Presentation Tip: Communicate What You Mean

Speak Your Client's Language

Do you successfully communicate your ideas to your client? Ever realize that what you thought you said is not what your client heard? Our communications are misunderstood every day. During a recent adventure, I had some big and bold experiential “ahas.”

In November 2015, a construction mishap next door accidentally put a huge hole in my bedroom wall. A blessing in disguise, it began a 15-month renovation of my apartment, including the gut renovation of my kitchen. It was exciting and messy. I love the outcome, and I love my architect and contractor.

Through this process, I learned a valuable lesson on the importance of a common language. My architect and contractor were both rockstars when it came to keeping me informed and explaining the process to me in terms I could understand. What a huge blessing as a client!

For 28 years, I’ve worked in the design and construction industry as a marketer and a coach, but now I was a client — what a sweet, new perspective. I learned so much, including:

•  Projects, risk and money make all clients nervous.

•  Clients need to know what’s happening. And, different clients want different kinds and amounts of information.

•  Industry professionals often have a language they use to communicate with each other that is not necessarily understood by the client.

I mention these lessons together because they are linked. When you’re afraid, it’s harder to listen and really understand what people are saying to you. The challenge to connect and transmit information to those under stress becomes greater.

We have all experienced this fear from the client’s perspective. For example, you go to the doctor for a concern, and as patients, we’re nervous or maybe even downright afraid. When the doc speaks, our fear can make us deaf. And when they speak medical jargon, they may as well be speaking another language. They could be telling us we’re going to live to be 110, but we would still panic!

I also learned in this process that language isn’t limited to words! For instance, drawings are a language designers and builders use to communicate with each other. As a client, intellectually I understand what a plan or an elevation is, but I learned that when my architect or contractor looks at that same elevation, they literally see things I don’t. My architect worked as a world-class translator to pop those images off the page and communicate them to me in a language I understood.

So, no matter your profession — accountant, auditor, architect, engineer, contractor, lawyer or manufacturer — how do you turn your industry language into a common language? How do you make certain you are understood?

•  Don’t presume your client will understand your language. Be aware of what might be unique to your profession. Step outside your own perspective.

•  Know your audience and be empathetic. Just as every profession is unique, so is every client! Know THEIR language. Put yourself in their shoes.

•  Test your communication. Explain it to someone who is objective or unfamiliar with your project. Just because it’s crystal clear to you doesn’t mean it’s not complicated to your listener!

Bottom line, be willing to adjust your communication to help your listeners get it. Your clients will love you for it!

P.S. Here’s a picture of my architect (Eric K. Daniels) and builder’s (Norbert Kočan) handiwork. Enjoy! I am.

— Carol

Tales from the Field

Tales from the Field

Recently, we had Graceworks come to our office for some one-on-one training for our Project Managers and Superintendents. Jen did a fantastic job of drawing our people out of their shells — expressing great points about being big and bold, making the story personal, taking off our masks, and making a human connection. You never really know what will resonate with a participant, but it’s pretty remarkable when someone has an “aha!” moment.

One such moment happened in our pursuit of a recent project. This project was not exactly out of our wheelhouse, but it was in a target market sector in which we haven’t had recent wins. In preparing for the RFPs and interview, we reworked our marketing material and PowerPoint to reflect more of what the client wanted. The president of our company saw what we prepared, wanted to know where all of our similar projects were, and asked, “Why aren’t all of our projects in the PowerPoint?”

I told him, “We are making this presentation about the client. We’ve already told them what we can do, and we’ve even taken them on a tour of several facilities we’ve built, so now we’re going to prove to them that we are listening to their needs. We really don’t want this to be a ‘we-we’ show!” Our president said that made perfect sense. Aha! He got it!

The end of the story is we won. We won a great project in a new state in a market sector we have been pursuing. Graceworks helped us achieve this goal for the year. We are thrilled to take our newfound knowledge and run with it. Thanks, Jen and Graceworks, for giving us the tools to help us win.

Shane Hornbuckle, Principal/Vice President of Business Development
Van Winkle Construction

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