Recently, I made a decision with a client of mine: I was going to pick up the phone and call her once a week (at least).
As with most clients, I conduct most of my business with clients via email. I provide updates via email. I share files. I provide advice.
But, I typically don’t spend a lot of time on the phone with clients (at least one-on-one; we have lots of status and planning calls).
So, I decided to change that and give my client a call once a week. Just to check in, or chat, if we didn’t have specific business to tackle.
And you know what? I think my client likes it.
You know what else? I do, too.
Now, my situation might be a bit different since I’m an independent consultant and don’t see/hear from too many people during the day.
But, this is part of a bigger trend in our industry (and others): The trend AWAY from voice-to-voice communications.
Blame smart phones.
Whatever the case, we’ve been inching further and further away from phone calls as a preferred method of communication for years.
In fact, we’re now in a spot where reporters PREFER email, and in some cases, Twitter, to the old-fashioned phone.
If I would have told you email would have been the preferred pitch method back in 1996 (when I graduated) you would have called me crazy.
Yet, here we are. The phone is dead as a communications device, according to many in our field.
But, I’m here to say the death of the phone call has been greatly exaggerated. Here’s why:
No one else is calling people–you’ll stand out if you do
With everyone else emailing, Twittering, Snapchatting and Facebooking, you’ll most likely stick out like a sore thumb with your weekly phone calls. I’ve also taken to this strategy with my networking and other professional relationships. I look for opportunities (read: time in the car) to give colleagues, former clients, and professional friends a quick call. Again, since very few people are doing this, it always kinda sticks out and is remembered.
Eliminate 20% of your email traffic with a few simple phone calls each week
One of the downsides of email and texting is the shorter messages–the inability to explain EVERYTHING in an email. We’ve all been a part of the 45-email-long chains of back-and-forth messages about a particular project. In cases like that, wouldn’t a simple 10-minute phone call work much better? My new rule of thumb: If the chain gets longer than 5 emails, I pick up the phone. But, overall, you can eliminate a LOT of email traffic with a few simple phone calls during the week.
Phone calls: The second-best way to cement all-important relationships
It’s hard to build a meaningful relationship over email. Or Twitter. Or Snapchat. Some of those tools are great for STARTING a relationship, but it’s very tough to really build a deep relationship unless you can see that colleague or partner face-to-face. Or, talk to them on the phone. So, sure, face-to-face is always the best way to build a relationship with a business partner, colleague or manager. But, those phone calls are a close second. Because, you can have more than a 140 character conversation about what you did last weekend. You can actually talk about what’s happening on that project and not be limited by constraints like character count and length of a note.
Phone calls will help you manage up a bit better
Since many managers at this time probably fall in that Generation X or Baby Boomer bucket (not all, but a lot), remember that those people didn’t grow up with email. Or Twitter. Or texting. We grew up with fax machines. And word processors. So, the phone is still a great (and in some cases, preferred) way to communicate with us. So, want to really make an impression on your boss? Lay off the email for a while, and call them once in a while. They may not have a lot of extra time, so you may have to get creative (can I call you when you’re in the car?). But, I do believe it will make an impression.