Are You Losing Business by Ignoring Messages?
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have thousands of notifications on their phones, and those who have none. I am definitely one of the latter. These little red circles drive me crazy!
Some might call it OCD, but to me, those notifications represent work that needs to be done. Each circle is just another thing that needs to be done, and I don’t like that looming over me.
Not to mention I’m currently managing 12 email accounts. Yes, 12. I know, that’s crazy. But I have many clients who prefer me to use an address from their domain when communicating with their clients. So 12 accounts means 12 inboxes to keep in order. For me, my inbox is my to-do list. If there’s a message in there, it’s because I still need to respond or take some sort of action. When I’m done, it gets filed away into a folder in case I ever need to reference it again. A notification means there’s something new that needs my attention.
So if you are one of those people with tons of unread emails and text messages, how do you function? How do you keep up with communication? I don’t mean that as a judgment; I’m genuinely curious how you know what you’ve already done and what still needs to be done.
If you don’t make time to attend to your messages, you could be missing important information from clients and, even worse, losing out on business!
I’ve seen it happen, and it’s happened to me.
Case 1: Time Management
One of my coaching clients was struggling with time management. He had lost a few big clients because he was inconsistent with responses and they got tired of having to chase him down for information. They lost confidence that he’d be able to do the work because he wasn’t keeping up with communication. He couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult for him. As we worked together, I found that sometimes he emailed, sometimes he texted, and most of the time he didn’t respond at all. He said he felt like he was too busy to read everything so he just let it pile up. When he showed me his phone, he had thousands of unread texts and emails. A number of those messages contained crucial information that he never even saw. That just doesn’t work in business.
Case 2: Missed Deadlines
In another situation, I was helping a client with a proposal for a new job, one that would’ve been a good project for me. And it was pretty much guaranteed to be awarded because he already had a relationship with the company that was hiring. I gave him all of the information he needed, discussed with the other team members, and had a game plan ready to go. When I didn’t hear anything for a few days, I followed up and received an apologetic response – my client had missed an important email because it was one of a few hundred unread messages in his inbox. The company needed the proposal by a specific date, and since they didn’t hear back from him, they moved forward with someone else. The rest of us missed out on a great opportunity because he wasn’t paying attention.
Case 3: “I don’t do voicemail.”
My friend Paul recently led a lively discussion on Facebook about voicemail. The consensus seems to be that no one actually listens to messages anymore. I’m all for keeping up with changes in technology, but here’s the thing. If someone took the time to leave you a message and you ignored it, you are showing them you don’t respect their time. So why would they want to work with you? I have a client who sees this as such a red flag that if he leaves a message about a potential job and the person calls back without having listened to the message, he won’t hire them. Now that might seem extreme, but why should he have to waste his time repeating himself because someone else was too lazy to take a minute to listen his message? Especially when he’s trying to PAY them. I was recently hiring a crew for a big job in another city. While making calls, I encountered a number of full mailboxes and had no alternate contact information. I didn’t have the time or interest to try them again, and I don’t text people I don’t know personally, so those people all lost out on a great opportunity. The people who answered or listened to the message got the job!
It comes down to this. In business, not listening to or reading messages might be costing you actual money.
If those red notification circles don’t bother you, great. But why do you leave so much unread/unheard? How do you know you aren’t missing important information? Are you affecting others? If you think you’re too busy, maybe you need to look at what you’re really doing with your time. What does it say to other people, in business or otherwise, when you don’t respond? Do you think your time is more valuable than theirs? What message does that present to your current and potential clients?
Are you putting your client relationships in jeopardy because you aren’t responding?
It can be overwhelming when you see all those emails and text messages piling up. For many, it creates unnecessary (and avoidable) stress. But seeing empty space at the bottom of your inbox? That can be such a great feeling.
What it comes down to, in most cases, is building better habits. It takes time, but making little steps as you go can make a huge difference in your productivity.
Here are some ways to do it.
Schedule a time to clean your inbox.
You may not want to tackle it all at once. Maybe it makes more sense to start from the most recent and go down the list. But block out chunks of time as you’re able and focus on answering, filing, and deleting your messages.
Chances are a lot of those emails are just clutter from various mailing lists you ended up on when you bought a product. If they’re not helpful, unsubscribe. Or file them away into a separate folder so you can go back to them if you need to buy something. Depending on your email provider, you may benefit from Unroll.Me– a free app that allows you to easily unsubscribe from emails you don’t want, combine the ones you do want into one daily rollup so you can scroll through them all in one place, and keep the ones you want in your inbox.
Respond to anything that will take 5 minutes or less.
Don’t add it to a to-do list or leave it for later. Just get back to the person and move on.
Turn off notifications you don’t need.
If social media and other apps are distracting you, turn off the notifications! Stay focused on your work, which is probably more important than seeing who liked your recent photo or what a random celebrity is talking about in that moment. That stuff will always be there for you later.
Use reminders, flags, or other productivity software.
Everyone is different, so find what works for you. Many email programs offer ways to manage your inbox with tools like follow-up flags, color-coded categorizing, reminders, and more. There are also third party apps like FollowUp, Boomerang, and many others that can help keep you on track when used properly.
Update your voicemail message.
If you know you’re not likely to listen to messages, let your clients and potential customers know! Record a greeting that says, “The best way to reach me is via email at…” or “for faster service, please text me.” Make it easy for them to understand your communication preferences and don’t just assume they’ll find another way to reach you.
Consider hiring an assistant.
If your inbox is truly that overwhelming, maybe it’s worth it to pay someone to handle your admin tasks like email. They can filter out the distractions and hold you accountable to the actionable items that come in. Maybe there’s someone in your area who would like the opportunity to learn about your business and would be happy to work for you. There are a ton of virtual assistants out there, too. You just have to train them on how you like to handle things, and then free up your time to focus on more important things.
Developing a solid system and good habits for communication sets you up for success. Be consistent, stay on top of deadlines, and be respectful of everyone’s time. Show your clients they are important to you, and that you take your work seriously. Don’t miss out on opportunities. Get organized, stay focused, and then let me know how your business has improved!