“I’m waiting for support to respond to my status update request”
Whenever I hear a phrase similar to these in one of my consulting engagements, I know I’m close to finding a problem, or at least uncovering a major symptomatic issue. Let me explain ..
After four months of travel in 2012 running enablement and training workshops, May has been kinder and gentler and I have been working on a couple of “take-home” consulting opportunities. Both involve some badly broken internal processes at a couple of mid-sized companies. These processes were affecting both the effectiveness of presales and ultimately the win-rate of sales. You know when a process is so badly broken that the injured parties readily admit that they spent more time trying to fix the blame as opposed to fix the process, which is why a third-party comes in to obtain resolution!
In both cases, email was to blame, and the people who relied upon it as their primary communications mechanism. (I am going to write a longer article about this topic but I need to get it off my chest now). Instance #1 involves a company with incredibly poor Discovery habits and instance #2 a company where presales spends 35% of their time bailing out customer support. Repeatedly, an email was
A) left unanswered
B) sent solely as a CYA (Cover Your A$$)
C) incomplete and poorly written
D) partially answered
My response in both the situations was to say “pick up the phone!”. An email is linear (in the good old days we’d call it half-duplex) as only one party can communicate at a time. An email can’t contain (much) emotion – I don’t feel there is much room for smiley-faces in business communications unless you really know the other person. A phone call allows you to get all your questions answered (you’re in presales – you know how to ask questions and get them answered!). Plus a phone call leaves no audit record other than that the call was actually made. So you can say things in a call you cannot put in an email.
So if you are frustrated in some internal process (or even in a customer communication) see if email is in the communication chain. If it is – ask yourself what would happen if you picked up the phone rather than send another email?
Maybe things would magically get better.
In my two engagements, the discovery rate doubled and presentation standards have improved dramatically in just three weeks for one customer, and the other customer reports that post-sales time has decreased from 35% to a still-high 22% and is trending downwards.