Amanda had talked to Jeff, the operations manager of a firm that was an ideal prospect for the product Amanda’s firm was offering. Jeff had expressed an interest in Amanda’s product, and even said he was looking into getting budget for it. Amanda sent Jeff an email two weeks after their conversation, asking about the status of the deal. Jeff did not reply. She sent another email a week later, following up on the Previous one. No reply. Should Amanda send a third email, or should she call Jeff on the phone?
In a previous Writamin, we discussed the kinds of messages that are more appropriate to email and those that are more appropriate to a phone call or conversation. Here will look at the timing of these communications. At what stage in a relationship is email the right medium? When should you switch to the phone?
When Email is More Appropriate
Making an Introduction
Email is ideal for introductions. Write something like, “Lanie, meet Manuelle. Both of you are outstanding professionals involved in helping people communicate across cultures. I think you will enjoy meeting one another,” and send to both parties. Lanie and Manuelle will then email each other their phone numbers and set a time to meet in person or talk on the phone.
Making a Commitment
If you want to create a permanent record of a commitment and confirm your intention to do what you say, then email is your perfect medium. Even something as simple as a lunch date can be confirmed with an email. Commitments to engage services, purchase items, or attend a meeting also work well with emails. Useful tip: Put the essential commitment in the subject line.
Documenting a Negotiation
Email equals paper trail. The moment you hit send, your message zaps out to multiple servers, where it will remain until kingdom come. The back-and-forth of negotiation should take place on the phone or in person. Then follow up with an email saying, “This is to confirm our recent conversation, in which we agreed…” or “in which you offered…”
When a Phone Call or Personal Conversation is Better
Establishing a Relationship
As mentioned above, an email can set up the beginning of a relationship. However, email does not build relationships. Conversations build relationships. If you are looking for warmth, rapport, shared values and camaraderie, you are not going to find it in your email inbox, especially at the beginning of a relationship. If you care about connection, use your voice and nonverbal communication to develop a bond with another person.
Closing a Deal
Okay, you’ve been exchanging emails for a while, dancing around the possibility of doing business. Maybe a few emails have gone unanswered. Maybe you documented an offer with an email and got a vague reply, or no reply at all. In the example above, this would be the time for Amanda to call Jeff to see if she has a deal. She needs to call Jeff and say she hasn’t heard from him and wants to make sure he got her email (of course he did, but let him save face). She can ask if he has any questions or concerns about the offer, and see if he is ready to make the agreement. If not, she just saved herself a lot of fruitless marketing time. If so, she is that much closer to getting paid. Phone calls can yield immediate results.
Resolving a Conflict
Why do people avoid conflict by hiding out in email? Instead of facing a conflict responsibly and openly, they send snarky – or hostile – emails to one another, ratcheting up the tension and anger, until the relationship reaches a snapping point. They say things in the email that they would never dare to say to the person’s face. Or they simmer quietly, sending formal, cold emails without letting the other person know that something is amiss.
Email is the wrong venue for conflict resolution. If problems arise in a relationship, as they often do, deal with them on the phone or in person. Sending each other argumentative emails will only make matters worse.
Every communication requires that you choose the right medium for your message. Sometimes email is right. Sometimes the phone is right. And sometimes only a face-to-face meeting will do. In Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney flies from Los Angeles to London just to meet with the author of Mary Poppins, because that was the only way to close the deal. Email is great for interactions with a low emotional content or a high need for permanent documentation. If feelings or nuance are involved, skip the email. Pick up the phone or do as Disney did and make the meeting happen.
© 2014 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved