[IMGCAP(1)]It was many years ago when I heard the phrase, “Your absence at the meeting will be noticed,” for the very first time.

Since I do not have PhD. after my name but should probably have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) after my name, it took me a few minutes to figure it out. It sends out a powerful message without actually telling someone that they’d better attend the meeting.

I’m sure it’s not the first time “a lack of communications is deafening” has been used, but it will not be the last. In today’s ultracompetitive business environment, with its increased attention on business development efforts, both internal and external communications play a more growing vital role in increasing revenues for firms than ever before.

Internal Communications
How many times have you sent a colleague an e-mail or left a voicemail and never received a reply? OK, maybe that communiqué had some technical problems along the information superhighway, so let’s shove it out again. Again no reply. Check the uniforms. You both are on the same team, aren’t you? So why the delay in the response?

If you don’t hear back from a colleague who you are hoping can assist you with your client issue, you might start thinking that this may affect your relationship with that client. You are wrong. It will affect your relationship with your client. It not only reflects poorly on the non-responder but on the firm and you as well. The client will be thinking, “Why can’t I get an answer to my question? Why am I dealing with these guys?” An internal communication problem can eventually turn itself into an external problem via the lips of a soon to be ex-client.

A strong internal communications foundation keeps everybody in the loop and removes the “I didn’t know that” when an issue pops up with a client, prospect or referral source.

Think about your own shop. Do you know some colleagues who are poor responders? Solution: Tell them. Don’t buy the answer, “I was too busy to get back to you. I was on an audit at a client’s. It’s tax season.” And the list goes on.

If we didn’t have cell phones or BlackBerries you might cut them some slack. Nothing is more impressive than listening to a voicemail recorded at some ungodly hour at night from a colleague with an answer to your question for them. That’s teamwork, and shows a sales culture within the firm that demonstrates all its members are pulling together.

External Communications
Everybody in business should be grateful to the technology that is out there today. It allows us to communicate with clients, prospects, referral sources and yes our colleagues like never before at any time during the day or night. That being said, there is a fine line between being a stalker looking to close on some new business or someone just trying to keep in touch.

Moderation is important. Communicate with prospects and clients with timely advice or with information that pertains to their business or themselves. Hold off on sending chain letters or the latest gossip. Keep your name in front of your prospects with communications that will help you in the sales process so they will view you as a resource, not a bother.

Timely Communications
How many times do you receive a monthly newsletter from an organization or business that arrives during the last week of the month? “This is nice. Let’s see what presentation, event or deadline we missed.” Perception. How do people receiving this almost-a-month-late newsletter view the business sending it?

If you plan to send mass communications out via the U.S. mail, make sure they arrive in time to be useful. It takes an effort to coordinate your mailings, but view them as another small step in how you position your firm to your targets.

If you send out huge e-mail blasts, check with your IT guru so those e-mails don’t become candidates for the junk mail pile of the intended receivers.

Food for Thought
We know how easy it is to save a voicemail or e-mail. Our good intention is to read or listen to them more thoroughly at a later time. Unfortunately many of those messages fall into the black hole of never being opened up and they may never see the light of day again. Each Monday morning review all of the saved e-mails and voicemails you’ve collected during the past week and respond to them. Erase the rest of them.

However, you know you have a problem with too many old saved voicemails and e-mails when:
•    The banker that called you to give you their new contact information now has changed banks again before you called them back;
•    You learn when you finally call back that the hot prospect who was looking for help in starting up a business is now seeking retirement advice;
•    You saved yourself $50 in not responding to the request for a donation for a gift for the retiring partner who left the firm two years ago; and,
•    That young college graduate with the accounting degree who was looking to speak to you about a job and whom you never called back is now your firm’s managing partner.

Communications is the key to growth. Some things speak volumes without ever saying a spoken word.

Nicholas D. Keseric Jr. is the director of practice growth with Mulcahy, Pauritsch, Salvador & Co, a Chicago-area middle-market CPA firm, and a partner with MPS Capital Advisors-Mergers & Acquisitions.

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