In a world of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, instant messages, and text messages, the telephone seems like a quaint relic of a bygone age.Retro Phone.jpg

It’s not.

The telephone is arguably the most powerful weapon in your communications arsenal.  But you need to know when to use the phone, when to use electronic communication, and when to use to use the two in combination.

Remember, you can reach people via email and social media.  But you can communicate only by phone. There’s a big difference.

Use LinkedIn to make contact.  Use email to share information.  Use the phone to build a relationship.

LinkedIn – The Introduction Machine

LinkedIn is a good starting point in your networking/prospecting effort.  It is by far the most effective tool for reconnecting with existing contacts and making new ones.

LinkedIn’s principal advantage is that it is extraordinarily efficient. Many – if not most – of the people you’ve ever known or would like to meet are on LinkedIn.  And you can find them relatively easily.

Good uses of LinkedIn are:

  • Announcements – “Broadcast” messages to a large number of people via LinkedIn Updates.
  • Reviving Contacts – Reconnect with former colleagues, classmates, and others quickly.
  • New Contacts – Introduce yourself to new contacts or get one of your LinkedIn connections to do it for you.
  • Group Discussions – Establish connections with group members and showcase your expertise.

But LinkedIn is only the first step in building a relationship.  All you’ve done is create awareness.

Email – The Information Provider

Email is the next step.  Use it to educate prospects and referral sources about your services or interests. Also, use it to learn about them:

  • Background Information–You can provide a lot more information in an email than via LinkedIn’s mail system.  The information can be more tailored than your LinkedIn profile.
  • Simple Questions – Asking – and getting answers to — simple “close ended” questions is much more efficient via email.  For open ended questions, use the phone.
  • Confirmation – If you need to confirm something – either a meeting or an understanding, email is best.

OK, you’ve made contact and you’ve exchanged information.  You know each other slightly.  Now you want to get acquainted (or re-acquainted). It’s time to pick up the phone.

Telephony – The Relationship Builder

The phone offers human contact, a voice-to-voice connection.  Short of face-to-face contact, the phone is the best way to establish rapport, and, in some cases, the best way to handle questions.

Here is where the phone works best:

  • Building Relationships – You won’t get to know someone well via email or LinkedIn. The only way to do that is by talking to one another. That applies especially to prospects and referral sources whom you want to cultivate.
  • Discussing Complex Issues – Email is a poor tool for “discussing” anything one-on-one (LinkedIn is for group discussions).  If an issue requires thought and exchanging ideas, pick up the phone.
  • Touching Base – Calling a contact out of the blue is a great way to re-connect and make someone feel special. You made an extra effort.  A “How Are You?” email is a nonstarter.
  • Getting Attention – After Prospect “X” has repeatedly ignored your emails, try giving her a call. She may focus if she’s actually talking to you.

Few people, if any, will do business with you based on an electronic connection.  That means they actually have to speak with you.

And consider how efficient the phone can be.  Can you use email effectively to ask questions, handle objections, build rapport, grasp nuances, and agree on next steps, all in ten minutes?  Nope.