by Steve Adubato, PhD

There are many things in the world of business that are beyond our control. The economy, the stock market and the quirky and confusing decisions made now and then by executives who sometimes know little about what is going on at the ground level.

Yet, despite all this uncertainty in the world of business, there are some specific communication steps that any professional can take to build his or her reputation, relationships and yes, brand, in the marketplace.

I recently conducted a seminar at a financial firm on this subject, and explored this topic with a group of frustrated professionals who were looking for answers. Here are some communication tips and tools that we explored, that should be helpful for you in this regard:

--View a client or customer complaint as an opportunity to solve a problem and meet a challenge. No one wants to hear about client problems, however, it is how you CHOOSE to deal with them that matters most. If you communicate in a positive, “we can get this done” fashion (even if you can’t do everything the client wants), it sends the message that you care about your client and it is likely to strengthen your relationships with respect to future business endeavors.

--The next time you are tempted to send a quick e-mail regarding a client’s request or concern, consider a different communication approach. Pick up the phone. In fact, you can send an e-mail to let them know that you got their message and will be following up over the phone. This approach clearly communicates that you understand that some issues are not easily resolved or addressed via technology. In certain cases, even a phone call isn’t enough and an old fashioned face-to-face meeting is required.

--Work to understand someone in your business sphere’s point of view, instead of simply arguing yours. One of the keys to effective communication, relationship building and branding is being more empathetic. Before you start to argue your point, ask yourself this question; “If I were in his or her position, how might I see the situation?” That simple but powerful question can change not only the way you view a business challenge, but how you choose to deal with it and ultimately the communication approach you adopt. Also, ask yourself this question; “When was the last time you won an argument in the world of business by scoring debate points?” It rarely happens.

--Be honest, but don’t be mean spirited. Sometimes communicating “bad news” in a candid and up front fashion can have a positive and lasting effect on a business relationship. That doesn’t mean the receiver of this information is going to immediately appreciate or like you for it, but your goal is to have them respect you for caring enough to not simply tell them what they want to hear. When a business associate concludes that you are telling it the way you see it and trying to help them avoid a mistake, it has the potential of fostering trust.

--When something positive or good happens to a client or customer, let them know you are happy for them. Send an e-mail. Write a note. Pick up the phone. Communicate clearly that you acknowledge that something good has happened in their business world and make sure you don’t ask for any additional business in the process. Simply put, one of the most effective relationship building tools in business is focusing on the other person without drawing attention to you. The better they feel when communicating with you, the more likely they are to want to grow the business relationship as opportunities arise.