R.E.S.P.E.C.T. - Your Client's
Imagine this: you've worked for hours putting together the proposal that your prospective client requested and are finally ready to hit the send button. You envision the recipient checking e-mail immediately and contacting you within a few hours to seal the deal. You have a mental picture of yourself signing the contract and depositing a nice check into your account.
What you don't know is that your prospect doesn't check e-mail everyday. You failed to ask what form of communication this person prefers. Sadly for you, your competitor was on the ball and asked, "How would you like to receive this information?" By the time your e-mail proposal is opened and read, the deal is done, but not with you.
Maybe you called the prospect, who was not in, so you left the information on voice mail and waited all day for a response. As it turns out, this person only checks voice mail at the end of the day. Once again, your competitor knew this.
We are absolutely overwhelmed with ways to transmit information. Current studies indicate that e-mail is the business communication tool of choice. However, many people still prefer the telephone which has been an office staple since Alexander Graham Bell spoke to Mr. Watson from another room. That device is no longer fixed to the wall nor does it reside only on the desk. We can have our cell phones with us wherever we go and use them whenever we feel like it. Some people live by their cell phones so you can forget the office line.
The phone, whichever type it is, comes with all sorts of features and options including voice mail, caller ID and calling waiting. An added bonus to cell phones is text messaging. There are people who rarely speak directly to others. They just send or leave messages.
There is the fax machine, which only a short time ago was absolutely revolutionary. Many fax machines only gather dust these days as a result of e-mail, but for some people, fax is more convenient for transmitting certain information. For a few souls, snail or old-fashioned postal mail continues to serve a useful purpose. They like originals.
We all have our preferred means of communication. If you want to be successful, grow your business and develop good client relationships, find out how your clients want to communicate. Just because you think that e-mail is the most efficient tool doesn't mean that your clients and prospects like to sit in front of a computer all day. Some may prefer to use the phone so that they can discuss issues and gauge reactions - something that is hard to do with e-mail. Others may be more comfortable getting your proposal in person.
Respecting your client's communication preferences is not just a courtesy, it's good business. It's not about you; it's about your client.
Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of MANNERS THAT SELL - ADDING THE POLISH THAT BUILDS PROFITS. She has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, Investors' Business Daily, and Entrepreneur, Inc. Her programs, products and services are available at http://www.mannersthatsell.com .
Many more articles in Communications in The CEO Refresher Archives