The memory is vague. I was visiting someone, somewhere, and the television was on. The talk show discussion, about marriage, drifted around us, a dull background hum. And then, like an unexpected tap on my shoulder, I heard this: “When you are not communicating, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. Someone has to be the hero and get the conversation started.” This is valuable advice and it doesn’t just apply to marriage. It’s what builds strong business relationships, too, with prospects, clients and suppliers.
How does this advice apply to your business relationships? And how can you start using it right now?
The word “hero” dates back to the 14th century. Its definition includes “defender, protector”, “one who exhibits great bravery” and “one who has done great service”.
We defend and protect our relationships when we communicate effectively. We exhibit bravery when we continue to reach out to those who are busy, preoccupied or overwhelmed. And we are of great service when we take time to update and share information with others.
Take, for example, these statements which we often tell ourselves:
“Well, I sent her an email and I haven’t heard back, so I guess she’s not interested.” or
“I called and left a message so now it’s up to them to let me know what they want to do next.” or
“I haven’t really done anything on that project yet, so there’s no point in sending them an update.”
In every case, we are deciding not to communicate. And then, if the project doesn’t get completed on time, or the sale doesn’t close, or if someone is disappointed, it isn’t really our fault because … we were waiting for someone else to say something. Yikes!
Here’s a recent example from my world: A client and I had agreed I would have a slide deck to them by mid-March for our April training. Several things had put me behind schedule and I was feeling pretty uncomfortable. Rather than wait and see if she noticed, I sent her a short email: “A quick note to say I haven’t forgotten you at all. Working on a draft of the PowerPoint and aim to have it to you this week.” My client replied, “Thanks for the update,” and shared with me new research to improve both the slide deck and the presentation.
Another example: A proposal for training has not been approved. There have been meetings, emails and phone calls, but still no decision. If I assume the answer is “no”, then I’ve definitely lost the business. Instead, I leave a short voicemail to follow up, letting them know when they can reach me with any questions. And I also send an email that includes this statement: “How is the training we discussed fitting in with your current priorities? When you have a moment, let me know what information you may need and what works best for you.” My clients always reply, “Thanks so much for following up …” and then they let me know their next steps.
And one more: I had help with this post. Linda Daley of Daley Progress proofs the blog post, finds the photo, creates the newsletter, and schedules it all. We do this dance together every week … and every week is different. So, starting Wednesday evening, I keep her informed of my progress. Sometimes all I say is “You’ll have it tomorrow” and other times the message is “Yikes, Thursday already! You’ll have it Friday morning.” While I can say with certainty that Linda doesn’t mind my being late, I can’t take that for granted. Her work is vital to my success so I protect our relationship by continually communicating.
Are you waiting for approvals? Do you have projects that are stalled? Are there deadlines you might not meet? Be the hero and communicate!