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So Quiet You Can Hear an E-mail Bounce

I was recently sitting in the office of a former client of mine from my days selling Newsweek, who made the switch to sales and is now the associate publisher for a very hip and trendy fashion magazine.

She sits with her sales team in a very large space in a very cool area of New York City. Her well-dressed staff is young, enthusiastic and deadly quiet most of the day.

That is because e-mail communication has completely replaced all other forms of communication between her sales staff and her magazine's clients, and it is making her crazy.

"Ari" she said emphatically, "you and I would have never developed the relationship we have if e-mail was around when you called on me."

E-mail communication is one of the biggest contributors to the decrease in face-to-face sales call activity that plagues online and traditional publishers.

Media buyers prefer sales reps send over media kits digitally instead of meeting to discuss the property. They prefer to have proposals sent via e-mail rather than go over them in person and then ask sales reps to "ping them with an e-mail" to check on the status.

This is all very efficient, but at a cost. The cost is the chance for sellers and buyers to communicate face-to-face.

According to Ronni Burns, who has written a terrific book called "Communication Essentials; A Sell-Abration", non-verbal cues listeners share with those speaking are vital to the effective transmission of information. She writes, "Everyone gives off a constant and uninterrupted stream of non verbal signals that tells you what they are thinking and feeling."

These signs simply do not translate through e-mail regardless of how many smiley and frown faces are included. So while sellers and buyers are being more efficient, this form of communication is less effective in transmitting information.

Securing face time with clients is one of the biggest challenges media sales people face today. Most often, this face time comes during the many lunches, dinners, and events hosted by sales reps but rarely, if at all, are client communication objectives ever discussed during this time.

Media sales reps and their sales managers have to do a better job of creating compelling reasons for clients to sit down with them.

This is a two-step process. The first is to continue to develop more innovative ways to secure their audience's attention via new editorial sections or greater targeting abilities, for example. However, more importantly, step two is to make these opportunities relevant to a specific client and a specific communication objective for that client's product or service.

Creating relevancy like this will be rewarded with an opportunity to discuss the opportunity in person or at the very least, over the phone.

E-mail has its benefits, but like any medium, you cannot depend on it alone to get your message across. Media sales people need to spend less time in front of their computers, and more time in front of clients if they want to be more effective and develop relationships that are more meaningful.

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