Tips for communications preferences.
By Michael F Hotchkiss January 3, 2016

Harken back all you seasoned sales pros and remember a time you planned to meet a prospect for the first time and did not consciously or sub-consciously use personal preferences as part of the strategy of engagement?  If you say never, think again. It’s impossible not to be you and be a good salesperson, so the thought of how to attack an opportunity is based on experience, opportunity specific homework (hopefully) and that darn need to inject your personal inclinations into the plan. Just because you do not like text messages because they are impersonal or a cop-out from actually having to face someone may be the opposite feeling of your new assignment. I think everyone would agree that a think-tank with one member is not conducive to the unified theory of selling. Most importantly is to identify the preferred method of communication with whom you are attempting to make friends with.

In my book “Preparation Breeds Success, I rate the effectiveness of communication methods with a single contact. One year later, here are amended opinions and commentary of each form of contact:

  1. Face-to-face – No one can argue there is anything better. It’s more difficult to schedule, bit typically if you are meeting personally, there is genuine, mutual interest. As importantly as the pure substance of the discussion, you learn a lot more about a person in “live” view. Common interests outside business, hobbies, kid’s latest adventures or their golf handicap can be filed away to when it may come in handy. Go ahead and try to find out what someone’s favorite kind of music is in an e-mail without coming off as a spammer or a stalker. Exploit a personal meeting to the max.
  2. A phone call – Making a call and having someone answer on the other end used to be expected, but it is not a good assumption anymore. Getting the “answering machine, aka Voice Mail” or an old-school message with an assistant would assuredly illicit a call back. Some people simply do not answer their phones anymore. They intentionally let it go to VM (see #5 below). Find out their preferred mode of contact and see if you can turn that into a discussion. A non-answered phone does not necessarily mean non-interest; Caller ID makes that more of a probability. If you do conecton the phone, in addition to making small talk and getting the information you wanted, offers a real chance to invite yourself for a visit under the little used “let’s get a cup of coffee” rule. See #1 abiove.
  3. A personal letter – What’s that? Yes. Still an excellent personal touch that has its place. Hand write it (legibly) and you get an extra star. Everyone still likes getting “real” mail. It’s an evolutionary constant that opening up something and not knowing what’s inside is exciting on some level. That’s why people like CHristmas and Birthdays; open presnets! How do you think Cracker Jack stayed in business? Worthless and cheap toys. Why do people like Fortune Cookies? The cookie part sucks, so it must be the poorly translated pearl of wisdom or prediction contained inside. The McDonalds Happy Meal? Marketing genius. Hand write a letter to a new acquaintance as a test and see what happens; I bet it is positive in some regard at the very least because it is an anomaly. Now that most schools have eliminated teaching cursive as it is not an evolutionary step forward, is a tragedy in my opinion, yet should not preclude the importance of the stamped missive. By the way. Sending a personal note creates a real reason to call that person under the little used “did you get my letter?” rule. See # 2 above.
  4. Email – Now the most widely used form of communication although I argue it remains a terrible way to have a discussion. I’m breaking my own rule here by assuming a give and take meeting requires alternatively speaking, listening and asking questions. If anyone can convince me this is better in thread than an exchange over a cup of coffee – even if it is about the weather – I’m all ears. Yet it remains as our now & likely future preferred method of correspondence, so get good at it. Pay attention to the content and delivery just like you would write a public address. Avoid typos, stupid acronyms or sloppy style. I get it. No one cares about that stuff, they just want an answer, NOW. But does it hurt to use proper language and grammar? Take note capital letters are the difference between “helping my Uncle Jack off a horse” and ” helping my uncle jack off a horse.” The final benefit of an e-mail is to give yourself a real reason to ask for permission to call them. You can even request a tday and time to do so. This is so becasue of the little used “Since you’re so busy, I’d like to schedule a time to talk on the phone” rule. See #3 above.
  5. Voicemail – Who thought leaving a message is corresponding? Well it most certainly is particularity to those who have predisposed tendency to NEVER answer their phone. A VM can convey a thought, but it should illicit a desire by the receiving party to want to call back. The only way to know if you weren’t responded to too is to explore another contact method. If they don’t, you were eliminated by Caller ID – nothing personal. Make sure your message is concise; avoid verbal interrupters and conclude with the age old sales lesson of leave a message that requires – by a little used phone etiquette rule – a return contact by phone or e-mail. See #’s 2 & 3 above.
  6. SMS (Texting) – Arguably the worst form of communications ever invented – there I go again with the bias – yet it is becoming more and more prevalent. What used to serve as a giddy high school students way to inform their BFF that they are digitally ogling the hot guy in Math class has gone corporate. Personally, texting has a place for yes or no answer, a reminder or update. Even being open to the thought that everyone is different, this still remains the least effective but the quickest way to leave a quick message…but leave the emoji’s at home. There are no little used rules for texting. That would be lame.