“If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.” — Gerald Ford

When I work with businesses and sales producers, everyone wants to learn how to find more prospects, close more sales, and keep more clients.

These business and sales professionals are looking for a specific process or system that will be the “cure-all” for whatever is ailing their sales team. Having tried-and-true sales and marketing systems are important, but even the best systems can’t fix what many businesses and sales professionals are missing: the ability to effectively communicate and connect with their prospects and clients.

Here is the bottom line, as stated from John Maxwell in his book, “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”:

“You will only be able to reach your potential — regardless of your profession or chosen path — when you learn to connect with other people.”

It’s really that simple. No process, system or sales tactic will make you a better communicator. You must have the intention to connect with those you wish to serve and influence.

There are no shortcuts in great communication. To connect, you have to pour your heart and soul into the other person. And it starts with your attitude.

It doesn’t matter if you are communicating in a face-to-face conversation, phone call, email, blog post or social media update. At the heart of every interaction, the focus must be on the value of the other person.

Every company in the world has the ability to automate and delegate, but rarely do they succeed when they communicate. That’s because the focus ultimately is on factors that help their business, not the person or business they serve.

Make no mistake: Connecting is hard work. Just like anything in life, if it were easy, more people would be doing it. Connecting requires that you are proactive with your thoughts, words and actions. Connecting doesn’t just “happen.” Connecting occurs because you make it happen.

I have learned this through first-hand experience. When I think about my personal and business relationships, my closest relationships are the ones in which I have invested the most time, work and energy. Those relationships that have been neglected are either strained or, at best, weak.

As I write this, I can think of several relationships that need more attention, both personally and professionally. I am sure you also can think of relationships you would like to improve.

There is no magic bullet. A prospect, client, co-worker or family member isn’t likely to suddenly go out of their way to connect with you. You have to start. You have to have the intention to connect. And you have to focus on the person with whom you are trying to connect.

Even if you are an effective communicator, you can continue to improve. If you haven’t been effective in connecting in the past, don’t lose hope. Start today and you will be amazed at the effect it will have on your business and personal life.

In his book, John Maxwell offers some great ideas on how you can improve your communication in one-on-one situations. I have used these ideas in different areas of my life and they have made a great impact. Some of them include:

  • Talk more about the other person and less about yourself. Prepare two or three questions to ask someone before a meeting or social gathering.

  • Bring something of value, such as a helpful quote, story, book, or CD, to give to someone when you get together.

  • At the close of the conversation, ask if there is anything you can do to help them and follow through. Acts of servanthood have a resounding impact that live longer than words.

Remember that connecting increases your influence in every situation. The ability to communicate and connect effectively will make or break you.

Ask yourself: What actions are you taking to improve your communication and build connections?

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