Getting in control of your communications is one of the best ways to reduce the stress of running a small business. Responding promptly, answering questions, and providing the right information will help you build trust with suppliers, partners, and customers. This will lead to better relationships, more sales, and greater profits.
Here are some handy hints for controlling your communications, rather than letting them control you.
Limit how you can be communicated with
Decide on the channels you want to use to let people get in touch with you. You need to find a balance between being available (good) and always being available (bad). Email and phone are still the main ways people communicate, so you’ll need to include those.
Carefully consider if you want to use Skype, Slack, instant messaging or other popular communications methods. My advice would be to use 3 or so channels (including email and phone), any more than that and you’re spreading your attention too thin.
Only check emails at certain times
If you check email all the time, you’ll want to respond to them all the time. This will be distracting, and can really take up your day – It takes up to ten minutes to refocus when we move between tasks. Instead, set up two or three times a day when you check and respond to emails, for example 9AM – 9:30AM, 12PM – 12:30PM, 4:30PM -5PM.
Don’t just “take” calls
If your suppliers and partners call you at random, ask that they need to discuss and schedule a time to speak with them properly. You can prep for the meeting and give them more attention.
Setup templates for your emails
If there are certain types of emails you’re always sending, consider setting up template emails. For example, you might have a process for onboarding clients or responding to common requests. Look at the last few emails you sent, find out what ones worked best, and hone them into a template.
Setup folders, filters, and rules
Where possible, create folders for your emails (e.g. leads, customers, contracts etc.) You can build rules and filters in Gmail, Outlook, and many other email programs. This will let you filter messages into various folders depending on subject lines, who sent them, and many other factors. You can focus on particular types of email at any one time, making them easier to deal with.
Have a script when you’re on the phone
Just as you have common emails you need to respond to, you’ll also have common types of phone calls. Setup a script when you’re dealing with these calls so you can lead the conversation or respond in the right way. This is particularly useful if you need to ask questions, as it makes sure you cover all necessary areas.
Learn the art of the short email
Shorter emails are better emails. People’s attention spans are limited, so get to the point quickly. This means:
- Make subject lines clear and obvious. E.g. “Response needed on new design for blue widget packaging,” or “Sales manager job descriptions completed – Please sign off.”
- Keep the email to three paragraphs or fewer.
- When asking questions make each question very obvious.
- State when you want a response by.
These are all simple, practical steps, although they do require the right approach and good discipline. When you put these in place, you’ll react and respond to emails and communications quickly and efficiently. This means you’ll be able to spend more time growing and enhancing your business.