other person. Just because they don’t take as much care over the process doesn’t mean you can skimp as well. Don’t let yourself be sidetracked if they irritate or frustrate you – keep your eye on the prize – they’re probably used to causing upset and will be impressed by your performance (even if they don’t mention it).
6. Check that your message has been received as intended with qualifying questions like, “What do you think?” Rephrase or expand upon any point that’s causing confusion. Make sure you achieve your initial communication goal without repeating yourself.
7. Make a date to follow-up and commit to it. Use this opportunity to summarize what was said and agreed upon, as well as to offer them another chance to ask questions or go deeper into the issues. Once more you’re showing respect and also checking that your communication goal was realized.
At your first meeting with a prospective buyer, in addition to interviewing them about needs and desires, ask them how motivated they are to buy:
“Ms. Buyer, how would you rate yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of your readiness to buy a home?”
Once you know, you can optimize your time by categorizing prospects by their degree of motivation.
Proactive Communication not only saves time, it will increase referrals and negotiation-based profits. It also reduces stress and builds long-term relationships. You will notice the results almost immediately, even in your personal interactions with family and friends, making it more likely that they will recommend you to prospects with word-of-mouth marketing.