We don’t know what we don’t know and this is why communicating with business owners and individuals can be challenging.

How many of us can honestly say we’re 100% sure our messages are heard and that we’re always perceived as confident, credible and trustworthy? Have you ever walked away from a phone conversation or face-to-face conversation saying to yourself, “I shouldn’t have said what I said?”

As a life insurance professional, you must clearly communicate your policies that best meet the financial needs of your clients. Most of us are under the blurred assumption, “If I communicate a message it’s heard.” In reality, your message may not have been heard at all.

My 13 years of researching communication proves that most individuals are not trained in how to communicate effectively. Most individuals continue to climb the corporate ladder for what they know rather than how they articulate what they know.

How do you know if your communication is breaking up when what you say isn’t consistent with how you say it? For example, when a client tells you “I’m so excited to have this opportunity to work with you,” and they communicate this statement in a monotone and boring voice. Their facial expressions are lifeless. They never look you in the eye and they’re fidgeting with a pen. Most likely you’d question their credibility and knowledge, and wouldn’t be influenced.

If what you say is not consistent with how you say it, your clients will believe what they see and hear over your message. The following pie chart illustrates what really counts for trust and believability.

To guarantee you’re communicating with impact and influence, always follow these 5 tips.

Tip #1: Pause when speaking

Um, what perception, like, do you create, you know, when you hear, um, a speaker using, uh, words that clutter, you know, their language? Knowledgeable and confident probably don’t come to mind.

The number 1 challenge you need to overcome to communicate with influence is the ability to replace non-words with a pause. We use non-words to buy ourselves time to think about what we want to say. These words become distracting and your client misinterprets your message. Instead, give your client time to hear and understand your message.

Benefits

? Get to the point.

? What really counts for trust and believability.

? Gain control over your message and how you communicate your message.

? Give your client time to hear, understand and act on what you say.

Tip #2: Make eye contact

When I met a new client to help him enhance his ability to influence others, I asked him; “What do you feel are your communication strengths?” He responded, “eye contact.” As he responded his eyes were darting everywhere! Most individuals don’t lock their eyes with an individual long enough to create a relationship.

The only way to build a relationship is through trust. When you forget what to say, you will look away from your client. When you disconnect you’ll say “uh”, “um”, “so”, “and”, etc. You communicate to your client you don’t know what you’re saying.

When speaking to more than 2 individuals, connect with one individual for a complete sentence or thought. Only speak when you see your client’s eyes and pause when you look away.

Tip #3: Project your voice

If you want to be perceived as confident you must speak at a volume level to be heard. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being inaudible and 10 too loud, when speaking to a group of 15 or more your voice needs to be at a 7 to 8. When speaking over the phone or to a small group, speak at a 4 to 5 level.

Vocal projection means you need to use different volume levels so your voice reaches everyone in the room. No one should have to strain to hear you.

Benefits

? Hold your client’s attention.

? Bring out the importance of your message.

? Convey confidence.

Tip #4: Use purposeful gestures

Most individuals I work with fidget with their fingers, pen and the list goes on. If they don’t fidget, then they unconsciously talk with their hands. There are also individuals who go to the extreme: They’ve been told they talk with their hands so they hold their hands and do nothing.

Confident professionals use their gestures to add emphasis to their words. To gesture with purpose, avoid locking your elbows at your sides or creating the same repetitive gesture. Instead, expand your gestures from your sides and let your hands emphasize and describe your message.

Add variety to your gestures by relaxing your arms back to your sides after you complete a gesture. If you’re constantly using gestures you’re creating static.

Benefits

? You’re the visual. When you use purposeful gestures, your client will remember more of your message.

? Add emphasis to your message.

? Grab your client’s attention.

? Add energy and inflection to your voice and channel your adrenaline and nervous energy.

Ask for constructive feedback from friends, family and co-workers. For example: “When I gesture do I look like I’m talking with my hands?” Or: “Do I use gestures too often or not enough?”

Tip #5: Get to the point

The more you say that’s unnecessary, the greater is the risk your client will either miss or misinterpret your point.

? When you find yourself saying too much, put the brakes on and get yourself back on track…PAUSE!

? Keep your objective in mind. Think in terms of your client’s financial needs.

? Focus your message on no more than the 3 significant points. It’s easier for your client to remember your message.

? Pay attention to your clients. Are they hanging on your every word or are they dazed or fidgeting?

Stacey Hanke is a communication expert, author, speaker and president of 1st Impression Consulting, Inc. Chicago, Ill. You may e-mail her at Stacey.hanke@1stimpressionconsulting.com.