Five reasons why the phone is still your most powerful tool

Your most effective business development tool was invented 150 years ago, so talk, don’t email, says Tony Goodwin.

Tony Goodwin is founder, group CEO and chairman of Antal International, a global management and recruitment company, and one of the fastest-growing business service organisations in China, Eastern Europe and India. Antal has more than 120 offices in over 30 countries, and celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013.

In today’s social media and email obsessed world, where CEOs Instagram pictures of their breakfast and world leaders Tweet selfies, it’s easy to forget the humble telephone. But do you know what? The phone – the microphone and speaker bit – is today’s great unsung hero of business. It’s truly powerful. Yet with all that digital noise going on in the background, some of us are forgetting to talk to people. You can seal deals on the phone. You can build entire businesses on the phone. Yet many of us have caught phone phobia. Instead of developing business relationships through conversation, we’re Tweeting, Facebooking, Snapchatting and emailing. Now don’t get me wrong, all these communication tools have their place – social media is a brilliant marketing tool – but the phone has more power than all of them put together. Here’s why you should talk, not Tweet…

1) The phone develops and confirms relationships
When has an email or social media post ever developed a relationship? Electronic communication simply can’t do that. The phone on the other hand allows you to use conversation to develop relationships and to get to the heart of the matter. Why do world leaders and top politicians use the phone at critical moments? Yes, phone conversations can be tough, but that’s why they’re important. In terms of business, your marketing, branding and social media should be used to generate warm leads. Then you need to pick up the phone to engage and develop relationships.

2) Phone calls are creative
A phone conversation that starts out looking at one subject can quickly evolve to focus on another. This introduces new ideas and fresh ways of developing your business. For example, I recently called my marketing manager to catch up about a pending business takeover. The conversation flowed onto the differing perceptions of temporary work in various parts of Europe. We quickly recognised that we had hit upon an angle we could use in future marketing campaigns. It became a creative conversation. If we had emailed each other, that idea would never have been captured.

3) Phone calls allow you to explain complex information quickly
How many hours are wasted writing complicated emails that are ignored by their recipients? In my view, anything even slightly complicated should be talked about on the phone first. My rule of thumb is to explain complex matters on the phone, then to email to confirm the details, then to call to explain it all again.

4) You can seal the deal on the phone
In the professional services world you’re never going to make new sales simply by engaging people over the internet. Sure, social media is a good marketing tool, and emails are useful for confirming what’s been discussed, but don’t expect to close deals online. The phone, however, enables you to first develop relationships, then to close the sale using the art of conversation. Emails are not sales mails.

5) Phone calls reduce conflict
We’ve all seen how people – while safely hiding behind their computer screens – can become overly assertive in emails, and sometimes these ‘flame mails’ cause full-blown, destructive arguments. Conflict can be defused easily with a simple chat on the phone. So next time you read a ‘flame mail’, or feel close to writing one, pick up the phone and talk…

Pick up the phone and talk… I firmly believe your business will develop faster and further if you make those six words your mantra. I compare phone calls to going to the gym. You don’t always want to do it, but you feel better when you have. And most importantly, it gets results.

So, who are you going to call next?