In a world where we spend increasingly more time online, I think we tend to forget that while electronic communication is a huge benefit, it can also be a bane.How often do you start writing an email or hit reply without even considering picking up the phone to actually speak to someone? Having caught myself doing this more and more, I have recently started to consciously call several people a day whom I would ordinarily have emailed. Here are a few spontaneous responses from some of those calls – which would not likely have happened with an email.
- By the way, I’m going to this women’s networking function tonight. Would you like to join me? (I did and it was a very worthwhile event)
- Funny you should call; I was just talking about you and your firm and mentioned you to so-and-so. (I’m meeting this prospect for coffee next week)
- This is unrelated, but while I have you, would you have any suggestions on filling a board position for my nonprofit? We’re looking for… (I was able to pass this opportunity along to an interested client)
There are zillions of instances when email is fantastic; it disseminates information quickly to large groups and saves tremendous time, expedites routine communications and logistics, the list goes on.On the flip side, has anyone ever discovered that a recipient misinterpreted an email, never received it, thought it was curt or worse yet, rude? Has anyone ever hit “reply all” when they didn’t mean to (that’s a whole other conversation for this blogger…)?
If you agree that conversation is an art, then you need to practice to be good – and stay good – at it. The more you talk to and listen to people, the more you develop the skill of asking the right questions and drawing people out. You learn what makes them tick, how they make decisions and why they may need your organization’s services.
True conversations zig-zag and yield a richness of thoughts and opportunities that can never be spawned by email. Here are a few examples where an email could suffice but a call could open more doors.
- You want to get to know the person better and build a relationship.
- You believe your firm has something of value to offer this person and his/her business and want to gather more information.
- You want to use a “routine communication” as a jumping off point for a conversation.
- You want to be collaborative and would welcome the other person’s input and suggestions.
- The subject is a bit complicated and you don’t want any misunderstandings.
- You want to demonstrate an extra measure of courtesy or respect.
- You wonder if this individual even reads his/her email!
Certainly I’m not suggesting that we stop emailing – or texting, tweeting or Facebooking. But ask yourself from time to time: Would it be better to pick up the phone and interact with a human voice? And even if you leave a message, someone else hears your voice – perhaps while scanning a long list of emails in his or her inbox…
Moreover, don’t forget the tremendous value that an in-person meeting can have – coffee, lunch or any number of outings can go a long way toward building rapport and cultivating relationships.