The revelation that scientists have developed a complicated formula for the perfect handshake got us thinking about some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing business over the Internet (it also got us thinking about scientists not having better things to do with their time, but whatever). For the socially inept, the absence of F2F interaction in e-commerce can be a blessing. If you’re cursed with a nebbishy mien or your signature grip-and-grin is the Dead Flounder, no worries. You lose no points online for failing to smile pleasantly while making two to three seconds of eye contact, as the aforementioned formula dictates.
There’s a reason that business rituals like the handshake have been around for centuries, though. Visual and conversational cues help to establish trust and confidence. Because there’s no body language on the Internet, you must inspire trust in other, purely digital ways. One crucial means of one-on-one communication by which your professionalism will be assessed is e-mail. While it may not matter if you speed type in a Speedo, it’s critically important that your messages project competence, intelligence and reliability.
If you fear you suffer from the e-mail equivalent of sweaty palms, tips for improving your business communications are easy to find. Check out this guide. And we’ve developed our own uncomplicated formula for a firm electronic “handshake”
C + B + P + T + E + S – :-) = GI
C equals clarity. In business e-mails, try to use simple words and straightforward syntax. This is especially important when dealing with someone for whom English is a second language.
B equals brevity. Don’t waste your correspondent’s time.
P is for precision. Tell your potential partner exactly what you want or exactly what you can do for them.
T is for timeliness. Wait more than 24 hours to respond and you are signalling disinterest.
E is for etiquette. As you would with any business letter, use a formal greeting and sign-off. And no matter how tetchy your business dealings become, avoid angry words and sarcasm. Civility works better.
S is for spellchecker. Use one.
:-) is for smiley faces and other emoticons. Don’t use them.
GI means a good impression, which is what you’re aiming to make. Dry those mitts and start typing.