Years ago, needing a birthday card for a dear friend, I walked into a greeting card store believing my errand would only take 10 to 15 minutes. After 40 minutes, I purchased a card that I felt wasn’t quite perfect enough, along with a few cards I hadn’t intended to buy and was relieved to walk out of the store. There were too many choices, too many cards to read, consider, compare. Instead of being a quick, fun shopping experience, it was exhausting and frustrating. I’ve never been back to one of those stores.
Too much choice is also responsible for communication that is exhausting, frustrating and often incomplete. We have so many ways to reach each other, send and share information, that the experience we intend to create is often muddied, confusing or missed altogether.
There is a solution. By adding a quick question and statement to our initial conversations with clients and prospects, we can make sure we are always communicating with excellence.
What is this solution? What are the questions and statements we can be using with our clients and prospects?
Twice this week I have had prospects approach me through LinkedIn, wanting more details about my work and requesting more information. This is fine except … I check LinkedIn once or twice each day. If I’m very busy and/or travelling, I might miss several days. When people communicate with me primarily through LinkedIn, their messages can get overlooked, or receive a very delayed reply.
Also this week a client communicated with me by text. Now, I do text because I have a dozen or so young people who prefer this way of staying in touch but I’m not someone who checks my cellphone frequently. When a text message is sent, my reply could easily arrive eight hours later.
The best way to reach me is by email. My email is always open, whether on my laptop or desktop. I check it frequently because I usually have to send correspondence several times a day. From email, it is easy for me to send you additional information in the form of pdfs, slide decks, etc. And my email is connected to my CRM (customer relationship management system). My business life is set up around email.
I’m not saying this is right or wrong; it is simply how I work. And this is what I share with my clients and prospects, including those that reach out to me through other channels. The individuals that approached me through LinkedIn received a short reply along with my email address to continue the conversation. I would do the same if someone sent me a direct message through Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
When I speak with prospects and clients on the phone, we discuss how we will communicate. It is important for me to know what they prefer, what platform they check most frequently, how they manage all of their incoming requests. We decide and agree on how we will communicate in order to minimize missed messages and miscommunication.
Here are several ways I start this conversation:
- “I check email regularly throughout the day and it is the quickest way to reach me. Does this work for you?”
- “What is the best way to reach you during a typical business day?”
- “How do you prefer to communicate during an ongoing project?”
- “How would you like to set up our regular communication during this project?”
And I’m sure there are many more approaches. What’s important is that we have a conversation with our customers and prospects about how we are going to communicate. No matter your business, clear communication produces the best results.