Clear Communication to Beat the Big Boys

Magic Trick
Photo courtesy of Phu Son Nguyen

One of the folks who helped contribute to our launch last week is a veteran business manager and owner of Make Way for Biz. Her amazing organizational skills whipped us into shape and got us on track faster than we could imagine. If you need a business plan and you need it fast, Sirius Graphix highly recommends the irreplaceable Elizabeth Fayle.

Without further ado, we present you the first guest post of Special Edition Wednesdays!

Every once in a while in your business life, a mentor comes along with words of wisdom that changes the way you do business. I’m very fortunate to have found such a one in a wonderful man named George.

George’s extensive skill and experience made the chance for advice too good to pass up. Recognizing a golden opportunity for wise counsel, I asked George if he would look over the packet of documents I provide my clients when they hire me to help organize their business.

He did. And one of the first things out of his mouth was:

“Oh, the Big Boys are not going to like you!”

The Big Boys are the large corporation project management firms.

“Oh,” I replied in surprise. “Is that a bad thing?”

Turns out that it’s a very bad thing if I want to work for the Big Boys.

Which I don’t.

It’s a very good thing if I want to build my business based on empowering my clients.

Which I do!

And I know you do too, because empowered clients are confident clients, and confident clients know what they want. So I’m going to pay the wise counsel forward and give you two important tips for building strong customer commitment.

With the added bonus of ticking off the Big Boys!

1. Write Like You’re Sharing a Coffee

“I love your writing style,” George said to me. “It reads like a conversation over coffee.”

I’m sure you’ve read something like this:

‘Effective resource management is the key to your business success. This requires that your resource base be applied optimally, aligning fiscal responsibility with the strategic direction and priorities of the organization.’

Question is, did you understand any of it? I glazed over by the fifth word—and I wrote it!

Writing like this might make you sound impressive (“Look at me, I can use big words!”), but there is zero value added for your clients. And they sure aren’t going to ask for clarification, because they’ll run the risk of appearing stupid.

Let’s try it again:

‘In order to have a really strong team, you first need to figure out your business priorities. Based on those priorities and the amount of money you have for salaries, you can pick the right people for the job.’

Now this is valuable. Clear, concise, and to the point. The client knows what he needs to do and the order he needs to do it in.

Also, by not hiding behind business jargon, your client knows you know your stuff instead of having to guess that you know what you’re doing.

2. Tell Them How To Do It

“By telling your client how to do the job, you’re giving away the magicians’ tricks,” said George with a twinkle in his eye.

He’s fond of this one because it makes the Big Boys extremely uneasy. Oh, they love to go on about what such-and-such is and why it’s important. But they never actually tell their clients how to do what they do.

And why would they, when they can give sales pitches like this:

‘Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, and managing resources to successfully accomplish project goals and objectives. Without proper project management, you run the risk of scope creep. You need Big Boy Corp to manage your projects for you and save you from financial gloom and doom.’

What the Big Boys don’t get is that what they do isn’t a mystical bag of tricks and it serves no purpose to pretend it is. If clients don’t know what you’re doing for them, why would they bother with keeping you around? By demystifying your trade, you make your clients comfortable with your service.

Re-written, we have:

‘Project management is figuring out what you need to do to get the job done. It’s important for delivering your service to the client on time while making you money. And here’s how you do it …. ‘

“Horrors!” the Big Boys screech. “If we explain things in everyday language and give away the tricks of our trade, we’ll never land that next contract!”

To which my wise mentor George retorts, “Bullshit.”

Yes, you are giving your client the knowledge to do it himself, but just because he knows how to do it doesn’t mean he wants to.

I, for instance, know how to change the brakes on my car. I’ve watched people do it, and while they did it they explained exactly what they were doing in language I understood.

Doesn’t mean I want to change the brakes on my car!

By hiring you in the first place, your client has proven they don’t want to do what you do. By being upfront and open about your work, they better understand what you do and why you do it.

More importantly, they know why your service is important to their business. You’ve told them why in a language they understand, and you’ve empowered them with options.

And chances are that when you’re the one being honest and helpful, the option they’ll choose is you.

Eliza Fayle is founder of Make Way For Biz. It is her goal to prove the Big Boys wrong by empowering all small business owners with the knowledge to run their own projects and processes.



  1. says

    Awesome post, Eliza! As an editor I totally believe that getting your message across, that is, saying what you mean to say and in the simplest, most efficient way possible, is paramount. As a customer, I appreciate the very same thing, otherwise I get overwhelmed o irritated or turned off. When I’m editing and I read stilted text as illustrated by some of your examples, I immediately think, hmmm, overcompensating or trying too hard to impress, and I see this in blog posts, on business sites, academic writing, and especially in fiction.

    If your goal is to find clients or gain readership, wouldn’t it make more sense to cater to them? (To the extreme, when I was editing for the government, I was told I needed to make the language read on a grade six level, apparently the average level of Canadians’ understanding.)

    In any type of communication, the idea is to present yourself in a way that’s accessible to the audience you have in mind. Giving those simplified examples as you did was a great way to illustrate how we can change our approach and be not only understood but better liked.

  2. says

    @Steph – I found this on a literacy site which I found very interesting:

    Newspapers vary widely in their readability index. The free local community papers are usually the easiest to read, with a grade 5-6 target readership. The Province is slightly higher at 6-7, the Vancouver Sun is roughly at 8-10, and the Globe and Mail even higher at 10-12.

    re: overcompensating or trying too hard to impress … or regurgitating text without the author really understanding what they are talking about either.

    My rule for myself is, if I can’t state it simply and clearly then I do not understand the concepts enough to explain it to someone else.
    .-= Eliza’s last blog post… The (Mis)Adventures of Mike: Mapping out business processes =-.

  3. says

    @Eliza: Your rule for yourself is something Sensei taught me many years ago and it still sticks in my head. Now whenever I find I can’t explain something, I stop and ask if I really do know what I’m talking about. Good advice!

  4. says

    Eliza: Thanks for that link, I’ll check it out. And that is good advice, that last bit. Though do you ever find that sometimes you understand something so innately you find it difficult to bring it to simpler terms? Because you understand it so well?

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