George Bernard Shaw famously said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” So what can we do to improve our communication? This is a big topic but you’ll find some rules which I do my utmost to follow…
Who are you communicating with?
What’s their level of financial sophistication? Do what you can to understand them, their situation and context. Is your messages helping them to see themselves as they want to be seen? If you don’t know much about them, then aim to communicate so that an 11 year old could understand your points.
Effective communication isn’t about what you say or write…
It’s about what people do afterwards. I learnt this from Andy Bounds and it has changed how I write, speak and teach. Before you write a word, ask yourself what do I want them to do next? Reply, return information, click a link? What is the next step along the sales process for example? What do you want them to DO? Keep that end goal in mind.
Why are you getting ignored?
People often fail to act because they don’t know what do ie the call to action or request isn’t crystal clear. Or they don’t care ie the benefits they will experience or consequences they will suffer, have not been spelled out. Not because they haven’t got enough information. In the finance sector, it can be easy to forget that emotions that drive decisions, not logic. Start your sentences with the benefits they will experience, it will mean they’re more likely to care, then act.
For example: I understand you are yet to make a will. To ensure your wishes are fulfilled (why it’s important for them), we’d recommend that you contact your solicitor to draw one up at your earliest convenience.
I understand you have not made a Will. To this end your estate would be subject to the laws of intestacy. This is unlikely to result in your estate being distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Simplify, simplify simplify
You are no doubt skilled and clever at what you do and yet the real skill is turning something complicated into a message your clients can easily understand. Aim for one idea per sentence as that will help you simplify your points. If you’re struggling, ask yourself: what am I trying to say? Use short sentences: 15–20 words is ideal, 30 words is the maximum. Avoid unnecessary words, phrases and repetition. Once you’ve written it, read aloud what you’ve written and check if it sounds right?
Discern what your audience NEEDS to know vs what you would LIKE to tell them
This takes great discipline. It can be challenging to realise that not everyone shares your interest. Keep your end goal in mind: what do I want them to do afterwards? Edit ruthlessly. If you’re a paraplanner for example: ask yourself: is this point taking them further towards their goals and objective? Or am I simply sharing some information that makes me look clever (this is fine if it’s an article or blog but not in a report).
From whose point of view are you communicating?
Think about the emails and letters you write, how often do you use the word YOU? I’d encourage you to scan your last few emails – how many times did the word YOU be appear? When we communicate from our point of view, not the audience’s, we bury the message which means it’s harder to find and then harder to action. If we use the word ‘you’ more often, it forces us to communicate from their perspective. This makes it more likely they will care about our message and then action it.
For example: “You may have noticed that we had miscalculated the interest you will earn but we have corrected it now.”
A mistake has been made with the interest earned but it has been rectified. (Yes it’s longer but its tone is more trustworthy, more empathic and using what we call an active voice rather than the passive).
Now that you’ve got some tips, I hope that, as George Bernard Shaw might say, your communication will be less illusory and much more a reality!
If you’d like to ensure your communication is effective then check out the communication skills course.