Communication 101 – Part II

Be Literate

The written word is a Brokers primary form of communication. It’s excusable not to know how to use a semi-colon (I still don’t), but misspelling words chips away at your credibility. Although it doesn’t catch all errors, spell-checking your emails and other correspondence is a no-brainer. Brokering is a game of precision, precise numbers and precise wording of contracts and clauses, so correct spelling, grammar and sentences in basic communications gives clients the confidence in you and your ability to handle their transaction.

If you give a client one reason (however small) to doubt you, often nine more (equally small) will crop up. Rarely does a single lapse cause a file to implode. It’s often a series of little lapses; death by a thousand cuts. I have seen client relationships, not just the transaction, deteriorate as small errors collect and form a large pile of doubt in a client’s mind.

Poor communication has been at the root whenever a file has gone horrendously wrong; we are talking epic failures. I may only have made one single small error, which I failed to take ownership of and communicate clearly and quickly (that’s two errors already). Then the compounding of additional circumstances, completely beyond my control, conspire to paint a picture so devastating that not only the transaction and the client are lost to me, but most devastating of all, the referral source is too. In the most extreme situation you may be losing a friend too. Mistakes in this business can be costly. Trying to build an analysis of where and how it all went wrong is something that your stressed-out clients have no time or inclination to pay any attention to. You are simply written off. Your referral source may cut you some slack, but keep in mind that you are now hurting their reputation as well.

When mistakes are made, own them quickly and own them thoroughly. Even the smallest ones.

Emails thanking people for referrals should go out instantly and should not be templates; they should be genuine. If you are using templates be very careful to update them with the name of the person you’re emailing. It’s embarrassing to thank John for his time today when John is actually Jane. I try to limit the use of templates, and the very few I use are written by me and are generic. No names.

An excellent program to filter any email templates through is ‘Hemingway’. It highlights sentences that are unclear or too complex. Indeed I may have run this entire book through it had I discovered it sooner.

For people who know that their skills with speech and writing fall short of professional standards – ask for assistance. Take classes at a community college. A lack of confidence in writing can permeate communications. Resist telling yourself that enrolling in a class shows that you’re dumb. It is the refusal to learn that is the dumb move. Education makes us masters of our domains.

Bad News

Always communicate news that’s bad, slightly bad, or even neutral by phone, if not in person. Never via email, let alone text. Clients are often quick to quit when problems arise. Talking problems through often leads to resolution. Rely on emails only when you’re relaying good news, but then again, when it is good news, then you really want to call. How you handle tough situations often determines whether the client will retain you in the future and recommend you to others. Yes an email is easier when it comes to bad news; the phone call is way more difficult, and as it rings you pray for voicemail, but as always, the difficult path is the correct path.

If you get voicemail, just leave a basic message with your name and number only. Do not try and explain anything to a machine with a time limit on it.

Phoning with bad news isn’t a rule everybody follows. Most people prefer to distance themselves with email. Keep this in mind the next time you are on the receiving end of an email containing (perceived) bad news; pick up the phone and call the sender. Or if you can’t call immediately, reply with an email saying you’re going to call as soon as you can. You will rise above others in your client’s eyes as having some guts and integrity.

Talk things through—do not try to type them through.