- Some communication mediums are easier to use because they don't require the other party’s consent.
- Other mediums require consent, making them more difficult to use.
- You should choose the medium based on how important you believe the communication is.
You might think that this post is about cold calling, but it’s not. Instead, it's about the mediums we choose when communicating with our clients or our prospective clients, and why we choose one over another. Before we go any further, let me clarify that all mediums are potentially valuable, even if some hold more potential value than others. But that value depends on who you are communicating with and how important the message is to you or your recipient. Improving your effectiveness means choosing the right medium, starting (but not ending) by evaluating the ease of communication.
Email was one of the first widely-adopted technologies to offer rapid asynchronous communication. Being able to send someone a written communication that moves faster than any post office, knowing that your recipient will receive it sometime in the future, meant that you could write and send your message on your own time—and that your recipient could do the same with their reply.
LinkedIn is a wonderful platform for business professionals, but like all the other mediums, those with low values have abused the platform, making it difficult to use for communication with other professionals. That said, you might choose to use it for two reasons: 1) the people you want to communicate with are there, and 2) it's easy to use.
Text messages are also a mostly asynchronous form of communication with speedy delivery, even if the message is limited. Like email, senders and receivers can push send whenever it makes sense to them, even if it’s a life-or-death matter like identifying a potential prom date.
Video messages carry a lot more information than text-based mediums, as the receiver can both see and hear you. A large part of communication is carried outside of the words, arguably making video messages a richer experience for the recipient. But it’s also asynchronous, meaning you have total control over when you send it, even if the person watching the video doesn't respond in kind.
We generally choose these mediums because they make it easy to communicate. That’s a valid reason to choose a particular medium, but only when the message lends itself to that medium. Transactional communications are not often harmed by using asynchronous mediums, but important conversations almost always require a different medium.
More Difficult Communication
Face-to-face meetings are synchronous, with both parties together at the same time and in the same place. Committing to a face-to-face meeting requires more time, more preparation, and more energy. Accepting a meeting request means giving the gift of time, so it’s incredibly important that the requestor makes the conversation worthwhile and valuable. This is why it is difficult to get a face-to-face meeting.
Face-to-face video calls (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype) are also synchronous, even if they replace physical presence with a virtual presence. Video meetings are now widely accepted, but they require many of the same commitments as face-to-face meetings, so providing value is still critical—especially if this is your first meeting with your contact.
Phone calls, which I’ve written about at length elsewhere, are also synchronous, allowing for greater communication than any of the asynchronous mediums we went through earlier. Overall, the richer the communication, the more difficult it is to gain an agreement to communicate over that medium. The truth is that we often choose the form of communication that is easiest for us, and one that the other party has no ability to avoid, especially when we’re prospecting.
The Second Axis Problem
The second axis is the value of the communication. A synchronous communication requires greater commitment and should deliver greater value. Emails don't create a great deal of value, and it seems that the longer the email, the less valuable the communication. Text messages, at least those from our friends and family, seem much more personal and create more value—but generally not when they come from strangers. Video messages carry more information and present you as a real person, something different than other asynchronous choices, so they have more potential to create value.
Here is the rub: we often choose a medium that is right for a transactional communication when the conversation deserves or requires a richer medium. The medium is part of the communication, which is one of the reasons it is easy for the recipient to delete, erase, or just ignore your message. If you’d had something important to share, they might reason, you would have chosen a different medium.
Someone on LinkedIn recommended that you should only send an email that you would open. I will raise the bar a little: send emails that you would gladly open, read, and reply to. That test would eliminate billions of emails, an increasingly large number of text messages, and all the automated spam on LinkedIn (an existential crisis for the only professional social platform, one that is making it increasingly difficult to accept any invitations).
A few weeks ago, a salesperson cold called me and asked me if I had twenty-seven seconds, a hack that unconfident people use to try to break the ice when opening a call. I took his call, but I told him that any conversation we might have in twenty-seven seconds is one I will reject with extreme prejudice. The point of this story is that both the medium and the message matter. You are better off choosing to communicate using the more difficult mediums, both so you can secure the other person’s consent and make the conversation worth their time.
Do Good Work:
- Review the mediums you choose and how frequently you use them.
- Articulate why you choose one medium over another.
- Start choosing the more difficult and more valuable mediums.