Clear and effective communication is a must-have to succeed in today’s ag retail environment. If your team can perfect the art of exceptional communication, you’ll have a *competitive advantage in the marketplace and secure more business. If you’re wondering what it takes to excel, look no further. These insights from top communicators can help your team master their skills.
Hear What Isn’t Said
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” — Author Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker was a leader in modern business management and a communications consultant. His quote emphasizes the importance of looking beyond words to understand the underlying thoughts, assumptions and values driving your audience. Effective communication doesn’t just involve talking and listening. In fact, Harvard University reports that nonverbal cues can have between 65 and 93 percent more impact than the spoken word in a conversation. It’s critical to pay attention to fine details, including a person’s tone, body language and facial expressions. It’s also crucial to be able to read between the lines to anticipate outcomes. Listening with your eyes can help you identify when a customer has a question, seems confused or has an emotional response to something you’ve said.
Hearing what isn’t said is a two-way street. Consider your posture, eye contact, presence and tone as you interact with customers and teammates. Even when you’re not talking, you communicate with the people around you.
Save the Solutions
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” — Author Ernest Hemingway
Your job as a trusted advisor is to offer solutions. It’s exciting to find the perfect product match for your customers’ agronomic woes. But, not so fast. Even if you think you know what your customers need, give them time to tell you. Listen intently to their problems and allow them an opportunity to have ownership in finding a solution. As you listen, you may uncover details that you initially overlooked. Or, perhaps you made assumptions going into the conversation that weren’t exactly correct. Take the advice of Ernest Hemingway and listen completely before jumping into a solution.
“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” — Author Stephen Covey
Exceptional communication requires trust. People are more likely to believe information from someone they have confidence in. Increasing transparency with your team and customers builds loyalty, improves credibility, and supports more effective communication. When you’ve proven you follow through and do what you say, your audience is more receptive when you want to introduce a new product or offer a management recommendation.
What does transparency look like in the day-to-day interaction with customers? Here are a few examples:
- A fertilizer price increases from the original quote you gave a customer. Share that information as soon as it’s known to help the farmer budget or adjust plans.
- A farmer is interested in a product that works well on a neighbor’s farm. You don’t think it’s the best fit for their operation, so you explain why it might not be a wise investment.
- Shipping delays are causing product backlogs. Be upfront with your customers that delivery times are uncertain, and help develop backup plans.
- You need to start charging a fuel surcharge for deliveries to help cover rising costs. Develop an email to customers to explain the charge and why it is being applied.
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” — Author Anthony Robbins
Effective communication is difficult because every person has unique experiences, values and perspectives. Some people prefer to communicate over email, while others love to shoot the breeze for hours in a cornfield. You may have run into customers who want to know every nitty-gritty detail about a product they plan to purchase and others who just want the best product delivered to their field, no questions asked.
If there were a one-size-fits-all approach, communicating would be simple. Unfortunately, you’ll need to change how you communicate to match your audience’s preferences to be effective. Meet your customers and team where they are. Find out how they prefer to be communicated with and start there. Maybe an in-person visit works best for one customer, but another likes to get information via text message. Make sure the delivery method and style align with your audience’s needs.
Practice Makes Perfect
“Communication works for those who work at it.” — Composer John Powell
Like anything, the more you work at effective communication, the better you’ll get at it. There are plenty of ways to perfect good communication skills, including listening to relevant podcasts and webinars, reading books or attending workshops. It’s also important to start practicing good communication skills in your day-to-day interactions with people. That looks like:
- Making eye contact when you listen and speak
- Putting away your phone when others are talking
- Listening intently and asking clarifying questions
- Being aware of your body position; show interest in your posture
- Considering your audience’s preferences before communicating
- Avoiding assumptions or providing solutions too soon
- Being brief but specific
Effective communication skills are the cornerstone of any successful business. GROWERS understands that ag retailers have unique communication challenges compared to other industries. That’s why we’ve developed a suite of tools and services, including GROWERS Rally™ and GROWERS Connect™, exclusively for ag retailers who need more effective, timely and accurate ways to communicate with their customers. To learn how we can help you build your business, visit growers.ag.
*Link for competitive advantage article.