Effective Communication: Universal Traits – part 1
Over the next few articles, I will be looking at some principles of effective communication and how it relates in a business setting. We will look at some typical questions that you, as a customer, should be asking when soliciting products or services as well what is expected from you during a project. Finally, we will be looking at some common reasons a (software) services project would go over time or budget.
Let’s start by looking at some fundamental communication requirements.
There are two important qualities every successful person has, the ability to ask the right questions and to be a good listener. Of course, there are other traits of the successful but these two are near the top and nearly universal of every successful individual I have met and read about.
In the first part, I’m focusing on asking the right questions; next time we will look at being a good listener.
Asking the Right Questions
Successful people are very diligent about protecting their time, as they should be. There are only 24 hours each day that any of us has available, and once they’re gone, there’s no carry-over or going backwards to reclaim that time; that’s why having access someone’s time should be thought of as a privilege. If you had 5 minutes to ask any person, living or dead questions, I’m sure you would prepare them very carefully, in advance.
You should take the same approach in business, especially if you are working with prospective clients in a sales role. Being a Sales Engineer, I need to be able to ask the type questions that provide clarity into multiple areas, including business process and technical viability. Cutting through the ‘noise’ to get to the root by asking the fewest number of right questions, that provides as much insight is key.
For example, “Is there a budget for this project?”, can help:
• Figure out how serious the prospect is about buying something (from you)
• Provide insight as to where they are in the buying cycle (ASAP, a few months away, next year)
• Determine if they have clearly defined the goals for the project
• Understand if they are realistic about the scope (you can’t buy a Ferrari for the cost of a Ford)
If there isn’t a budget for a project, and you’re not speaking directly to a decision maker, that should be a red flag. I can always tell when a prospective client is serious because they have done their due diligence, are asking good questions and have educated themselves about the products and services in the market.
Remember, asking the right questions tells people you are a professional and serious about not wasting their time. It instills confidence that you know your stuff, can relate to their situation and ultimately help them solve real problems.