Thursday 27 December 2007

I don’t buy it

Who of you out there are there are sales-men? Or sales-women. Ok ok, sales-people. And does it really even matter. Now, if I had asked this via e-mail then thousands of people would be e-mailing their opinions back and forth about whether it should be sales-man or sales-person and whether I was a sexist or the sexiest or whatever. I know you get the point.

E-mail is an amazing thing. It allows us to communicate something with someone at light speed. It allows people who have never met to moan at each other and complain like never before. It allows people who live on opposite sides of the world to get into fights and arguments and generally drive each other mad. Yes, it really is a lot more incredible than you think. And yes, I am sounding very cynical today but I am really fed up with reading so many boring, self-indulgent e-mails that are over-flowing with emotions and subtext. Enough is enough.

Oops, I got side-tracked. So, who of you are sales-people? Well, I got news for – everyone one of us are sales-people. Anyone who ever tried to convince someone of something is in sales. We are all selling – all the time. Making a sale or closing a deal does not have to involve a payment. When someone buys into what you are saying then a sale has been made. Every time you convince someone to do something then you have closed a deal. When you get someone to lend you something you are selling. When you get someone to go out on a date with you then you are selling. When you get someone to give you their time then you are selling. And it should be clear that selling is something that people do to other people. How does e-mail close a sale? How can e-mail be used to get to know someone? How can e-mail help you to see another person’s point of view? Yes, e-mail does allow us to swap facts and figures – but that’s it. And don’t forget this. Just think of the last time someone CCed, or even worse, BCCed you on some piece of e-mail to someone else. Think of the last time you had to waste time explaining a situation because someone misread their e-mail or misunderstood a situation. How many times have you heard people you hardly know give you their opinions on a subject when you never knew it concerned them – well, it doesn’t concern them! What is going on in the world? All this technology has made us stupid. Do we really need to have 101 different people send us their opinions via email before a decision is made? Is this what all this technological advancement was meant for. Yes, this is the progress paradox again and again.

People sell to people. And to get this right we need to either pick up a phone and talk. Or better still, get together and speak face-to-face. You can use e-mail to set up the meeting time, but that’s it – don’t fall into the trap of letting rip in your e-mail message. Set up the appointment and then wait until the meeting. I always see people saying things in e-mail like "Just thought I would give you my 2 cents worth." Keep it. If it was that important then pick up a phone and tell me.

The CC and the BCC can be bad news – avoid them like the plague. Never before in the world have opinions been so popular. Everyone has something to say these days. On every subject under the sun. No wonder no one has any time on their hands any more. I don’t need, for example, to read a dozen emails on where people think our company should hold its next Christmas party. A few years ago someone had the responsibility of organizing this party – let them do their job and get on with your own. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that people’s opinions don’t count. And I am not saying that what someone has to say is unimportant. But if you feel strongly about it then show some conviction. Pick up a phone or talk face-to-face. I am sorry, but e-mail just shows such a lack of effort. And for all I know it may be someone else sending it. Remember that e-mail is faceless. It is devoid of emotions. It is impersonal, cold and static. And it all too often overflows with subtext and lacks context. Be careful. Good news as well as bad should not be communicated within an organization via e-mail. Get together and celebrate the good stuff. And pause and reflect when it comes to the bad. E-mail can seriously dilute the importance of a message.

E-mail cannot sell anything – it should not be used for emotional things. And selling is all about emotions. Let me say it again: e-mail can be used to set up an appointment, send facts, or share a joke, etc. But it cannot be used to sell - e-mail is not convincing, it is convenient – don’t confuse the two. Selling is about relationships. E-mail is about efficiency. Being effective is something totally different. Don’t trade quality for quantity. E-mail is about quantity – there is very little quality in this medium. The biggest irony in my ramblings today is that someone actually e-mailed me a great article that explains the perils of e-mail. I hope you can see the humour here.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker