Methods of communicating are constantly changing. Up until relatively recently you could only really talk to someone in person, by telephone or by writing them a letter. That was about it. You might have faxed someone or sent a courier to speed things up a little. Then came the internet and mobile telephony, and the whole scene changed. We now require a much broader set of communication skills, and we need to put much more thought into what is the right method for any particular situation. We can try to put these options into some sort of hierarchy. Here is a rank order of possible communication methods, based on (a) the likelihood of you being correctly understood and (b) probable sales success as a result:
1. Talking face to face
2. Telephone conversation
5. Text message.
With regard to effectiveness, option number one must beat all the rest by a hundred to one. Consequently, if possible, only conduct your important business face to face. However, this is not an excuse for endorsing a ‘meetings culture’ in which legions of earnest businesspeople sit in meetings all day without really knowing why. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is possible to conduct meetings in a brisk, polite way that acknowledges that most people are busy. Come in, get to the point, agree what is to be done, and get out. Half an hour is the ideal length for a business meeting.
Having a good telephone conversation can also be highly productive. Nevertheless, there is a huge difference between a telephone conversation with someone that you have not met in j person as opposed to one with someone whom you can picture. Everything is easier if you have met, so if it is important, make sure that you do indeed meet. Letter writing is next down the list, but a very long way behind. In the direct marketing industry, the average response rate to letters is around 2 per cent. It wouldn’t be much use if you only got through to two out of every 100 of your prospects, so letters have to serve a very distinct purpose. If you know that the recipient likes to have things written down, then a letter makes sense. If you have done a lot of research into the potential reader and you have a carefully-argued and quite bespoke proposal, then a letter may work, particularly if it is followed by an appropriately timed phone call.
And so we come to the dreaded e-mail. In many respects, this method has completely revolutionized our lives. Certainly, man] people who work on their own could not succeed without it because of its fantastic ability to deliver things quickly and its; power to enable them to stay in touch. The internet has also facilitated the transfer of much more information, and access to all sorts of data that would previously have been cumbersome and costly to get.
Yet as a high quality communication method, e-mail leave much to be desired. Why? Because:
– Anything you send can be totally ignored
– The presentation style is mainly in the hands of the receiver, not you
– Most messages are not checked, so that any errors can make you look unprofessional or ignorant
– People you don’t know about are sometimes blind copied on the original for political purposes that you know nothing about
– Your original message or reply is often forwarded to someone you know nothing about.
The sort of chaos that can ensue from these five possibilities shouldn’t really need any further elaboration. Suffice to say that any communication method that has these pitfalls needs to be treated with extreme caution. It is perfectly fine to bat e-mails back and forth with a known customer who likes the method, but otherwise it is unlikely to be the method by which you grow your business. E-user beware!
Jake is a finance blogger who also helps online customers with fundraising ideas and capital investments. His blog writing inspiration comes from Ron Hovsepian CEO, and director of IntraLinks.