What is the best way to worsen a relationship with a prospective client, a customer, or an invaluable referral partner? Answer: Only communicate through email. Never pick up the phone, and be guilty of two other bad email habits that are done every day, all over the business world.
Situation: A friendly, optimistic relationship is struck by two business services providers who do different services. They agree to refer each other when possible and help each other grow their business.
Some time passes and for whatever reason, referrals have not been shared on either side, and these two have not seen each other for a while. Rather than picking up the phone to see if they can get together, or to talk by phone about how to help each other further their businesses, one of them gets impatient. They email the other and say, “I’m sorry, but I have to remove you from my alliance list.”
What does this person gain? Clearly they sound frustrated, but to tell someone who could easily refer them more business that they in fact are not on the “team” anymore seems to make no sense to me. If that person had just picked up the phone and asked a few key questions they could have not only salvaged this opportunity, but potentially could have created even more opportunities through the development of this relationship.
Never picking up the phone in a business relationship is lazy (and bad e-mail habit #1) I guarantee that some aspect of the business relationship will lack clarity. Unless you are a 100% web-based business with sophisticated on-line tools – and even then, send me a postcard once in a while (are you listening, Amazon.com? Hear what I’m talking about, Expedia.com?) Call me, don’t just email me. Snail mail me. Add a dimension to our relationship.
You cannot tell tone in an email. Countless problems have arisen just TODAY alone from people using email when they should be dialing the phone and leaving a clear message or even a heart-felt message when necessary. I currenly have a client that has some angry salespeople and sales and management are going back-and-forth with emails rather than voice conversations.
Bad e-mail habit #2 is when someone forwards a private e-mail that was just between two people. Why, in business, people do this, is beyond me. Sometimes a message is forwarded on that could negatively affect someone – especially when they thought a conversation was just between them and the person they are directly communicating with. Don’t be found guilty of this – it can kill you in business.
Bad e-mail habit #3 (and just as critical) is to not reply to an email in a timely manner, or even at all. What is wrong with people? First of all, there ARE still spam filters and black holes in the virtual world. By replying to an email – ever so quickly, you assure the other person that in fact, they did receive it, and possibly jotted down their first thoughts about what it was that you said. EVEN IF you are TOO busy to put together a great email reply – simply hit “REPLY” and let them know you received this, and that you’ll get back to them. So simple, isn’t it? Then, put in your Outlook calendar that you need to follow up on this. Voila… you have become accountable. Hooray.