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Building bridges of communication


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Building a 'bridge of understanding' between parties is fundamental if your business communication is to succeed.

If you are a consultant to a client, or a salesperson attempting a closer relationship with your customer, here are five techniques that help achieve just that.

1. Eliciting clients' views and perspective on issues.

The consultant or salesperson should not be the final arbiter of what the client or customer should think.

It is invaluable, both as a dialogic tool and as a way of building rapport, for you to ask the other person how they see the situation: "What are your thoughts about what we are trying to achieve here? What are some of the solutions or approaches you've thought about?"

2. Helping clients think aloud

In any good business partnership, both parties participate in the thinking process.

"Have a think about what options the team has available... what ones most appeal to you? Don't throw out any ideas just yet - no matter how weird they might seem now, you'd be surprised at how workable they might be later." "What are the implications of some of these approaches to other teams or the project?"

3. Summarise the client's views and test your understanding of them

You really need to understand the other's perspective in any communication process.

The most useful tool to achieve this is 'playing back' what the client has said, in order to ensure that both they feel you have listened and you feel confident in your understanding of what they said. "Let me summarise what I've heard and see if I have it correct..."

4. React to how the client feels as well as the business implications

Business relationships are made up, primarily, of people. People with frailties, aspirations, achievements and fears. Failure to deal with the myriad emotions of clients will lead to failure, of both the relationship and the project.

The more successfully the relationship handles personal 'ups and downs', as well as the feelings of both parties, the stronger the bridge of communication is built.

Wise consultants and salespeople encourage their clients and customers to express their views.

5. Allow the client (and yourself) time to pause and reflect

We all have a tendency to want to be seen as an 'expert' in our field. So we all jump in and answer a question straight away, hoping to both impress our client with our ready supply of wisdom and allay our fears that they will 'find us out'.

In reality, no one knows all there is to know about a subject. But it is the rare and wonderful client who openly acknowledges to you their failure to understand fully or have a mapped out set of tactics for any given situation.

Allowing the client (and yourself) time to pause and reflect on a situation or question allows greater opportunity for bonds of mutual understanding to develop. The discussion will become more thoughtful, less reactively spontaneous (not all 'first thoughts' are good ones), and calmer.

Unless you are fighting fires, or taming lions, a calmer, more measured approach to a project always pays the greatest dividends.

About the Author

Lee Hopkins the author of over 130 articles on business communication, and is recognised world-wide as one of Australia's leading experts in online business communication, including Social Media or Web2.0 as it's also known.

To connect with him, please call him on +61 8121 4444 any hour of the day or night; if he's asleep you can leave a voice message!

Visit his site at to find many more articles on business communication. He also blogs at Whilst there, why not pick up a complimentary copy of his 'Social Media White Paper', which explains all about this latest seismic change to the business communication landscape!

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-11-23 12:37:02 in Personal Articles

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