About a month ago, I submitted a proposal for a fairly small job to a new potential client. A couple of weeks went by, then he emailed me requesting a meeting. Believing that I had outlined my role in the project very specifically in the proposal, I wasn’t keen on attending a second, unpaid project meeting. So I replied to his email, asking if his question was something we could discuss on the phone. A couple of days later he responded, again requesting a meeting but this time letting me know that a colleague of his would also be there. Again, I asked if this was something that could be handled in a phone call, and once again a couple of days went by before he sent another email asking for a meeting. Well, I was getting pretty annoyed, so I asked him if there was a time in the evening I could call (ordinarily I don’t like making business calls at night, but I figured it was the best time to get ahold of him). He agreed on a time, and we finally spoke the next day.
It turns out that he had some useful information for the project. After we spoke about it, we agreed that I really wasn’t needed at the meeting and could just be told the details afterwards.
When I hung up, I realized that each person has a communication style he is most comfortable with. For me, an email’s as good as gold. But for some people, a conversation is the best way to conduct business. Although he could’ve emailed me all of the new details about the project, the client was much more comfortable (and comforted) by a phone call.
It reminded me of something that happened with another client for whom I’ve been doing essentially the same annual project for the past six years. Last year some new people were involved, and they really wanted to meet me face-to-face. It wasn’t important to them that their company and mine had a years-long relationship. So in the middle of a snowstorm I drove 50 miles to see them. After the initial round of handshakes with the new people who were involved with the project, I was left to sit at the corner of the conference table while they continued their conversation. After about an hour, I was told I could leave. Then it was 50 miles back in the snow. Later, the woman I’d been working with for the past six years told me that the new people thought the meeting went very well and they were satisfied that I could help them with the project.
In this day and age where we are increasingly using electronic forms of communication —texting, Facebook, Twitter, and email — as our primary way of keeping in touch, it’s easy to forget that some business is still done with a handshake and that often the best way to cut through the clutter is to actually talk with someone.