- Make an intellectual and emotional connection.
- When you want to implement changes, put the changes into context first, be colourful, paint a picture.
- Learn how to use all of the software available to you, including voice recognition on your smartphone.
International motivational speaker Debbie Mayo-Smith believes people need to connect better in order to communicate better and says there are two key ways to make a connection.
“No matter how you are communicating – writing, talking with someone, presenting, emailing – there are really two ways of connecting. The first is intellectually. The second is to connect emotionally, and that’s a real game changer.”
By an intellectual connection, Mayo-Smith means making your points in a logical order, being prepared, knowing what clients or customers are going to object to, and having your responses ready.
“You can actually even talk about these [objections] upfront, by saying ‘you might be thinking this, but…’ and then you’ll have the rebuttal.”
An emotional connection is about the way you communicate with people. She says when you’re talking to people, look at them in the eye, even in group situations. In a meeting, if you have a number of important points to make, look at person one for the first point, person two for the second point, and continue around the group.
Another important way to make an emotional connection is to adjust what she calls the “I/you” ratio. For example, she says, look at what happens when you call a pet.
“As soon as you say their name, their ears perk up. They’re interested. It’s the same thing with people. People are interested in themselves, they’re not interested in you, what you’re writing about, what you’re talking about, or anything in that capacity. People care about themselves.”
Therefore, people also tend to communicate – be it speaking, writing, telling stories – from an “I” point of view, without necessarily realising it.
“People say: ‘I need this today, we need this, if you’re talking to a client: I think that you should do this’.”
Mayo-Smith suggests capitalising on peoples’ interest in themselves.
“The way to be much more persuasive and to connect better is to take all of your ‘I’s and turn them into ‘you’s, getting rid of any I, we and me if possible.
“In practice, this means instead of saying: ‘I need this paper now’, say ‘please can you get this paper for me’. Or rather than saying: ‘I love this tip’, say ‘here’s a tip you’re going to love’.”
Tell me a story
Mayo-Smith recommends telling stories as a way of getting a point across and being more persuasive.
“People will forget your name and what you say, but if you give them a good story that can emphasise your point, you will really hit home.”
There are three elements to a great story, she says: grab people’s attention, have strong characters, and use examples of dialogue.
Mayo-Smith says a great way to grab people’s attention is to start a story with the end result, which is a technique often used in movies. Make the most important point first, then backtrack and fill in how things came to this point.
She recommends using “flesh and blood characters” – pictures of people, or descriptions of the people in the story. Then use dialogue by saying what was actually said.
The importance of making an impact
Mayo-Smith says it’s important people make impactful connections.
“It helps you be memorable, which is what you want, or it helps you get your point across in negotiations or decision making.”
This is particularly important when people are starting a new role. Her first tip is do your homework.
“This means researching on social media, such as LinkedIn, finding out about the people you’re going to be working with.”
She also recommends listening, rather than talking too much, and watching the I/you ratio.
Another way to make a positive impact is to introduce yourself in an interesting way, not just in a new role, but in meetings with colleagues you don’t know very well.
“For example, say ‘hi, I’m Sarah, I’m the one who always makes sure your bills are paid on time’,” she says.
But her top tip for ensuring people remember you for all the right reasons is graciousness. She says while everyone seems to be time poor nowadays, there is always time to say thank you.
“Little things like thank you emails or texts or being courteous and letting someone know if you’re running late. Little things like that can really make a person stand out.”
Be more persuasive
Mayo-Smith has a saying: “Fluff walks, money talks.”
It means tell the client or customer the bottom line, as that is all they really want to hear.
Instead of listing all the benefits for them, tell them how much they can increase their profit by doing the actions you’re suggesting.
“You get what you want and be persuasive by doing your research and knowing what’s important to the other person – are they price sensitive? Are they quality sensitive? Are they kindliness or hand-holding sensitive?”
Does this sound funny to you?
Mayo-Smith recommends people keep humour to a minimum in professional communication. And she knows the importance of working out your own personality type, and embracing it, rather than trying to be something you are not.
“Humour is marvellous and everyone loves it, but if it’s not natural to you, don’t even bother trying.”
Once, in the past, she decided she needed to be a funny speaker and spent two years trying to be funny. This included hiring comedians to re-write her speeches.
“But it didn’t feel natural to me, I couldn’t do it.”
She eventually realised she just wasn’t going to be funny.
“Humour is marvellous and everyone loves it, but if it’s not natural to you, don’t even bother trying.” She says self-deprecating things are okay, and elements of humour can be used if it fits in with you and if you’re naturally funny, but don’t take up people’s time trying to tell jokes.
Mayo-Smith’s personal style is what she calls “earnest Mama”.
Mayo-Smith also underlines how email communications can be improved. Given that people’s time is precious, she supports the concept of a three-line email.
“So many people are lazy when they write emails. They just brain dump.
“If you’re going to brain dump, go over it and edit. You learn the skill when you have to write to a word count.”
On the question of whether to let your personality shine through in emails, Mayo-Smith says: “Be graciously succinct with personality.”
She believes it’s fine to text clients, as people are busy and are used to getting information via texts. “Everyone knows how to text and everyone has smartphones.”
Save time and make better connections
Mayo-Smith also has a wealth of knowledge on how to save time by communicating smarter.
Her number one time saving tip is to master your email software.
“There are a number of things that Outlook can do to help you become a marketing, communication and customer service maven.”
This includes categorising clients, for example by sector, and sorting them by category in Outlook then doing a personalised email merge that takes just minutes when set up correctly.
“By learning how to cleverly use your software, you can free up your own time, increase client service, and even bring in new clients.”
She also advocates learning all the capabilities of your smartphone, and is a big fan of voice recognition.
This includes making your phone read your messages aloud, or to send a text message.
“I talk about 80% of my emails and text messages instead of writing them down,” she says.
Despite living a busy life, book time with yourself to have a play with the menu of your smartphone so you can learn wonderful things you didn’t know. The time investment will repay itself faster than you might think.
Debbie Mayo-Smith’s top communication tips
- Make an intellectual connection.
- Have structure and logic to what you want to say.
- Be prepared and answer rebuttals up front.
- When convincing to secure a change, introduce it by setting the scene, painting a picture.
- Make an emotional connection.
- Use eye contact.
- Use stories to make your point.
- Use “you” not “I”.
- Quantify – fluff walks, money talks.
- Learn your software.
- Save time - use rules to automate your inbox. You can have emails automatically filed, deleted or answered.
- Quick parts – Don’t type the same paragraph in emails repeatedly over time. Instead, open an email, use the “insert” button then use “Quick parts” to save preformatted text and images, then simply insert them with a click when needed.
- Use voice recognition on your smartphone.
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