Use today’s technologies and tools to enhance, not replace, good old-fashioned business relationships. And feel free to send your contacts a text, says Mr. Loadlink.
I commented on a LinkedIn discussion a couple of days ago in response to a post about email versus text message.
A gentleman had started the thread by writing a post, saying he’d been chastised for communicating with clients and contacts via text message on his smart devices. He said many had even called him ‘unprofessional’ and suggested he should stick to email.
I disagreed with those arguments, explaining that I frequently use the short message service (SMS) to contact those I have a good relationship with, largely because it is more personal and a text typically doesn’t have to battle through so much spam and noise that is commonplace in everyone’s email inbox.
Who punches the air when they get an email?
Nobody. When I receive a text message, however, I’m always interested to look who it’s from (as long as it’s safe to check) as I know it’s likely to be someone I have a solid relationship with. It might even be a friend or family member, offering me the chance to escape from the trials and tribulations of another busy day for as long as it takes to read the message and thumb a reply. If it’s a business contact, that’s fine too.
While SMS is in itself a relatively new technology—I think the first text message was sent in the early 90s—it’s based on good old fashioned values; we share our mobile, cell or handy number with someone and people generally accept the relationship has to develop to a certain point before we start sharing texts. We at least have to like each other. I also embrace WhatsApp, the instant messaging service for smartphones, whereby messages, photos or data can be sent to individuals or groups.
People aren’t robots
I wonder if the LinkedIn conversation referenced is indicative of a business world that is losing sight of the importance of relationships.
The argument that one should only deal via email is tantamount to suggesting a barrier should always exist or that people shouldn’t get too close in the working environment. If we like and respect someone, and enjoy their company at networking events, why should we over-formalise the relationship by ending every communication with ‘Best regards, David Ayling’ and our email signature?
Many companies seem obsessed with their image and identity to the point that it has a detrimental effect. Why make a policy that nobody should use WhatsApp or SMS when common sense should prevail and a professional should be encouraged to make a judgement?
Of course it wouldn’t be prudent to get someone’s details from a colleague, email them for the first time and immediately follow-up with, ‘did you get my email? When can I expect a reply?’ But that behaviour isn’t a flaw with the messaging vehicle, it’s the numb-nut using it.
The mindset isn’t reserved exclusively to messages; it’s an epidemic. The digital world has created ‘virtual’ businesses that operate behind their websites, social media accounts and emails. I’m a big supporter of modern technologies; I use LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. Further, Straightpoint (SP) has a vibrant digital identity that the marketing team takes very seriously. But none of this is a substitute for relationships and face-to-face interaction.
It alarms me when I hear stories of businesses cutting back on their tradeshow appearances to revamp their website. Or they slash the travel budget to buy data in an attempt to penetrate a marketplace via direct mail.
I went to Aberdeen, Australia and Abu Dhabi last month (September) alone. (Perhaps everywhere I visit this month will begin with a B.) While I had fun along the way, I didn’t clock up these air miles for the sake of it. It simply wouldn’t be possible to understand a market and develop relationships without making the trip in person. The best website in the world can’t replace such interaction.
Take the Seatrade Offshore Marine & Workboats show in the Middle East, for instance.
I’d never before met Jamie Kirkbride, business development manager at distributor Rigmarine, which was displaying some of our equipment. We’ve spun lots of emails in the past but only in spending time with him on the stand and in the evenings, was I able to get to know him better (it was great to catch up with Gie Maclan, sales executive, too).
Since the show, Jamie and I have sent each other lots of text messages about the show, following up leads and comparing notes. I’ll send an angry emoji to anyone who suggests this is unprofessional. Far worse would have been to not attend the show and send him another email.
Jamie won’t be the only person I’ll interact with from Abu Dhabi, Aberdeen or Australia over the coming weeks. I always connect with people I meet on LinkedIn, but I do so with a view to continuing a relationship that started with a handshake. I bet every reader of this blog has received a connection request from someone they’ve never met, thinking they can cut corners by acquiring a list or searching an industry sector. Granted, there’s a purpose for building a network of like-minded professionals, but foul play is too prevalent.
One company we don’t have to worry about losing their head in cyberspace is fellow below-the-hook equipment manufacturer Modulift. We strategically co-located at Offshore Europe (OE) in Aberdeen and gave visitors a greater breadth of product offering. Those who came looking for a load cell could see a complementary spreader beam and vice versa.
In fact, so successful was the initiative that we’re meeting formally this week to plan the 2018 trade events where we might be able to enhance our productivity in such a way again. It helps that both logos are blue and yellow; the exhibit graphics go great together.
OE was an altogether positive experience. While the local oil and gas community is resigned to the fact that oil isn’t going to rocket back to $90 a barrel any time soon, there’s a determination to thrive regardless. We had lots of conversations with professionals keen to kit themselves out with state-of-the-art force measurement equipment as projects get off the ground and they look to convert plenty of hot prospects. Again, this level of intelligence is impossible to gather by not exhibiting at the show in favour of updating the oil and gas tab on a company website.
If the LinkedIn keyboard warriors are going to turn their attention anywhere, it might be better directed at those who waste opportunities at trade fairs.
It’s a great thing when any company invests in an exhibit, but only by standing at the front of a stand, engaging with visitors can return on that investment be realised. I once saw someone walk off their exhibit to take a photo of a colleague sitting with their back to the aisle on a laptop. Surely they weren’t going to post it to their social media accounts, I thought. Equally calamitous are the early breakdown merchants who start boxing up with two hours of the show to go. I’ve heard too many stories about people taking 11th-hour orders to join them.
RUD Lifting Japan Co. Ltd. gets it too. The team was over for a visit the week after OE for product training. The delegation also spent a day with the calibration team, getting to know the equipment. RUD understands that the greater the knowledge of a product range, the more effective they will be to customers and the larger the volume of load cells they will supply.
The SP way isn’t the only way, but it works. We’re on schedule to report a record Q3 on the back of a blockbuster opening two quarters to the year. To reward everyone for a great H1 2017, we took the whole SP UK family for a deserved day out at Goodwood Racecourse.
Somewhat fittingly, I was at the races again when I heard that Zoe Silk, sales and hire here at SP, had bagged a record order. Not that I was surprised, but for one of the newest members of the team—she joined as an apprentice in 2015—to make such a sizeable contribution is an outstanding effort. Well done, Zoe!
The SP community was collectively saddened to learn of the passing of the fathers of both Mike Neal, product sales engineer; and Wayne Wille, US-based technical sales manager. Our thoughts have been, and will continue to be, with Mike, Wayne and their families during these moments of grief and remembrance.