Are You an Email Addict?

It is a rhetorical question. I already know the answer. You are. I was too.

Recently, I conducted some serious soul searching regarding my own productivity. I’m an idea person and the list of things I’d really like to do is usually long. The problem I was faced with though was that I wasn’t executing on most of them. Other projects I was working on seemed to take much longer than necessary. I wanted to find out why.

What did I do? I studied my habits. I looked closely at where I was spending my time every day. What I discovered, although it wasn’t a shocking surprise, was that I was being sucked into email and ending up stuck there off and on throughout the workday.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t you?

Here is how it would go. I’d clear emails and then realize I’d better get started writing that blog post, preparing my material for the next client program or making those sales calls needed to bring in revenue. I’d be making great strides and then bam…that urge to check email. I’ve read various reports that say that once you do that, it can take as long as 20 minutes to get yourself back into the groove again and pick up where you left off. Maybe you never even get back to where you were.

Email addiction is a big problem and it is costly in more ways than one. This obsessive compulsion to be always “on” is robbing people of their productivity, the opportunity to be present with friends and family and the opportunity to enjoy life without constantly stressing out about what they think they might be missing.

In April 2010, Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project posted a poll on Huffington Post about workplace experience. A question about email was included. Here’s what they found out:

“Out of 1200 respondents, some 60 percent said they spend less than two waking hours a day completely disconnected from email. Twenty percent spend less than a half hour disconnected.”

Less than half an hour of your waking time disconnected? Seriously, that’s sad.

I love what Brendon Burchard has to say about email. He says, “Beware of your inbox, it’s nothing but a convenient organizing system for other people’s agendas.” That really stuck with me and two weeks ago, I made a decision.

No email before 12 noon each day. The only exception I make is if I have meetings scheduled, I will “scan” to see if meeting times have been changed. Even if they have, I do not respond before 12 noon.

My new habit is working. In addition to completing client work and bringing in new business, I have:

  • Completed an e-book
  • Finished my Sales Meets Social Media training course and facilitator program
  • Recorded an audio series
  • Recorded several new videos
  • Written blog posts
  • Begun my plans to create an interview series of top sales pro’s

If you are reading my post, I’m going to ask you to challenge yourself to set boundaries with respect to email. After all, whose agenda is more important - yours or theirs?

Give Me A Reason Not to Ignore You

An interesting topic surfaced on Facebook today, which I then turned into a LinkedIn discussion. At issue was whether or not business people should get back to people with a yes or no answer, but not ignore the contact altogether. A number of folks chimed in with their thoughts about why a “good business person” who knows how to “build relationships” would always respond. Of course, I don’t agree given that I’m on the receiving end of some of the dumbest sales pitches and requests for my time ever. Usually, it is about what they want – their agenda. They aren’t thinking about me and my needs.

As it turns out, the original post was suggesting that someone who’d connected with you and asked that you follow up with them, but never responded again was at the heart of the dialog. But it also got me thinking about how many times I’ve heard sales people complain that they don’t receive call backs or responses to their emails.

Here are 5 reasons why ignore or delete may be the first thing someone does when they receive your message.

  1. Your message has no compelling value for the person that you are calling. I am sooo tired of the rambling speeches about how your product is the best; you can save me money, yada yada yada. I don’t care about your canned sales pitch.What’s in it for Barb and her business? Do you really know enough about my business to be able to catch my attention? Most of the time, you haven’t taken the time, so the answer is no.
  2. We can’t understand a word you have said in your voicemail. At this point in someone’s business life, it should be obvious that your ability to speak clearly and articulately is critical if you expect anyone to respond to your message.  If you have an accent, then you will need to work even harder to ensure that you speak slowly and clearly enough for someone to understand you. Remember that the communication success largely depends on how you present yourself.
  3. Lack of information. I received a call yesterday from Shawn. I have no idea who Shawn is but all she said is…”Barbara, this is Shawn. Call me at XYZ number.” Seriously, no last name, no company name, no message about why I would actually pick up the phone and call you back? If it is important that someone get back to you – tell them why doing so holds value for them. If you happen to get someone on the phone…same holds true. Identify yourself clearly by giving your first name, last name, company name and why you are calling. I don’t have the time to waste dragging the information out of you.
  4. We have no relationship. I prefer to work with people that I know, or people that I’ve been introduced to by colleagues. I have zero patience with the standard, boring, uncreative cold call tactics most sales people insist on using. I’m willing to listen IF you give me a good reason to do so. If your first email communication is a sales pitch and I don’t know you, the chances are high that I will merely hit delete. Though occasionally you might get lucky. Last week, I received an email from someone I didn’t know but they said something intriguing about lead gen and how their products helped you mine LinkedIn information. That got me curious. I’ve set up the demo.
  5. You sell competing products/services to mine. Forgive me if I rant for a second here, but geez, do your homework. One memorable cold call was the gal who sold behavior assessments (I do too!) who said that she realized I sold competing products and then proceeded to leave me a lengthy – something like 8.5 minutes – message about why her assessment was better. Now, it isn’t that I wouldn’t be inclined to consider adding another product to our offering, but after that message…forget it. I refer you back to point #1.

Here’s the deal. Everyone is busy. Just because you have something to sell doesn’t mean that we want or need it. Remember that successful selling isn’t about you and your agenda. You have to expertly communicate the value you bring to the business relationship and and the results you deliver. Otherwise, you are just wasting everyone’s time.

The Accidental Spammer

One of my pet peeves is receiving broadcast emails from people who neglect to use the “bcc” line in their communication, thus leaving all email addresses exposed to everyone else on the list.

If you are going to use standard email versus a program for email marketing like Constant Contact then please hear me when I tell you that you leave the window wide open for that unscrupulous someone who will push out a sales pitch to people that YOU know, but THEY don’t. Well…until you gave out everyone’s email address that is.

This happened to me earlier this week.

The email was an announcement about a business endeavor a friend had recently put together, and I was glad to receive the information. Unfortunately, he used email for the message and put everyone on his list in the “to” line exposing all of us to potential spam.

And you guessed it…minutes later, David - who needs a few netiquette lessons - “replied all” to the message and tried to sell us his interviewing products. Sending unsolicited sales propaganda without securing permission while trashing my friend’s network at the same time is really tacky. The guy lacks an integrity gene in my opinion, and I would NEVER buy from anyone like that. And the worse part is that he didn’t care one iota about how it might affect my friend’s reputation. All he cared about was himself!

Tips to avoid this happening to you…

  • Unless you are positive that everyone on that list knows each other - use BCC (blind carbon copy) to hide the information.
  • Use an email marketing system like Constant Contact. Not only does it resolve the thorny issue of exposing your network accidentally, but email marketing systems are designed to handle the opt-out stuff required by law.
  • Communicate your spam policy to you network. Let them know that you are not giving them permission to sell to your network and that if they do they become “persona non grata”.

Always remember that your “network” is a precious asset that must be protected. Make sure that you do!