Why Good Communicators Beat “Clever” People in Business
When you take a look at the heads of the world’s biggest businesses, you quickly realise they didn’t rise to the top with book-smarts alone. Steve Jobs never wrote any code. Richard Branson doesn’t know how to design aeroplanes. And Donald Trump… well, make your own mind up about him. When it comes to real business success, it's the great communicators who win out over the clever clogs.

Communication skills are immensely powerful. You need them to persuade the high-IQ guys and gals to get on board with your big idea, and actually make it happen. You need them to sell your products to investors and customers.

And perhaps most importantly of all, you also need communication skills to get along with others. Because if nobody likes you, nobody’s going to want to hire you or work with you. See how successful you are then!

The importance of communication

So when it comes to personal development goals, it’s crystal clear where your priorities should be – communication, not academia. But in case you’re not convinced yet, here’s our 5-round face-off between the two.

Getting a job

Clever people: The smartest people seem to have an advantage at the first part of the recruitment process. They’re more likely to have good academic qualifications and a well-polished CV. However, when it comes to the interview stage, a lack of communication skills can hurt even the best-qualified people. Coming off as nervous or inarticulate might be interpreted as a lack of ‘soft skills’ needed to work well with colleagues and customers.

Communicators: Even if you don’t have the top grades, great communication skills can more than make up for it when job hunting. Communicators understand what employers are looking for, and they know how to present their own strengths. At the interview stage, communicators are more likeable and therefore more likely to be seen as a good fit in the workplace.

Winner – communicators. Once you’re past the initial qualification barrier, communication skills are what will land you your dream job.

Want to Communicate More Effectively?

Activia offers online, public and onsite courses to match your needs.


Hitting sales targets

Clever people: Intelligence is great for learning about the things you’re selling – and subject-matter expertise is a great way to build trust. However, clever people often lack the communication skills needed to present themselves and their products in the right way. Without good communication, clever people also find it difficult to start conversations, to persuade, and to close deals.

Communicators: Sales is also about relationships. Customers most-often buy from people they trust, and trust is built through… you guessed it, communication. With strong communication skills, you make strong sales pitches and build rapport with the people you’re selling to.

Winner – communicators. You can’t sell without persuading, and you can’t persuade without communicating.

Leading a team

Clever people: Intelligent, educated people are without doubt a vital part of any team. Their skills in problem solving, design, and technical tasks are indispensable. They often have the knowledge to answer their colleague’s questions, and the creativity to drive the business forward. However, they may not always have good relationships with their teammates if they lack certain soft skills – and that might hold them back as leaders.

Communicators: What brings a team together, if not communication from the leader? It’s the leader who sets goals, unites everyone in a common cause, and keeps morale high in tough times. Setting the right goals and managing technical work takes intelligence – but communication is just as important.

Winner – it’s a tie. A great leader needs both cleverness and communication.

Delivering great customer service

Clever people: Customer service is more important than ever in our consumerist, over-sharing society. Many businesses compete on service and when they fall short, customers are quicker to complain (or tweet) about it than ever. It takes intelligence to answer tough questions and please unpredictable customers, of course – but interactions also need to be friendly, helpful and genuine. That’s difficult with poor communication skills.

Customer service agent

Communicators: Think about the best customer service experience you’ve had recently. It probably wasn’t the rep’s cleverness that impressed you the most, was it? As I just said, good customer service is about being helpful and genuine. And that’s what communicators are best at.

Winner – communicators. Was this one in any doubt?

Growing a business

Clever people: As I mentioned earlier, it isn’t always the ones with the highest academic achievements who start the most successful businesses. Henry Ford struggled with dyslexia, as do many multi-millionaires. Some, like British property tycoon Andreas Panayiotou, are even illiterate. That doesn’t mean Ford and Panayiotou lack intelligence and vision, of course – those qualities are essential for entrepreneurs. But success is not about ‘cleverness’. It’s about results.

Communicators: As we’ve also seen in this article, communicators have the skills to lead, to pitch their ideas, and to connect with customers. These are high-level, transferrable skills, which stay vital however large your business grows. The technical skills often held by ‘clever’ people, on the other hand, can prevent a business from growing because they aren’t scalable.

Winner – communicators. Communication skills are truly essential for business growth and success. Meanwhile, you can simply hire clever people when you need them.

Where do your strengths lie? Take the tests!

Are you surprised by just how useful communication skills are to business success, compared with the ‘clever’ skills that are so often put on a pedestal?

You shouldn’t be. Communication makes you likeable and helps you connect with people who can help you succeed. ‘Clever’ methods are often really just short-cuts, which don’t even work out in the long-term!

So where do you go from here? Well, you can take our quick, anonymous, tests to assess your skills. We have a likeability test and a communication skills test, both of which take just 3 minutes to complete.

Want to Communicate More Effectively?

Activia offers online, public and onsite courses to match your needs.