The Lessons You Don’t Learn in Business School – Communications 101

By: Sumeet Goel

I’m probably not alone in noticing that written communication has gotten, frankly, sloppy.

We could chalk it up to any number of culprits. Maybe it’s the proliferation of instant messaging that’s forcing abbreviations, conjugations and the like to become the norm. Or maybe it’s voice-to-text messaging, an over-reliance on auto-correct, big fingers on little screens, the list goes on.

You certainly can’t blame auto-correct for bad grammar. When did it become okay for a business email to read like a third-grader’s note, using “there” instead of “their” or “were” for “we’re”? If you’re like me, bad grammar instantly dilutes the merit of an email.

More often than not, people excuse these offenses, assuming the content is what really matters. As this behavior becomes more accepted, sloppy communication is becoming the norm, not the exception.  And if your inbox is as full as mine – receiving hundreds of new emails a day – it’s almost impossible to sift through the noise.

This issue takes on added importance when communications are sales based.  If I’m being pitched, I immediately delete these typo-filled emails.  And on the flip side, I hope that executives that I’m pitching to, do the same. However, given the ease of blasting out emails en masse these days, even if your communication is well crafted and free of grammar abuses, it’s an almost pointless attempt at differentiating yourself.

That’s why two years ago, I changed our team’s approach to client development. I decided the only way to rise above the noise and properly communicate our message was to do it in person. I found a decades-old United Airlines commercial on YouTube and shared it with our team (and continue to show it to anyone new). While the quality is grainy and the concepts dated (paper tickets, faxing vs. email, etc.), the message still rings true.

Nothing is more honest than meeting with someone face-to-face. You can tell him why you do what you do, how you help other companies, and then hear about his situation and the issues that keep him up at night. There’s no distraction from sloppy grammar, run-on sentences, or even an email that reads like a thousand others.

Maybe there’s some magic formula that spells out so many emails lead to this many opens and that many responses which generate a certain number of calls which lead to so many meetings and on and on until you eventually get to a sale. And maybe that’s an argument for relying solely on mass communication, especially if you’re selling a widget or device. But what kind of customer relationship are you building? As the United commercial reminds us, if you want to build and sustain a relationship, and ensure that your client turns to you when she needs help, nothing beats a handshake, face-to-face.