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Featured Article—April, 2006
Where the TiVo revolution offers time-shifted TV (the ability to record TV to a storage medium and view it at the most convenient time), for today’s communication, email, PDAs, cell phones, voice mail, and other communication devices offer time-shifting in a parallel way.
As the recipient is flooded with inbound messages, they have to ‘time-shift’ the information. They may receive an email, and respond via IM (Instant Messenger). Or, they may communicate via IM with one person, and SMS (Short Messaging Service) with another. In fact, it’s not unusual to witness multiple conversations being shifted across multiple platforms, all at the same time.
I experienced this firsthand one morning as I found myself having an IM discussion with my daughter at college, ‘talking’ with SMS messaging on my cell phone (to a business associate), and retrieving email on my laptop; all of this was nearly at the same time. I was adjusting to the interaction asking for my most immediate attention; I was letting other communication ‘time-shift’ to another timeslot.
In these examples, the conversations are happening near real-time and interactive. But, in the case of email, it may time-shift for attention to a much later date. Add the ability to have “business rules” assigned to incoming email, and the ‘shift’ occurs without the user’s intervention, i.e., they don’t even see it. Your message may be falling into a ‘black hole’.
What does this have to do with Selling? The foundation of Selling is built on communication. As a featured quote from a well-known movie (“Cool Hand Luke”) implies, Sales efforts can wane by: “What we got here is a failure of communication.”
Think about where all your communication may end up as you go about your day. If it’s urgent and important, the phone may be the best tool. It’s an excellent interactive medium to secure resolution. If you want to send a message in place of a phone call, SMS may be an alternative.
Email is a wonderful tool for brief, documented ‘conversation’, i.e., providing a record of what is said (or proposed), and allowing people to easily add to it and forward it on to others. It’s an excellent means to attach other documents and materials, using email as the “cover letter”. But, that can be its downfall, too. There is so much incoming email, your message can get lost in the traffic and not be seen for some time to come. Add the cc: (copy to others) factor, and the volume can be staggering. If it’s an urgent matter, email may be an unfortunate choice.
As you begin to balance your own communication, think of those you wish to communicate with. This is one area of your profession where it is wise to adapt to your surroundings. Selfishly from a time-management perspective, I use SMS to avoid getting into a conversation; I just want to send a quick message. I would like to think I am being equally considerate of someone else’s time, too. But, I must be sensitive to other people’s preferences, e.g., some people are comfortable with voice mail and phone calls on a cell phone, but struggle with SMS (or may not even have it enabled). Learn and discover how people communicate before you assume that your method is best.
Peter Kusterer is the President of NvestNtech, Inc., with more than 30 years of sales, and executive sales management experience. NvestNtech is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina. NvestNtech assists firms with Sales and Business Development, Channel Strategy, and Corporate Partnering.