Janice had a medical test that turned out to be positive for a serious disease. She had a hunch something was wrong from the beginning. She expected to get a report of her test results in her medical portal – a practice that’s becoming increasingly common.
To her surprise, she got a call from the clinic office. They wanted to set up a visit to “discuss the results” with her.
Janice was puzzled at first, then angry. She knew they wouldn’t be calling to deliver good news. She didn’t want to make a time-consuming trip to the clinic where she would be unprepared to ask good questions and make wise decisions.
Forcing communication will alienate the other party.
The clinic was so focused on the value of “in-person” they failed to recognize the greater value of giving someone time to dig into the information and prepare for a meeting.
In business we don’t deliver life-and-death news very often, but we can learn from the clinic’s process and Janice’s response.
A few years ago, I decided to remodel my website. I was prepared to pay for a high quality web designer. However, I had a firm budget and I knew exactly what I needed.
To my surprise and annoyance, the designers all insisted on a phone meeting. They wouldn’t even give me a price range. They didn’t ask any qualifying questions. It was all, “Let’s get on the phone.”
No doubt some well-meaning marketing person taught them to get up close and personal as quickly as possible.
As a prospective client, I view these phone sessions as high-pressure sales calls. I need time to think and reflect before I make a decision. Acting on impulse always turns out badly for me. I feel stressed when I anticipate meeting resistance after I say “No!”
Even worse, these business owners were taught to waste their time with useless phone calls.
If you’re not trained in sales, you can actually turn away prospective clients. When you’re hesitant or inarticulate, you give the impression you’re lacking in knowledge…when in fact you might just be thinking out loud.
As a business owner, I’ve learned that it’s a bad idea to “jump on a call” with an unqualified prospect. They might be tire-kicking. They might be “just checking to see what’s out there.” They may have unrealistic ideas of what they should pay.
Other times you can waste time include…
…reaching out to someone with that infamous, “Let’s get on the phone and talk about how we can help each other in our business.” Better to send a query first (“Do you accept guests on your podcast?”) and then follow up with a customized proposal for collaboration.
…inviting someone to an event or a difficult task. Someone I barely knew called to say, “I’ll be in your city next week. Can we meet?” Talk about pressure. I had to explain that I needed time to consider this idea.
In-Person Isn’t Always More Personal
Here’s a rule of thumb.
Will the other person need time to think?
Might they need more information before responding or making a decision? If they don’t know you well, might they want to google your name?
Will they want to consult other resources, such as a guide or an online search?
Will you be asking them to make a decision on the spot?
If you insist on a phone call (or worse, an in-person visit), you may believe you’re being up close and personal. But in fact, you might come across as manipulative…or simply as someone who has too much time on their hands.