The Jury Is Still Out on Texting for Professional Communication
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Hey, January 2025 professional… check out this app. It allows you to select someone from your contact list and, with a push of a button, send a signal to that person alerting them you are trying to connect. If they wish, they can accept the incoming communication with you and, at that point, you can have a two-way, back and forth, instantaneous conversation… using voice!
Yes, in 2014 we call that "the phone.''
Even the best business development professionals periodically struggle with "call reluctance,'' that mystery conclusion that a phone call is intrusive, no matter how relevant or pertinent to the business at hand. But imagine the next generation of professionals who spent their college years not even picking up the phone to order a pizza. As you would guess, many generation Y sales professionals prefer contacting prospects via text or email rather than to calling on the phone. This is the case when it isn’t a sales call to a potential client. Millennials default to email even for internal communication with people sitting steps away.
For example, I asked my recent college-grad assistant how things were going on scheduling a certain event. It had been a week and I hadn’t had an update. She responded with, “I will expedite the process with a phone call.” Now this wasn’t her fault, as sometimes email communication is easiest when dealing with many people. However, it was eye-opening to me that the phone was being viewed as an expedition tool rather than the first option in contacting someone.
We all know (and many of us participate in) the text messaging boom, not recognizing how this method of communicating seems like a technological regression! Just like email, we cannot hear tone. Messages are easily mixed up. CAPS LOCKS, emoticons and italics can only do so much.
I recently discovered the app Voxer, that acts like a walkie-talkie with friends (think Nextel- push to talk) but it leaves your sound clip on an easy to access screen. Basically, it's like text messaging but with voice clips. You can also send text and pictures. This allows two people to have a back-and-forth conversation, but not a “live”one. You can reply whenever you wish and never be put on the spot.
Why do we love text messaging (and now Voxer) in our personal lives and, maybe, in our professional lives?
I think it all comes down to being more permissive, flexible and allowing people to Band-Aid their fear of rejection. If we text or email someone, we can re-read it 15 times before sending until it’s just the way we like it. If we interact on the phone, we don’t know what can be thrown at us and how we will react. Text messages cut back on awkward hellos, small talk or good byes. When we reach out to someone via text or email, the person is reading the message on their own terms. It’s not disruptive to their day (this mentality is stuck in the senders head more than the receiver’s mind and is a cause of call reluctance).
The big reason we prefer text or email in a professional setting is the ease of rejection through text-based communication. Texting allows us to cope with a message that we don’t like without an immediate reaction. That makes it easier to deal with but less practical in being able to handle the objection.This becomes a problem when you communicate important messages or try to approach a conflict through these methods. Problems and solutions should always be discussed in person, or at least on a live call.
I believe the verdict is still out with text messaging being perceived as a professional form of communication in the business world, especially when a solid relationship doesn’t exist already. It is safe to say that it will become more and more acceptable. It is fine to email someone in a professional way, the question has always been whether or not the person would open the email. Now many of us have our email accounts connected to our phones. So the difference between a text message and an email these days is narrowing.
As of now, I look at text messaging as a complement, not a substitute, for the phone. Tests are best used as a “warm up” introduction inviting a phone call. If you are using text messaging in business development, you need to start tracking its efficiency. How many texts do you send per day and how many responses do you get? How many calls did you warm up or meetings did you book using that text language? Then compare it to your dialing efficiency, emailing efficiency or other ways of reaching out to potential clients. Research shows that 93 percent of the time people open a text message within two minutes of receiving it.
This professional balancing act can be supplemented with social media, such as LinkedIn, where contacts can send messages to warm up an initial phone call or face-to-face meeting. Mixing this method in with traditional referral-based calls can help millennial business owners and sales professionals take advantage of new technology while remaining grounded in the old-school efficiencies that the phone call provides.