Communication and contact: Rudy Miick FCSI on effective client relationships

In the second instalment in his column series for Foodservice Consultant, the MAS consultant outlines how clear communication and listening will make the client feel heard

As FCSI consultants, we have a lot to share. How our clients feel and hear their needs being met is as critical as our solution. Here are three actions to have clients celebrate being heard:

Action 1:  Consistency

Sincerity, clarity, believability is an integrated outcome of how we share our thoughts, opinions, and knowledge.   We “dance” with clients, communicating back and forth in a combination of word choice, body language and tone of voice.

There’s very clear research that our clients translate what we say with how we say it –  93% of the translation is combined body language with our tone of voice; 7% is what we say, our actual words.

This 7%–93% formula is good reason to ensure one’s tone of voice, body language and words are all sending the same message. Continuity of message is how sarcasm or sideways comments can end up so deadly in client meetings. Something intended as humorous or funny, ends up not so funny. The client’s left with figuring out if “truth” is being said in the tone, body language or in the words? The less clear the client is, the less likely they are to sign.

Action 2:  Add value, do no harm

This offering is a mantra so simple it is a life force for any project, any scope, any budget.

It’s as simple as this: If what I’m thinking or feeling does not add value or might do harm, do not say it; do not do it; do not even waste my time, or ours, thinking it in the moment. Let “this” go; Stop.

Action 3:  Be an active listener

Active listening is often taken for granted. There are four steps to do it effectively, they all work either in person or via video technology, such as Zoom.

Step 1. Lean in towards the person to whom you’re listening. Use body language in empathetic support: a smile, a head nod, a tip of the head in question, a thumb’s up, etc. The important thing here is to be sincere, to be authentic, not overly animated, or fake. Positive or negative, subtly mirror the person to whom you’re listening.

Step 2. At completion of a sentence or paragraph, speak back the exact words or close to the exact words of the person. “Let me play back for you what I think I just heard, _______.”

This modeling ability can actively build trust – and appreciation.

Step 3. Model the ability to play back what you’ve heard, this time in my own words and intonation, then verifying. “Am I close in what I just said? Am I close in what I think I heard?”.

Step 4. Model the ability to play back what I’ve heard in both your words and/or mine AND now take this translation into an applicable metaphor or story with an outcome that builds to the person’s story and goal.

Bonus: These communication action steps work as well with my team as they do with clients.

Rudy Miick FCSI is the founder and president of The Miick Companies, LLC.

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