Hear Ye, Hear Me: 5 Things to Consider Before You Hit “Send”
Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on May 14, 2015
Conversation at a recent networking event segued from technical writing and the RFP process to more casual business correspondence. A tax attorney commented that he’d had an extremely productive and satisfying day – and specifically credited the telephone. He had needed a list of specific information from 6 different individuals. Instead of taking the obvious tack and sending group email, he’d decided to call each person. Inside of a couple hours, from 6 calls, he’d reached 5 sources, and gotten precisely the information he needed. He had the last call scheduled and was practically giddy. Deservedly so: his intentional selection of the telephone over email made a huge difference in his success.
We are all guilty of being default communicators: automatically using the same tool, regardless of your intent, audience, or message. You would never allow your advertising or social media to run on autopilot (I hope), so why not apply that same care to all of your outreach efforts? Whether you default to email, text, instant message, or the telephone, none of them are optimal all the time. If instead, you take the time to assess the situation and communicate accordingly, you will increase effectiveness, efficiency, and quite possibly, in direct revenues.
Here are 5 things to consider when choosing the best communication tool for the job.
- Audience – The preferences of the person or people you’re trying to reach may not be the deciding factor, but weighs into your success rate. We all know people who are unlikely to pick up the phone, but quick on the draw if they get a text message or email. Typically, if you’re trying to reach a group, especially if you want to generate a collaborative response, email is a key.
- Complexity – Complicated messages or those that require very specific responses often are best served by a two-pronged approach: a conversation either preceded or followed by an email containing the same (or more detailed) information. Live conversation allows questions or miscommunications to be cleared immediately; writing it serves as confirmation and reminder.
- Urgency – If you need an immediate response, you’ll be much better able to determine how to get it if you know your Audience (factor 1).
- Sensitivity – A message that is difficult to deliver or hear deserves special consideration. When possible and based on how well you know the recipient, face-to-face conversation is usually best. Keep in mind that anything in writing will never disappear. If you don’t want it to get out, visit or call (I’m assuming your phones aren’t tapped).
- Secondary Goals – Most business communication has a primary goal of delivering or requesting specific information. But as a business person, sales or relationship-building should always be kept in mind. Depending upon your Audience, sprinkle in a phone call or a coffee or lunch invitation. This nurtures relationships and often elicits useful information that would not come up otherwise. Whether you uncover an aspect that needs improvement or an opportunity for growth, you’re engaging in effective business communication.
So avoid your communication comfort zone. Take a cue from my attorney friend and deliberate. It may make all the difference.