My new favorite podcast is Social Pros – “The Show For Real People Doing Real Work In Social Media.” A recent episode of this podcast sparked this blog post. At 41:00 in the episode, Jay Baer remarked that asynchronous communication (e.g. email and social media) is more efficient and that’s why people use the phone less.
Dorie Clark took it farther, I’m paraphrasing here:
“the phone is used differently now. Unless you have an appointment, it’s considered rude to call someone. I only talk to someone if I’ve scheduled time to speak with them, likely arranged via email.”
The premise “using the phone can be rude” struck me as both absolutely true and not quite right. CONFESSION: I screen my calls. Unless I like know the number, it goes to voicemail. Gawd bless caller ID. I just get too many cold calls from vendors and I like to avoid the awkward dance of them trying to keep me on the phone as long as possible and me trying to get off the phone as quickly as possible.
So what’s not right?
Phones are for sensitive and important conversations when you need to hear not just what is being said but how it’s being said. “are they holding back? do they agree? what are they subconsciously communicating with that pause?” Using the phone is reserved for important discussions that would be poorly served by a long email chain. In some situations using the phone is hardly rude – it’s required.
To be fair, phones aren’t the only digital communication device where rudeness abounds. Do you get unsolicited meeting requests? I do. Is there anything more presumptuous than taking time on someones calendar without some signal that the person on the other end actually wants to meet with you? Last week I received an unsolicited meeting invite from a company I respect. The poor soul also made the mistake of cc’ing the recipients, (instead of bcc’ing). What followed was a flurry of reply-all “get me off your list”, “don’t contact me again”, “you’re a dickwad” emails back to the salesman. So yes, rudeness is not limited to the phone.
Social To The Rescue?
So if cold calling is rude and unsolicited emails are rude, what’s a sales person to do? Social to the rescue?
Well, it’s more work. It requires finding prospects, evaluating their digital signatures and listening to what the prospects care about. With prospects identified you then need to find ways to engage them in a conversation. You can start a conversation by commenting on their blog posts and retweeting their content. These activities build social currency that you can cash in later.
Be nice. Be social. If you’re skillful and helpful, you’ll likely be able to establish a rapport on social channels with the prospect. If your products and services are useful to the prospect, they will let you know and ask you for more information. That’s when you can connect via email and the phone.
Seem like a lot of work? It is! It also requires a digital sophistication that many people have not yet fully acquired, but if you want to succeed at selling in a social world, you’ll need to start practicing.
So social is the anti-rude alternative?
Not quite. In general, my experience is people tend to be nice on social media. The exceptions are some websites where comments can get out of hand. And maybe Reddit.
Still there is etiquette to be considered. Above I laid out how a sales person could best connect with prospects. There’s more to it than that. Like anything being proficient on social media takes practice. If you’re in sales and you’re not practicing your social media/networking skills you better have plans for an alternative career in the not too distant future. Cold calling is considered rude and your smart competitors are learning how become efficient at social selling. You better get started too Rude Boy!
Thank you! You may have figured out that this post was simply an opportunity to introduce (or re-introduce) my readers to ska music. The third wave of ska happened in the ’90s and created some great music. I’m patiently waiting for the fourth wave of ska – it should be along any moment now. I’ll leave you with a live performance of Hepcat. Hepcat is a LA based ska band that still plays gigs. You may recognize Alex Désert from the movie “Swingers”. You can listen to their “Right On Time” album on Spotify.
Photo Credit: I couldn’t determine the original artist; my best guess is it was someone associated with Utah SKA. I usually don’t use photos without a license, but I made an exception in this case because it was just too delicious.