“What we have here is.. failure to communicate”. As most of you know, that is a famous line from the movie, Cool Hand Luke. Years ago I rented that movie, just so I could see the context of that quote. Another movie I rented on the basis of one oft-quoted line was The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Every time the character responsible for the quote made an appearance, I sat on the edge of my seat. Towards the end, when he finally uttered the words “We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” I could finally sit back and enjoy the rest of the movie…but, I digress.
In today’s business world, there are many ways to communicate with clients. Some direct forms of communication include telephone, email, fax, video/web conference and good old fashioned face to face meetings. Some methods of indirect communication we use include print and electronic advertising, seminars, trade show participation and, blogs. There are many other forms of course, but these are the primary ones we tend to employ the most.
Effective communication is vital to the success of a broker. In order to secure exclusive listings and acquisitions, I must be able to clearly communicate the benefits of using my company to prospective clients. In order to solicit reasonable offers on aircraft I am representing, I must be able to communicate its selling points. In order to produce a reasonable counter offer, I must be able to communicate my estimate of fair market value to the owner in light of current conditions. In order to bring the two parties together, I must effectively manage expectations and guide each party towards a good compromise. This process is a little science, a lot of art and sometimes a touch of divine intervention.
Email has changed the way I communicate a great deal, but it is certainly no substitute for personal contact with a customer. When dealing with clients, I try to use email in two ways. The first is for clarification. I will spend some time on the phone with a client walking them through the market and give them my thoughts on values, comparable sales, competition and trends. After that conversation, I will typically send an email restating my recommendations in a condensed form. This provides a paper trail and helps avoid confusion when the data is referred to in subsequent conversations.
The second way I use email is when a client is extremely time limited, difficult to reach on the phone, or seems to prefer the ease of communicating through email over using the phone. I have some clients that I will talk to multiple times a day, everyday, during the course of a transaction. I have others that would rather correspond via blackberry for most things and rarely pick up the phone to call me directly. It usually takes a deal or two for me to figure out a client’s preferred method, but I am happy to adopt the approach that works best for them.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. Sighting numerous examples of some of the most successful people in history, he repeatedly hits on the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. In my life I have held numerous interests. However, other than sleeping and eating (neither of which I can claim mastery at), there are probably not many things I have invested 10,000 hours practicing. But, I can certainly claim to have invested at least that amount of time into my communications skills.
When report cards were sent home from grade school at my house, I was usually pretty confident that my grades would come out ok. But, I never quite knew what to expect in the behavior category. I had a tendency to talk a lot, regardless of who else might be talking at the time. As it turns out, I was simply building my 10,000 hours of communication skills as quickly as possible.
More next week.
Toby J. Smith
JBA Aviation, Inc.