The evils of email

I was reminded during the past week why email is evil. People are hiding behind email and text instead of engaging in person. And it’s costing transactions and clients.


Emails don’t make deals

So here’s the scenario… I was chatting with a guy last week who recently connected with the CEO of one of Australia’s largest companies. Exciting times! The CEO had agreed to participate in a project, and asked my mate to coordinate logistics with his communications manager.

All good so far? You’d think so. My mate calls and leaves a message. The comms manager replies via email: “What can I help you with?” My mate calls back and receives a text in response: “Can you please let me know what I can help you with?” By this point my mate is getting frustrated: “I would like you to return my calls.” Seems like a small deal. But for my mate it’s a vital connection for his business.

And what does this say about one of our largest companies? If the “communications” manager is incapable of connecting in person, what hope is there for the culture of that entire business?

This is far beyond a matter of etiquette, where most complaints about emailing and texting end up. This is about the cost in time and energy incurred by hiding behind the written word and devices. People don’t drive purposes and outcomes any more. They push issues and tasks around in emails which are not driving anything.

Traditionally, the written word was a tool for confirming agreements or the terms of a relationship. If you waited for snail mail to drive outcomes, you were dead in the water before you even started. But just because an email arrives with speed, it doesn’t mean it’s generating any outcome.

It’s people who make deals

It’s easy to forget when you sit down to bash out a few emails that they are received without context. There is no facial expression, no vocal expression, no personality, no set of eyeballs across the table – none of the nuances that are critical to true engagement.

Deals get done when people engage face-to-face.

Outcomes are crystallised when you get someone across the table, asking the right questions, and enunciating their position clearly. I can guarantee they will walk away with 99% of what they’re asking. There’s no secret to it. Teams like us count on the fact that the largely disengaged people across the table, who rely on emails to do business, can’t think on their feet and make decisions on the spot. So the path is clear for us to win the day.

I get frustrated for my clients when people won’t communicate across the table, and transactions take more time and money than they should to close. What might take half a day to work out and negotiate will extend to weeks simply because emails are used instead of the spoken word.

If I achieve nothing else in business, I am determined to continue pushing for change. Not back to the old days, but certainly forward towards open, transparent engagement in person. Let’s not be afraid to step away from the screens and meet each other face-to-face.