A great place to start this article is with the definition of communication. The most direct definition is “the transfer of meaning.” Talking among friends is one thing, but when you are trying to explain your product or service to a potential customer it is imperative that they understand the meaning of what you are saying. Yes, they may hear what you are saying but that does not necessarily mean they get it. For communication to occur, one person must assume responsibility to make sure the meaning is transferred from you to your audience. Likewise, when a customer is talking you have the responsibility to make sure you understand the meaning of what they are asking, or why they are in your store. If communication is so important to your business, how can we communicate more efficiently?
There are many models of communication that have been developed over the years, most of them based on research. The common element in each of them is that we communicate in a certain style. There are four basic styles of communication and different terminology for each of them as defined by the author. Our individual style is based on many personality factors and keep in mind there is no good or bad style. We each have a baseline style. The four styles can be described as follows:
- Analytical – You recognize this customer because they ask a lot of questions. They are interested in specifications, timelines, specific prices, etc. Recognize this style and answer their questions patiently. Do not cut them off as they need to understand as much as possible about your product or service.
- Controller – You recognize this customer because they usually tell you what they want. “I want 12 red roses in a clear vase delivered at 2:30 tomorrow.” No, they do not want a cup of coffee, they know what they want and do not need to engage in conversation.
- Facilitator – You recognize this customer because they may want to chat with you. They may talk about the weather, their family, your family, etc. They need to feel comfortable with you and your product or service. If you are a controlling type of communicator resist the urge to take over. Instead, allow them to get comfortable
- Advocator – You recognize this customer because they do not always know exactly what they want but they have an idea of what they want. “I want flowers that show my appreciation to a friend. I want them to feel special.” Acknowledge what a good idea this is and then guide them to a solution.
We see these styles in the people around us. Think about the style the next time you are talking to a customer, a friend, a partner, etc. The bottom line to effective communication is to recognize the style of the other person and move into that style. People relate to people who they perceive are like them.