Presenting a professional image is important from the very start of any business communication. Most people make a judgment about someone within seconds based on visual clues, body language, the way they talk and the words they use. It is therefore incredibly important to know your potential audience and ensure your appearance, language and level of confidence give the first impression that you are seeking. In order to do this most effectively, you need to prepare, research the client and find out what they are looking for and what they would like to hear you say to reassure them of your professionalism.
Learn to express yourself in a clear way which is easy to understand. Do not use long words, acronyms and jargon to impress customers. However, business language delivered in a clear, calm, professional way can reassure clients that you know what you are doing. Trying too hard to please, filling every gap in the conversation and gabbing at speed will diminish the professional approach you are trying to establish. If you find you are getting carried away due to nerves or enthusiasm, simply take a breath, pause and continue to calmly make the point you want.
It is very important not to simply talk when establishing business relationships. In order to reassure your clients that you will deliver what they are looking for, you have to listen. Good listening involves focus and concentration, so turn off your cell phone, remove other distractions such as laptops or TV screens and show the audience that they have your full attention. It can help to repeat back to the client what you think they are asking for or a summary of their points to ensure you have understood properly. Let your client speak without interruption and use your body language to show you are focused on them.
Think, check, prepare
Before responding to clients or making a pitch for work, it is important to take time to think ahead, prepare and research in order to do the job well. Think about what you want to say, make notes or draft a response and check it thoroughly before sending anything or speaking to the client. By preparing what you want to communicate, it shows you have given the client a level of importance and value that requires some forethought. This builds a more professional image and ensures you cover all the communication points necessary.
Ask for feedback
Whether the discussions are successful or not, it is good to get feedback. Without time to reflect on previous work, there is little opportunity to identify areas for improvement or recognize the things in which you excel. Feedback can be useful for professional development, and business relationships will strengthen following improvements in areas which have been highlighted by the client. When you have positive feedback, it is always worth asking if the client would be prepared to give a reference or testimonial that can be used to promote your work.
Deal with problems
Nobody wants problems to occur in a working relationship but they inevitably occur from time to time. How you handle them will often determine if your client becomes a repeat customer. By handling problems well, with good grace and with a proven desire to improve the situation, it is possible to build a great working relationship with the client even after something has gone wrong. By listening, taking action, checking back and ensuring the customer is satisfied it is likely that your customer service will win you a reputation as reliable, understanding and a good business communicator.