As the old adage says, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.” While this serves as a golden rule for every day in-person interactions, email, our primary method of modern client communication, is no different.
By the end of 2017, business email will account for over 132 billion emails sent and received per day. In order to put (and keep) your best email face forward, we’ve shared a few ways to maintain common courtesy - while providing the value you deliver in every interaction with your clients - in your email communication.
We understand that emails are a form of business writing that’s not exactly a position paper or long form essay, but grammar is still incredibly important. When a client has invested in an independent consultant, they want to be able to trust them in all aspects of their consulting business. What does it say about an independent if their communications constantly feature typos, grammatical errors, and incoherent sentences/structure? Proofreading is not just an art, it’s a necessity.
After all, a critical misspelling or your/you’re “human error” can easily be avoided by taking the time to re-read your content and ensure your message is being delivered clearly and directly. Spell-check and grammar-check don’t capture everything!
In order to engage an audience, you need to make them feel important. The last thing any contractor would want to do is give the impression of being dismissive, especially to their client.
While there are times where items need a quick reply and/or acknowledgement, and an immediate response from a phone/tablet is certainly warranted, most of the time, you should be able to take a step back from an email conversation and think “Can this wait at least a minute so I can properly formalize my response?”
Creating a formal, well-structured response lets your audience know that you have dedicated your full attention to craft a response that addresses the immediate needs and/or concerns of their correspondence. Just like a critical meeting or conversation, it is important to set the right tone, establish what needs to be addressed, and, of course, address the matter(s) at hand.
A quick on-the-go response may indicate to your client that you are responsive and prompt on reply, but remember to also consider the larger picture.
Our suggestion: it’s generally safe to save the “Sent From My iPhone” signature line for the emails that simply require a yes/no/approved/received. And, as with any email involving a request or idea exchange, don’t forget the magic words: Thank you.
When on the receiving end of an email, you may realize a few words can rub you the wrong way. The same applies to your audience! A simple communication rule of thumb is to “think like your audience.” If the following words below ruffle your feathers, imagine how a client or partner may feel seeing them coming from a message you wrote.
Actually – Like many more words that can be on this list, adverbs can divert what might normally be a direct message or request. Additionally, this word may have a condescending tone. For example, if you are correcting a client, think about how to frame your message:
“Actually, we will need two more days to complete the request.”
Sounds like you’re talking down to someone. Try using a less aggressive phrase. For example:
“Based on the needs of the request, we will need two more days in order to complete it.”
According to The Muse, “actually” has also become the new “literally” or “basically” – a word thrown in where it doesn’t stylistically make sense.
Please advise – The jury is still out on this one, according to some executives, but it is better to err on the side of caution and cut “please advise” from your email vocabulary. Popular culture views the phrase as “extremely stuffy” and “used by business executives to close emails when they don’t understand how to ask a real question.” Some also see it as a “passive-aggressive way to drop the ball in the other person’s court.”
When asking a favor, or seeking input, avoid using commands where possible. Regardless of the “generational gap” in terms of the acceptableness of this phrase, alternatives can include “looking forward to your thoughts/feedback” or “please let us know how we can best approach/address the issue at hand.”
Quickly – No one likes to be rushed, but more importantly, no one likes to be given a vague deadline or timeframe. Whenever possible, quantify your requests or projected completion dates/times. Don’t know for certain? Be honest and preface the statement by noting it’s an estimation or projection. Other words of a similar ilk that should be avoided include “When you have a moment” or “ASAP.”
Feeling guilty about using any of these in a recent email? No need to delete the past. Just keep these words and techniques in mind in your next correspondence.
Still searching for the right tools and tips to land new clients and keep your current clients happy? MBO Partners can help. Contact us today to learn more.
As an independent consultant it's important to know what exactly soft skills are, why they matter, and how you can improve yours.
News and notes for independent professionals and their clients. This is the September 19, 2016 edition.