Communication in business can win or lose you a contract, client or opportunity. Lack of response is just as bad, sometimes worse, than a poor response.Here are some tips and tricks to keep you in contact with the people who will get your business moving:
- Follow up any phone discussion with an email, which sums up what you spoke about, what actions you both agreed to, plus any additional information that may help your client make their decision. This way they have a reminder in writing, you know the date you spoke to them (and all the points you covered), and they have an easy way to contact you again. Photographs, links, and other people’s contact information are all useful bits of information to include in your email.
- When you have made an appointment with a client (further than 2 days away), remind them the day before the appointment. Leave them your phone number in case they need to cancel or reschedule.
- If someone does need to reschedule an in-person appointment, offer to do a phone call (or Skype) instead. This keeps things moving.
- Be consistent. If someone calls you, return their call by phone and leave a short and clear message if you’ve missed them. If they email you, respond by email. If they text you, respond with a text. I can’t tell you how many people have tried to respond to my email with a phone call to a land line, which I may not access until the business day is over. Not smart!
- When sending large files to someone via email, send them a quick note in a separate email that tells them to expect it. That way, if the file is blocked or put into spam, they know to look for it or can tell you if they didn’t receive it. Don’t get mad that someone doesn’t respond without checking first to see if they actually got the information!
- Before you interpret someone else’s written message wrong, please ask the sender what their actual intent was. Often this requires a phone call or in person conversation. Never assume you interpreted their tone correctly from an email, text or memo.
- Be precise in your language. Use pronouns as little as possible, be very descriptive. Before you mail off an email message, re-read it several times to check for possible mis-interpretation. Check spelling, check etiquette.
Technology & etiquette:
- Be respectful of cell phone numbers! Keep your calls within business hours. Some people answer their cell even if it is not convenient. Get an idea of when they are generally available, and stick to those hours.
- Be respectful of texting! I may be the only person in the US with no texting plan, but every time I get a text with a one word message or unnecessary comment, I wince. I get charged every time. Make it count, and only text when you feel it’s an emergency (you’re running behind, need to cancel an appointment, etc.).
- Email etiquette: these are not text messages. Make sure when speaking with someone for the first time, your message is polite, cordial and not too familiar. Address them as you would when meeting them in person for the first time. Thank them for their time and provide several ways for them to contact you, including times when you are readily available by phone.
- Use the technology that you have at hand. If you tell someone you will call them back later, why not be more specific and ask when is a good time to call back? Then set your cell phone alarm or Google calendar alert to remind you at that time to call them back. You can even leave yourself a note that reminds you what you needed to speak to them about.
Dealing with Volume:
- Don’t neglect or ignore emails. We know you get a lot of emails, so be smart about it. If you have several addresses to check, have them all forwarded to one email and use your labeling/sorting tools. Gmail, for instance, can put emails from other addresses into separate inboxes. You can even prioritize emails coming from a particular address (for instance, orders from a web catalog).
- Check your emails several times a day. This is an easy way to keep the load down…checking 40 emails a few times a day is much easier than looking at 200 emails at the end of the day. There may be some urgent messages that get buried in a large batch of emails, so don’t lose out on opportunities. Learn to scan the subject lines to see which need attention immediately! Delete the garbage right off the bat so you can find the gems.
- Facebook messaging is not a professional way to conduct business. It may be a convenient way to make first contact, but always request their email address or phone number, or provide your own information as a more efficient and reliable way to contact them. Facebook changes its messaging system and on a regular basis. Often I am unable to load, read or write messages. Very frustrating!
- Newsletters (like MailChimp, Constant Contact) are pretty, but beware. Sometimes they are perceived as spam and are immediately discarded. Often images are blocked when the recipient first opens the email, so any “first impression” is lost. Simpler is better.
- Make it personal. Twitter and Facebook is great for disseminating impersonal messages to a lot of people, but if you really want to hook someone, send them a personal message…tailored to them.
Working with the media/press:
- Press release: Be brief, to the point. People hate to read! Add a few lower resolution photos if they help tell the story, but the meat of the information should never be in an attachment. It will never get opened.
- Contacts from reporters are always URGENT. They are working on a deadline, so never wait to respond. If you wait, you lose the opportunity! Five minutes can be too long. In this instance, mobile web phones are great…you can have your email ping you when there is a new message.
- Again, make it personal. If your press release is tailored to the particular reporter’s interests, or the publication’s focus, it will be perceived as more relevant.