Basic Rules for Communication and Relationship Development

I know I'm "old school," but whatever happened to having REAL communications with the people you're attempting to develop relationships with (including your colleagues)?  These, we know, are some very trying times.  People all over the world have had to dramatically change the way they interact, do business, develop and execute projects, etc.  No longer can we just walk over to the next cubicle or office, drive to the nearest airport to hop on a plane, or head to town on a train to visit customers and/or colleagues.  Who knows when these simple (OK, maybe some are more simple than others) actions will become the norm again, if ever?

We've become a world dependent entirely on communicating in 1's and 0's (even with our own children!).  While I'm not going to wax philosophically on proper child rearing techniques, I will give my humble opinion on how technology (specifically email) has challenged one of the most fundamental aspects of business:  building relationships! 

I think we’ve come to a point at Panini (and I know other companies have as well) that the speed of progress is in direct relation to the speed with which we all process emails.  Time and again I’ve asked people on my own team for updates on opportunities, only to be told that they are waiting for a response to an email sent the previous day, week, etc.  In my entire career I’ve not seen any tool that we depend on for communication as much as Outlook.  Personally, I myself receive literally HUNDREDS of emails per day, and quite often there are times when they’re coming in much faster than I can respond, not even taking into account all of the other responsibilities I have like running an international sales team.  

To me, there is still nothing better than meeting with a potential client (or colleague, or even family member) face-to-face to discuss items of import.  In my years of experience, THAT’S how relationships are best built, and progress is best made. However we can’t do these things today (and maybe not even tomorrow), so what do we do?

These are my basic rules for proper communications and relationship building:

  1. Meet face-to-face with the customer, colleague, etc. wherever and whenever possible – Again, I know in these times this is not possible, but still, the rule needs to be stated.
  2. If you can’t meet face to face with the customer, pick up the phone and call them!  I’m sure that with most people around the world spending all of their time shut in their homes, they would welcome a real conversation outside of the small, or even non-existent, group of people that they’ve been quarantined with.  You’d be surprised (on a side note, video calls are great too)!!

I’ve seen many cases in my career where WE have become the biggest obstacle to progress or to building a better relationship, because we are waiting for this person or that person to respond to an email. 

Feel free to disagree, but we should not rely on people’s timely responses to an email we’ve sent to determine the outcome of a problem or progress on an opportunity.  As for me personally, if you need me quickly, call me.  If you need to text, then text.  I’ll call you back ASAP, but it will surely take me longer to respond to that email!

Joe Sciulli
SVP, Global Channel Sales, Panini