Our ability to effectively communicate with clients and team will make or break our ability to fully support the businesses we serve. Find out the 3 Keys and start implementing them today!
Key #1: Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
Simply put, VA / OBM / virtual support professional: listen more than you talk. Honestly, this is can be hard. Why? For a few reasons:
- Often our clients are the only other people we have a relationship with who get this online industry. Naturally, we just want to connect over what we are both passionate about. The truth is, this industry can be a bit lonely at times… I don’t know about you but I spend the majority of my day sitting in an office in my house… very little interaction (physical) with other adults aside from client conversations and in the evening when my hubby comes home.So when I hop on the phone with a client, there is a nudging in me for that bit of companionship. However, this is not the place to get it if you want to have effective communication with a client and ultimately fulfill the duty of your role. Seek this need of companionship within a peer group.
- We often know more than the client does about what needs to be done next. When it comes to the back end of business and how to get proper productivity flowing, I simply know more than most of the clients I have worked with through the years. This IS my expertise… therefore, when on the phone, we can often feel the need to “tell the client” what needs to be done or “lead” the client in the direction we feel is best. This is not a good idea… listen to what they want… go do it… come back and show them what you have done. This is the best way to express your expertise.
- We are too busy trying to get answers and not listening to the next instruction. Let’s face it, many of our clients are going at 100mph. They simply can’t finish one thought or instruction before they are on to the other. (Personally I love these types of clients.) Often these types of clients have a very short period in which they can “have a conversation,” and therefore you know if you don’t get all the answers you need in that moment you will not get them. BUT I want to say, stop and listen. If you must ask a question, only ask WHY. If you know the why, you can put all the other pieces together. 😉
Key #2: Repeat Back to the Client What You Have Heard Them Say.
Every single time a client gives you instructions, repeat it back to them. This is truly the only way to confirm that what you heard is actually what they meant. Now you can do that in the moment or at the end of a call simply go through the list of instructions. Be sure to mention what your deliverables are and their deliverables… and any deliverables that are to be delegated to the team.
Please, do not bypass this step. Many times I have shot off in a direction, spent countless hours to just find out that the directive was a passing thought the client was verbally working through and not a legitimate task to be pursued. Which left both of us frustrated… because unfortunately, while I was running in that direction.. I was supposed to already be in another place with other projects.
I know this seems simple and elementary, but the truth is many times in virtual relationships we do not have the tools of body language and facial expressions to help us discern what is behind the conversation. If a client and I are face to face, I can tell when we are verbally processing, when it’s a directive or if they are just babbling. 😉 But when we are on the phone and both of us going like rockets ready to head off in different directions, this is not as easy to navigate.
Key #3 Write it down, send the deliverables to the client in email, load in project manager.
This is not one step… it’s 3. Don’t simply load deliverables into the project manager through the conversation until you have actually sent the list of expectations to the client and had them okay it.
I know what you are thinking… this is very excessive, and I want to say YES it is. But if you have ever spent 3 hours on a project just to find out the client didn’t really want it, or got an email 5 minutes before a deadline just to realize you didn’t have that on your radar till later that week, or found yourself working through the weekend because you talked about 5 things with your client and the thing you prioritized as #5, and then didn’t quite get to, is needed by Monday morning… I have been there… and if you have been in the virtual support industry for any time so have you.
So stop the insanity and simply list out the expectations after every call, shoot them over to the client, get the nod and load them into the project manager as tasks for everyone. Do this within 15 minutes of hanging up the phone. Let the client know this is on the way and that you will need their “written” nod of approval before you schedule out.
If you will do these three elements you will be VERY effective in communicating and accomplishing the tasks at hand. Also, if you work with a team, let them know these are your expectations of how they should communicate with you on team calls or 1:1 calls. Using these 3 Keys will keep you, client and team on course regardless of the amount of work to be done.
One last thing before I go. If you do not have a peer group that you are connected to on a regular basis aside from your clients, I really encourage you to take a look at the International Association of Online Business Managers here: http://www.obmconnect.com and get connected with others who can be that level of support you need. So you can show up and be the expert your client needs you to be.