Communication etiquette in today's marketplace
I am certain that anyone who read the title of this article wonders why anyone would even write on this subject. We all know how to communicate with phone calls, emails and text messages, correct? Sure, you are on a track of communication but how we communicate, especially in today’s marketplace, is the key.
My experience in the insurance industry is rather short compared to the old timers. I have a mere 19 years with insurance but have been in the sales field since I was five years old. Trust me, I have many sales stories, but this article needs to focus on our communication skills.
How does selling work and how has it changed over the past 30 years?
Let’s take this back to the infamous widget. Someone had the concept of the greatest widget in the history of the world, but how did it come to the marketplace? Let’s take this widget and turn it into an insurance product. How did it get to market? The insurance company designs a product with input from statistics, need and profits. Now that the product is designed, it needs to get to the marketing groups who, in turn, need to get it to their agents. All during this process, there is one constant that must take place and that is communication.
The company must make a decision to see if the product is viable in the marketplace. Once the decision is made, it needs to be communicated to their representatives and then taken to the marketers. Now the company’s job is to sell the benefits of the new product to the marketer so they in turn will share that excitement with their agents. The agent is ultimately the engine that drives the success of the new product. All success is dependent upon one item: communication.
Once the insurance company has the marketers and the field force in place, it is now imperative to retain that engine and keep it running smoothly. How is this done? What keeps agents loyal to your company and products? Is it top commissions? Would it be incentive trips? Could it be quality products offered at a fair price? I am certain that all these factor into the decision, but I am confident that if you surveyed agents, you would find they want timely communication. Please take note that I use the words “timely communication” and not “service."
We all have a different take on what timely is and I will discuss that in more detail shortly. Now is probably the best time to give this troublesome word, communication, a hard definition — and not from Webster’s dictionary.
Definition of communication
I am confident that every person in the sales process truly believes they are very good, if not excellent, communicators. But in this quickly changing landscape of communication, our definition has changed. Why not break this communication concept down to a few basic fundamentals that we can all agree on?
The basis and the reason for communication is relationship building. Relationships are built on trust, so why not live on the creed of under-promise and over-deliver? This, if practiced, will prevent you from losing your relationship. A key here is to always respond with timely responses. We cannot take for granted that everyone has the same definition of timely and this needs to be discussed at the outset of the relationship.
A successful relationship in business should be one of great joy. A huge dose of trust, an understanding of how each entity works and what their expectations are and a showing of respect from each party is a must. Again, all of this is based on communication. Each side is responsible for letting each other know what the rules are in the relationship. You cannot expect an action from one if it is not expressed, before the fact. Communication is open and honest. Anything short of this is destined for failure.
Everyone makes a first impression, be it face to face, over the phone or through an email. Most folks will agree that the first impression is everything.
I disagree, especially if it is via email or text. One thing I will agree with is that it sets the tone for the relationship. With everyone's marketing efforts expanding, face-to-face communication is becoming more infrequent. This is where the communication skills mentioned truly take a front seat in building your relationship. I think this comment will draw some attention, but my feeling is this:
A first impression does not last forever. It may get you in the early stages of building that relationship but if you lack in communication, you will not get far. Timely responses
This is a very tough subject because everyone has a different timetable that they work on. Again, the relationship needs to have communication as to what is expected in the timeliness of responses. I am just going to hit this subject on the head and not sugar coat it. We are all busy. No one is any more important than anyone else when it comes to communicating. If you were open and accepted a conversation, then have the responsibility to respond in a timely fashion and determine that time in a mutual fashion. This is where the trust in a new or old relationship comes into play. If there is interest on both parts to continue a conversation, then you need to determine the priority it takes in your decision-making list. Do not string people along and do not be rude by failing to communicate.
Be honest and act on the decision. I realize that other situations may arise that could bump your priority status and if that happens, communicate that fact! One comment I cannot stand is, "I have been so busy but I have not forgotten you," and this is closely followed by the new catch phrase: "I have just been swamped."
Either of these comments should throw up a huge red flag of disrespect for the other entity in this relationship.
Under-promise and over-deliver
I would love to give credit to the person I heard this expression from but I forgot the person’s name. I didn't forget the saying. It is an expression that I try to live by every day. If we accomplish this simple task, how can you fail? Have you ever ordered anything online and the company tells you it will take seven to 10 days for delivery? The next thing you know, the product shows up at your door in four days! Are you happy? You bet. This is a simple concept but difficult to put into play. Why? Because most people say what you want to hear to get your business and then back pedal when they are unable to come through on their promise. If you are unable to deliver on that promise, then communicate that fact as soon as you are able. Please do not procrastinate. You will win more points and strengthen that relationship more by being honest than you will by ignoring the situation until it comes to light.
Ah yes, social media, the new wave of communication. GoTo Meetings, Skype, emails, texting, and LinkedIn all are tools to help build your network. I do not know about you, but I am not a mind reader; nor do I have a tremendous feel for your personality when communicating by emails. If you are making a joke, you may want to consider informing me of that. We all have a very difficult time reading your feelings when writing and especially texting. Many times, I have incorrectly read something into an email and jumped to a conclusion.
Not hearing the tone of your communication can lead to misreading your comments. If your preferred form of communication is emails, then you need to agree to that at the beginning. You should converse at some point so that you both have an understanding of each others' personalities.
One personal note regarding LinkedIn Groups that you may join or connections you make online: When you connect with someone, it is because you both have a common bond or want to pursue an opportunity. If you accept the invitation to connect, be respectful. If you are asked a question via email, please respond. If you have nothing to offer, why did we connect? You are showing no respect by not responding. If you join a group, have some input and share your thoughts.
The Golden Rule
Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Please be respectful of others.