The biggest fear for female entrepreneurs? Attracting new clients.
As someone who started my own business relatively recently this September, 2016 study by Hiscox (a leader in specialized business insurance) resonated with me. DNA of an Entrepreneur surveyed 1,000 U.S. business owners and found the biggest fear of female small business owners surveyed is not being able to attract new clients (24%). I imagine any number of thoughts such as these pass through the mind of all entrepreneurs: Will potential clients find value in my idea? Will they trust in my ability to deliver as promised? Will I deliver my pitch convincingly? If we pull back the layers of this fear I think we’ll find at its root a crisis of confidence. Which can be conquered by taking command of your communication skills. Start by asking yourself, “What’s my communication style?”
Know Your Communication Style
Peter A. Garber of HRD Press created a communication questionnaire we like to use with our clients. It starts by asking you to pick the communication style that best describes you: Outspoken/Direct | Quiet/Reserved | Thoughtful/Analytical | Friendly/Unassuming. I appreciate these are broad categories. You can certainly be quiet and also thoughtful. But in my experience most people identify strongly with one category more than the rest. It then goes on to ask, “In what ways is your communication style misunderstood by others?” I find this question particularly important because it acknowledges that we’ve all been misunderstood at one time or another. And it encourages an ability I believe we each have to take a step back from these situations and identify what went wrong. Honoring that you have your own unique communication style is the first step to understanding how to shape your communication skills in business to your advantage.
Can nerves be a good thing?
I imagine another facet of this fear of not being able to attract new clients is, “Will I make a good impression?” The factors that inform the impression someone has of you are multifaceted to be sure. Through our work we’ve found that two of the biggest are our physical choices and vocal tone. When pitching a new client, nerves are sure to be running high. This is precisely when unconscious physical habits such as, playing with the pen on the desk or fixing our hair unnecessarily kick in. It’s our subconscious way of diffusing nerves. Think of them as unconscious self-preservation tactics. I find this comforting, actually. It’s easy to look at nervous ticks as things that make you a ‘bad’ or ‘weak’ at business communication skills. But at their root their just your system’s (misdirected) way of helping you succeed in that moment.
Take a deep breath.
Nerves also affect breath. Have you ever experienced a time when you were nervous speaking to someone and ‘lost your air’? I have. Counteracting this is where technique comes in. One way we like to practice is by placing one hand on your upper chest and one on your abdomen just above your bellybutton. Take an inhale isolating your breath into your top hand. Then do the same with the bottom hand. Notice which sensation feels familiar and which awkward. Over time the goal is to breath into your bottom hand - your diaphragm. Breathing into the top half of your chest put unnecessary strain on your vocal chords and creates a roadblock of sorts for your voice. Breathing into your diaphragm creates a supported foundation to communicate from. Check out our xxx video for step-by-step instructions.
Recruiting new clients may never be a breeze but understanding your communication style and how to shape it will lead to higher rates of success when communicating in high-stress environments and change feelings feelings of fear to excitement and anticipation.