If you are an entrepreneur, a contractor, or go to authority on your job, being good at what you do could be your biggest communication problem.
Of course I am not advocating being incompetent. We should all strive to be good at our jobs; to improve our craft, art, or business. But we have to be cautious of one thing in doing so.
Being good at what you do gives you confidence. But that confidence can easily look like arrogance to your clients, customers, or colleagues if you are not intentional about using your communication skills to show humility and respect to everyone.
I recently met with a service provider to see if he'd be the right fit for what I needed. I had no knowledge on the subject and he was recommended to me by another business owner. I went to visit. I knew from the moment I walked in this was going to be a difficult meeting.
From the moment I walked in? Yes, from the moment I walked in. Did you get that. First impression counts. Especially to potential customers.
"It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression..."
Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions: Making up your mind after 100 ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17, 592-598.
I wasn't greeted warmly. In fact, I got the distinct impression that my being there has interrupted his day and annoyed him.
Bottom line? I felt unwelcome... but I was there and I needed help. I explained to him my situation, emphasizing that he was recommended to me by one of his current clients. He sat behind his desk with a look that said. "What do you want?"
After prying information out him, he came to a quick conclusion about my business. It was the wrong conclusion. I was completely frustrated. I thanked him for his time and left vowing to find another service provider.
What was the problem? He was good at his job. He had such a deep level of his trade that he assumed, I was knowledgeable too. He was a successful small business owner who forgot what it was like to start out in business. He had forgotten how he initially over-serviced every client in the early because he was passionate about his work and he was grateful for clients. He forgot about the cold calls, the networking, the years of struggle before he even had a client who could refer his services.
I tell my clients who work in IT and computers this all the time. In your world, bits and code are everyday language. In the world of those who call the IT help line, they are lost and frustrated.
Maybe he was having a bad day? It happens. But when you are meeting a potential new client or working with someone who has NEVER worked with you before, you have to establish 3 things from the start:
1. Rapport.You establish rapport with body language more than anything. Make eye contact. Smile. Give a firm, not lethal, handshake. Come from around the desk and remove obstacles. Uncross your arms. Lean forward. Use a welcoming tone of voice. All of these non verbals SAY I'm glad your here. Your clients and colleagues want to feel welcome.
2. KnowledgeDemonstrate your competence and offer advice. Show that you have worked with similar clients before. Offer insider tips that they wouldn't know of. "Most don't know that ...." Give specific advice to your client; this builds trust.
3. ValueValue is more than a cost quotient. You not only demonstrate your value with facts and figures but also with communication skills. By showing empathy and understanding. By putting people at ease. By being friendly. By showing interest in people...not their business.
Has being good at your job become your pitfall? Ask yourself a few questions:
Do you build rapport or do you ooze annoyance that others don't get it like you do? Are you rushed? Frantic? Overwhelmed?
Do you demonstrate your knowledge or do you keep your knowledge to yourself? If someone is coming to you, don't treat them like knocking on your door is the greatest gift they ever gave themselves.
If good treats people like crap. And mediocre treats people well. People will walk away from good and go to mediocre.
Do you demonstrate value in ways that can't be measured in dollars and cents? People want personalized service these days. To quote the theme song from NBC's show Cheers, people want to go "where every body knows your name...(dun dun dun dun)... and they're always glad you came." Do you make it a point to show customers that? Do you even know where to begin? I can help move you from repelling your customers to inviting them.
Contact me for a FREE consultation
That interaction prompted me to write this post to business owners, contractors, and hard working people.
In summary, because you are good at your job:
1. You have to be careful not to come across arrogant to your customers or potential clients. You know your work. You are good at it. You don't have to remind your clients at every turn. Focus instead on putting them at ease and trying to solve their problem.
2. You also can't be impatient with your clients' ignorance. Ignorance in the true meaning of the word means lacking knowledge. Your client or customer is coming to you because they think you have what they need. Show the client how working with you is an experience that values them.
You once were just as ignorant on the subject as your client or customer. You studied and got better. The client is coming to you because they want to be better too. Don't penalize them for that.
Remember why you started your business in the first place:
It started to help somebody. Don't push away the very people without whom you'd go out of business.
Remember to speak in laymen's terms:
Save the jargon for the trade association. Those who can demonstrate technical knowledge in clear simple terms will go farther than those who try to impress with big words.
You have been doing your work for years..that is why you are good. Don't let arrogance and inattention to the details of communication keep you from growing your business and reputation.
Have you ever had a professional talk down to you or belittle you?
Tell me about it. Leave a comment!