Despite what you think, tech-savvy, digital-minded consumers aren’t completely abandoning the phone in favour of other digital channels such as SMS, web chat, email and social media. Even though consumers use more non-voice channels to connect with businesses than ever before, picking up the phone to negotiate a business deal or resolve an issue isn’t going away anytime soon. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at one of the most popular shows on Bravo; the real-estate reality show, Million Dollar Listing.
Million Dollar Listing follows realtors in major markets New York and Los Angeles. The show focuses on the demanding clients and the nail-biting deals that their featured brokers and agents win and lose. In such a competitive industry, deals are crucial and stakes are high, so there is heavy focus on real-time, fast interactions with their clients and other agents. Although email communications with their clients are important, phone interactions, specifically voice, are the backbone of their relationships.
I’ve found the choice of interaction channels quite interesting. After the realtors get a new listing, they use email and social to showcase pictures and advertise the open house. Then, they go back and forth scheduling showings over SMS. However, they don’t usually text with their prime contacts—they call! Why? Because SMS is a quick and easy channel to communicate basic information, such as setting up a time and place to meet, but its limitations are the reason it is not the tool of choice during negotiations. Based on my observations watching the show, here are three reasons you can’t close deals over SMS.
Reason #1: Emotion
A great negotiator uses emotion, spirituality, and humour to win a deal. Unless you are Sam Shepard or John Steinbeck when you text, it is virtually impossible to use those skills over text. So, while SMS is a great way for him to answer common questions or plan a meeting place, only a phone call can truly convey the human emotions needed to win a deal. Negotiations are emotional, so it is important to acknowledge what the other person is saying. It is so much easier to do this over the phone than text or chat. Just think how awkward it would it be to text, “Mmhmm” or “I see” over and over again. Empathy and emotions are two things that cannot successfully be conveyed via text, SMS, or even through increasingly popular chatbots – they will always require a human touch.
Reason #2: Controlling the Conversation
Another determining factor to success in an industry predicated on closing deals and negotiating is changing the energy of the conversations. This can help the deals go your way. Entering the conversation with upbeat energy and an easy-going attitude sets the stage for determining the outcome. Often, other side might think that they can control the fate of the deal, But, a simple change in tone can throw your counterpart off-guard. This strategy would be incredibly ineffective, if not impossible, via SMS. While SMS is extremely effective in different industries and to handle different tasks, it simply could never fully replace the drastic impact a human voice can have. Complex issues and conversations need to be handled in the most efficient and effective way possible and Million Dollar Listing has continually shown us that, for them, this is achieved through by true conversations either through phone calls or in-person meetings.
Reason #3: Engagement
While talking is key in a negotiation, using silence can pay dividends. A strategically place pause during negotiations can show that you are truly listening and engaged. This helps build trust and rapport with the other side too. Showing that you’re listening and responding specifically to their needs or questions is something that is done best in-person or over a phone call. Unfortunately, using pauses when texting or chatting with someone can make the conversation go sideways. The person you are conversing with may think you are ignoring them, are upset or found something more important to do.
Businesses are encouraged to offer multiple engagement channels, but they shouldn’t under value voice. In many cases urgent matters warrant a friendly agent on the other end, and nothing is more real-time than a phone call. Showing customers that you empathise with them, regardless of your issue can pay dividends—and voice is one way to do that!