Based upon recent events in my personal life I have been taking a look at human communication. For business purposes I have segregated communication into three types. Following is my definition of each type as well as where and when I find that type appropriate.
Worst Worst – is written communication including, letters (anyone still write those?), business proposals, emails, texts, Twitter, Facebook status posts, etc. While a great deal of detail can be contained in the message it is easy to misunderstand moods, feelings or emotions that are being conveyed or worse yet NOT conveyed. For example, try conveying true passion for your product in an email. Yes, it can be done to some extent but you will lose to the salesperson who has chosen the Only Best method below and shown up for a face-to-face meeting. Written communication should be reserved for sales prospecting, factual documents like price lists, proposals, tech support responses and providing of simple information like the date/time of a meeting.
Second Worst – is audio only or even audio/video hybrids like Webex. The biggest problem is knowing if you have the other persons attention. Are they working on something else while they talk to you? Are they getting feedback or information from others you are not even aware are involved in the communication? This is not a good way to conduct a serious business meeting or negotiation. Audio communication is a good tool for sales qualification or technical support when instant two way communication is beneficial to both parties. For example, on an initial sales call the sales person is asking questions to determine the suitability of the prospect and the prospect is asking questions to determine the suitability of the company and product being represented. While it could be done in an email it is much faster and more efficient with a phone call or Webex type meeting.
Only Best – is face-to-face and it is why I travel and attend so many shows and conferences. When I can see the whites of their eyes I know I am the center of attention and can watch body language. It is a two way street, the other party also knows they have my attention and can read my body language. If you need to close a deal, patch up a broken relationship, or otherwise do serious business then face-to-face is the only way. Almost all significant business dealings involve some face-to-face contact throughout the process otherwise it is difficult to build trust. People buy based on trust.
Jim’s Reader Challenge: If you have prospects and existing customers like I do inside a 100 mile radius get in the car and go visit them. Find three or four prospects or customers you can go see face-to-face in all in one city and do it. Existing customers need service too, and if you are not there face-to-face someone else is!