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“How to Talk to Anyone”: Improving Communication Skills for Business Success


A group of people with lanyards in small groups standing with coffee cups and chatting
The most cringe-worthy business experience?

In starting your business, how many networking events have you been to and felt awkward and left feeling like you shot your chance to sell your business? If I could avoid all networking events, I think I would be much happier, but thankfully, Leil Lowndes book, "How to Talk to Anyone" will help you navigate these uncomfortable waters and use them to your advantage to amp up your possibility of success.


Much of your know, like, and trust factors boils down to your ability to talk to people which Leil Lowndes describes in her book “How to Talk to Anyone” (by using my affiliate link, you will support future book reviews!). At its heart, this book is about how to get people to know, like, and trust you, by using the art and science of communication.


"How to Talk to Anyone" is crucial for small business owners because effective communication is at the core of building successful relationships, which is vital for business growth. Small business owners often wear multiple hats and interact with diverse stakeholders, including customers, employees, and partners.


This book provides practical strategies and techniques to navigate a variety of communication scenarios, from networking and negotiations to customer interactions. By honing their communication skills, small business owners can enhance their ability to connect with people, build trust, and effectively convey their ideas. This, in turn, can lead to stronger partnerships, increased customer satisfaction, and a positive impact on the overall success of their businesses.


Lowndes explains that success is determined by our habits and actions. Successful business owners are deliberate in their interactions. These are skills that can be learned and honed. We can be purposeful in our communication and relationship-building.


However, if we're not mindful of our communications, we can unintentionally harm relationships. Small social missteps can gradually undermine our chances of success.

Although some approaches are dated, like those referring to voice mail etiquette and the absence of any mention of texting, many of the suggestions are timeless, improving communication skills for business success.


Key Takeaways

  1. Effective Communication is Essential: Mastering the art of communication is crucial for small business success, as it forms the foundation of building trust, connecting with stakeholders, and driving positive business outcomes.

  2. Small Social Habits Make a Big Impact: Paying attention to details like body posture, small talk, and phone etiquette can significantly enhance your business interactions, influencing how others perceive and respond to you.

  3. Strategic Networking Drives Growth: Intentional networking, focusing on events that matter, being mindful of communication styles, and tracking contacts can maximize the impact of your networking efforts, fostering valuable connections and opportunities for your business.

Improving Communication Skills for Business Success

Lowndes offers 92 micro moves divided into the following 8 areas.

Body Posture

As with many lessons in communication, we learn that we can be intentional about how we appear to those we interact with. Within seconds, our conversation partners will form opinions of us based on our body posture, so we want to learn to use body posture which signals openness and friendliness.

Lowndes suggests that the easiest way to do this is to imagine your conversation partner as an old friend. Just by thinking that, you will start to automatically change your body posture to a more positive one. In particular, make sure you:

  • stand up straight,

  • turn your body toward your conversation partner,

  • give your partner authentic, personalized smiles,

  • look at your listeners directly in the eyes as long as they are speaking,

  • don’t fidget or touch your face

  • watch how your listeners are responding to you (and adjust accordingly)

Small Talk

Small talk is crucial because almost every conversation starts this way, and we need to have some tools in our pockets to strike up conversations with people we don’t know. Lowndes gives several suggestions for how to break the ice with people you don’t know. The most helpful suggestions:

  • Focus on your listener as much as possible. Ask them questions, get them to elaborate on everything they talk about, and match their emotions. Make the conversation about them rather than you!

  • Learn conversation topics. Stay up on the news so you can talk about what is going on in the world. Learn some fun tidbits about your town to share when they ask where you are from.

  • If all else fails, parrot back what they say. Instead of talking about something new, just repeat their last few words (or summarize back what you thought they said).

Talk like a successful person

You want to imitate successful people when you talk. There are communication habits that successful people use, and you can learn them as well. A few ideas:

  • talk about your job in terms of a benefit statement instead of ending the conversation with your title, say how your job benefits people and try to tailor that to your current audience

  • ask “How do you spend most of your time?” instead of “What do you do?”

  • avoid euphemisms and cliches

  • don’t tease

  • replace overused words like “great” with more creative and descriptive words. You can plan this out ahead of time by just replacing one word at a time and working in more interesting words into your vocabulary.

  • Use ‘you’ more than ‘I’ and consider the conversation from the listener’s view

  • Always give a specific reason for a thank you. For example, “Thank you for….”.

Get people to open up to you

As business owners, we want potential customers to open up to us because that demonstrates they are trusting us. As they open up, we can overcome objections, gain valuable insight into what our audience needs, and improve our offerings. How we talk to people will influence their degree of psychological in opening up to us, and we can learn to put people at ease with our communication habits.

In order to sell anything, we need to speak the language of our customers, so take time to learn the language and topics of interest to your target audience and speak their language. Use the words they use. You can learn their language by subscribing to newsletters in the field or hanging out in forums and groups where your audience belongs.

It is helpful to also learn the language of your vendors. Talk to multiple vendors before you buy so you learn the language and issues and learn to ask the right questions. This knowledge will help you make better-informed decisions for your business and can save you lots of money in the long run.

Connect with people

Ultimately, you need to connect with people for them to know, like and trust you so that they will buy from you. There are many facets to learning this skill, but it can be broken down.

Match your personality with the product or service you are selling. For example, don’t offer a bunch of discounts if you are selling a luxury brand. Consider your energy, style, vocabulary, etc. and how they match what you are selling. For example, if you are selling vegan foods, don’t wear leather products or you will immediately turn away a large segment of your audience.

Match the communication style of your audience. Use their words. Their body language. What senses do they talk about - see, hear, feel, smell? Use that language. Use language like ‘we’. Use empathizers like, “that makes sense’ instead of ‘uh huh’ to show you are listening.

Talking on the phone

Although we don’t talk on the phone like we used to, there are several bits of wisdom here. In fact, I think we could still use the following advice in Zoom calls. For example:

  • Show your emotions and be even more animated than in real life. make sure you use the name of the caller often.

  • be cognizant of their time and distractions. If unscheduled, make sure the time is convenient. If you hear of distractions, stop and ask if they need to get off.

  • Record your calls and revisit for emotions and what was left unsaid and to confirm what you heard. Recording calls is even easier in the age of Zoom, but make sure the other party knows you are recording the calls. I often tell them I will share the transcript or summary.

Parties and Events

No matter your social inclinations, networking is a necessity for growing your business, but you can make it work by following some of Lowndes suggestions. For instance:

  • Focus on events and people that make a difference for you. Get to know what the event is before you go and consider who you want to meet. If possible, find out something about them before you go.

  • Be intentional about connecting with people. Once you arrive, pause at the entrance and scan the room for who you want to make contact with. Forget about the food and drinks, and make the most of this opportunity to connect with those you need to connect with. Food and drink will tie up your hands and make you less approachable. Stand with an open body posture in an approachable place near the door to make it easy for people to see and talk to you.

  • Track your contacts. Make sure you have your business cards, and collect business cards from others. After you connect with them, make notes on the business cards about them. Later, put this information into your CRM and follow up with them using the information you learned about them.

Dealing with social blunders and difficult conversations

People will make mistakes - customers and employees, and even us! For the most part, we want to overlook these as it only makes the person feel small and defensive. However, there may be times you want to acknowledge mistakes, but show that you are ready to move on. If it is a highly emotional error that must be addressed, give the person time to express their emotions and let it all out before you jump in with your side.

Avoid hard talks at social events like dinners, parties, and chance meetings. People need safe spaces not to feel ambushed, and they will more likely not be receptive to what you have to say when you disrespect their time. ) Like the classic elevator pitch where you attack someone in the elevator with your sales pitch).

Instead:

  • admit your mistakes and make efforts to correct any wrong

  • be the first to stand and applause

  • write complimentary letters to service personnel

Start transforming your communication to drive business success!

This summary contains only a very brief overview of the communication habits of successful people, but Lowndes’s book has a chapter on each with entertaining names and helpful examples to drive the point home. Get Leil Lowndes’s book How to Talk to Anyone with my affiliate link (to support me in writing more reviews in the future). Try working on one of her tips each week, and over a year, you will transform your communications and drive more success.


References:

Leil Lowndes. How to Talk to Anyone. London, Element, An Imprint Of HarperCollins Publishers, . Copyright, 2014.

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

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