Communicating effectively with clients is essential to the success of any engagement. Doing so requires customisation – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This may depend on the client’s industry, specialisation and personal style of work.
For effective communication, one needs to keep their requirements and processes in mind. For instance, suppose you work at a public relations firm. Amongst your colleagues and within the industry, your conversations would be casual and marked with the verbal shorthand of your field – column inches, ACE PR value, mention prominence, and so on. This makes sense because the jargon is well-known and actually helps communication. However, conversing with clients demands language of a very different kind, especially in the early stages of engagements. While your client may be familiar with some of these terms and topics that occupy your industry on a daily basis, assuming extensive knowledge of these can seriously impede communication.
In order to communicate clearly, you need to employ a communication style that your client can get on board with. This means you need to know your audience. In the initial stages, listen carefully to determine the level of their comfort with the industry and pay particular attention to the project objectives and concerns. In the course of the engagement, your communications must demonstrate that your work is aligned with the client’s aims. Not only will this reassure them that you are on track, it will also ensure the most successful project outcome. Your presentations and meetings should be jargon-free and accessible to a non-expert audience. In addition, you could initially explain some of the key terms and metrics you plan to use through the course of the engagement to minimise any gaps in comprehension.
To take your communication from good to extraordinary, you should familiarise yourself to some extent with your client’s work and industry as well. Whether it is marketing, finance, organisational behavior, health, energy or climate change, your grasp of key issues will help you genuinely understand the client’s goals and even enable you to tweak your product/service accordingly. When you and the client are on the same page, the stage is set for success!