Players Call, Chickens E-Mail

Okay, my apologies for the overly dramatic headline, but I couldn’t resist — and figured if nothing else, a little hyperbole would help grab your attention given all of the holiday distractions popping up!

So here’s the deal.  Recently, I made a networking introduction for a client of mine — to a CEO I know here in town — and rather than contact this person via the customary e-mail route, my client decided to just take the initiative, look up the person’s company on the web, pick up the phone, and call him.  Cold turkey.

At first, I was wondering if this would be seen perhaps as a pushy or inappropriate gesture, given that it might put my contact (the CEO) on the spot and feel like an “ambush” during the workday.  But here’s the response he (the CEO) wrote back, when I checked in with him to see how things had gone:

“You know, Matt, I have to admire (client name) for his direct approach.  Sometimes I think the telephone is a better tool for reaching out to people these days.  It’s more personal.  In fact, I’m kind of moving back to it and away from email and the internet.”

Interesting, eh?  And apart from this one recent example, I’ve noticed that many people in the business world now seem to get farther, faster, when they pick up the phone and call somebody they want to converse with — versus agonizing over the issue for days and then banging out a timid e-mail, as many people seem wont to do.  So having pondered this issue a bit, of late, I’d speculate that a phone call might offer five key advantages over an e-mail note in many typical job hunting communication scenarios:

1)  Phone calls are unquestionably a FASTER activity to engage in than e-mailing, clocking in at about 30 seconds per phone call versus however many minutes — or hours — a person might invest in crafting just the right piece of written correspondence

2)  On a related note, the “immediacy” of phone calls might reduce job search stress; rather than worry for hours/days about exactly how you’re going to reach out to a person, and what you’re going to say, all you have to do is dial a few digits and it will all be over with before you know it — like ripping off a bandaid

3)  People tend to get far fewer phone calls these days than e-mails, making a personal call more rare/special than other communication alternatives; this novelty factor alone might count for something

4)  Phone calls are harder for most people to ignore than e-mails, since they involve putting a “voice with a name” and the caller is able to inject more emotion, warmth, and personality into the message

5)  Lastly, it strikes me that a phone call (at least a properly-conducted one) often bespeaks more confidence on the part of the person reaching out than a more passive e-mail note.  It signals “I’m somebody worth talking to” and shows more gumption.  And while I don’t have any hard data to back this up, my armchair observation is that many recruiters, corporate leaders, and other key connectors in the marketplace today seem to rely on the phone to a greater degree than e-mail for conducting their daily business

Am I completely off-base in these observations?  Is the phone a dying (or dead) medium that no longer plays in a key role in most business communications?  Or should we all be swinging back around to the idea that, in many cases, it’s actually more effective to call a person you’re trying to meet, versus pinging them electronically?

As you can see, I haven’t quite convinced myself yet, either way, but I felt it was definitely a topic worth raising given that a serious job search involves making dozens of communication attempts each week.  As most of you know, I’m an absolutely rabid fan of e-mail, myself, since I generally find it the fastest and most convenient way to communicate with people given my appointment schedule.  But if I was needing to build an important new bridge with someone, perhaps I should let me fingers do the walking, instead.

Your thoughts on the matter?

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7 Responses to “Players Call, Chickens E-Mail”

  1. Your blog today is on the money, not just for job searchers, but for many situations. Both a phone calls and emails require planning and preparation, but a phone call requires being on your toes for impromptu responses to curves being thrown at the caller. Phone calls do not allow the caller to so carefully control the flow of the messaging. Scary things for some folks… separating the “players’ from the “chickens” as you say. Phone calls simply allow for more personal intimacy and relationship building – a power-packed communication that is hard to achieve by email alone.

  2. Being a sales professional, at some point one needs to speak with the customer (in this case the hiring manager). Email is certainly valuable in terms of providing the hiring manager with some background, allowing the job seeker to cut to the chase.

    If you plan to make a call and don’t want the hiring manager to feel trapped (as suggested by Ron Paul in an earlier post) simply include in your email the day and time you will calling and ask that they let you know if that day/time isn’t convenient and if not to suggest a better time.

  3. This clearly worked, so this positive first impression is a complement to both people. A brief phone chat can illuminate more the essence of who we are. Probably won’t work in every case; creativity and sensitivity being important. Most professionals have mastered phones leveraging quick and to-the-point conversations. Most deals end up requiring a phone call or in-person meeting eventually. Kudos to your client.

  4. I’m a staunch proponent of using the phone; however, with some limits. My general email rule is if I send/receive two replies from the same person on the same subject I pick up the phone to stop the volley of incomplete responses.

    In the case the CEO introduction I will send an introductory email indicating that I would like to chat with him/her personally and propose a date and time that I would call. This provides the CEO with an opportunity to respond with an alternative time or just not respond and accept the proposed date and time. In the absence of a response from the CEO I believe that it’s important to follow through with your call as proposed. I also provide the reason I’m calling in the email, e.g. – their advice, an introduction, etc. As the CEO I would feel more comfortable and forthcoming if I’m not surprised. Just call this a hybrid approach. Alas, my $.02.

  5. This IS a good way to get in touch with folks right away. I call it “Dialing for Dollars”. I have also heard that the holidays are the best time to do direct calling, as people are generally in about the most receptive mood they will be all year. And the new budgets go into place in 2012 so you will be on the person’s mind.

    I am always a little unsure what to say when I call though. Any thoughts are appreciated. Saying “I thought I would call to introduce myself (too lukewarm/not action oriented), “Let’s get together for coffee” (many people don’t have time for this these days and why do they want to meet with you?), and I’d like to send you my resume (too obvious).

  6. Agreed phone is better. But, there is a risk of the recipient feeling trapped o maneuvered. If you are respectful of the persons time a phone call could be much more effective.

  7. I think the phone trumps an email in 99% of cases. Just make sure you practice what you want to say, so that you speak clearly. Also, since you often will be leaving a voice mail, you won’t regret what you say if you rehearse it ahead of time.

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