Managing a small business in the 21st century is a pretty impressive task. The prevalence of the Internet and other business tools has made managing a business achievable for more people than ever. However, that accessibility also means the business world is growing increasingly crowded. More and more people are trying their hand at managing businesses. If you have a business past or experience, you can probably do this fairly successfully, but there are a few skills you have to master.
The conversational skills you need to master are actually on the phone and off the phone. There are tutorials online that will help you improve your phone skills as well as your conversational skills. You need to be able to converse with your employees, your clients, and your customers. When you can have a friendly conversation with employees, you build trust and familiarity with them. Talking with them in this way helps you expose any sort of issue that might arise before it becomes a big problem. For example, if someone is having a hard time at home, a conversation can alert you to that. You can then take some steps to give them some time off or whatever they need.
When you’re out in the world, making small talk with strangers can lead to business opportunities that you would never have had if you were not open to conversation and skilled at it.
These go hand-in-hand with the conversational skills. Listening is actually one-half of conversing. This is especially important on the phone where the customer cannot see your body language. When you are talking with someone in an important setting or just small talk, you should practice your listening. This might sound simple, but many people don’t realise how bad they are at listening to other people. While someone else is talking, they are often thinking of what they are going to say next or even completely unrelated things. To be a better listener, focus on hearing what that person is saying. Also, take an active listening approach. This means repeating back what they’ve said, asking follow-up questions, and asking specific questions about their statements. For example, if an employee says she ran a marathon over the weekend, you can ask why she wanted to do that or if she plans to run another one. You don’t want to pry into someone’s personal affairs with the follow-up questions, but you do want them to know you’re listening. You could even ask something as simple as the length of a marathon, even if you already know it.
You don’t have to be Tolstoy when you write, but you do need to develop the skills to write directly and concisely. Many people prefer to speak in business settings instead of emailing or texting, and that’s largely because they’re poor writers. However, you are going to have to write emails at some point in your professional life. You’re going to have to text a client or a customer at some point. You need to be direct and to the point with your message. Since you can’t clarify yourself as easily in the written word, you need to make sure that you are expressing yourself with very little opportunity for misinterpretation. The best way to pick up good writing skills is to read a lot. Since you are in a business setting, you should read journal articles and other professional writing in your field. Journalists tend to be very direct and well-written as well.
Pitching an idea is the first step to getting employees or investors on board. This often takes place over the phone, especially if you’re dealing with people across the country. Many industries have what they call the ‘elevator pitch.’ The idea behind this is that you should be able to pitch your idea to a potential investor in the time it takes to ride a few floors on an elevator. This means your idea should be boiled down into three or four sentences that describe what you intend to accomplish and how you intend to accomplish it. The same is true on the phone; there are so many distractions around that you need to be able to pitch your idea in the minute or so that you can hold the other person’s attention.
Negotiating is more than just arguing or using the right words. When you’re on the phone, negotiating involves picking the right words as well as the right timing. You need to be knowledgeable about the subject at hand, well-versed in your product or idea, and confident the entire time. You need to know with whom you are negotiating as well. You need to have an understanding of what that person is looking for out of his or her business or investment. Once you know what the other person wants or needs, you can tailor your negotiations to how you will fill those needs. Understanding what they need will help you read between the lines; when he or she makes a certain statement, you’ll be able to parse it based on those needs. Then you’ll be able to use the right words at the right time to keep the negotiations going in the right direction.
All of these skills are pretty much the same in person as on the phone. When you’re on the phone, however, you have to be even more vigilant about upholding them. You have to be sure that you’re communicating clearly and effectively. You have to be well-educated in the subject matter at hand and very confident. Since the other person cannot see you or your body language, active listening becomes the only way to indicate that you are still engaged in the conversation. All of these things, when put together, will help you be a better small business owner. They’ll also help you be a better friend and co-worker to those around you.