Today’s tech-savvy, digital-minded consumers are not completely abandoning the phone in favor of other digital channels such as SMS, web chat, email and social. 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 me? Watch the cast of Bravo’s real-estate reality show, Million Dollar Listing.
Million Dollar Listing follows three realtors in New York: Fredrik Eklund, Ryan Serhan and Steve Gold. The show focuses on their demanding clients and the nail-biting deals that they 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
In a Business Insider interview, Frederik said a great negotiator uses emotion, spirituality, and humor 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. Frederik also said that 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 factor that Fredrik says is key to his success in closing deals and negotiating is changing the energy of the conversations. This can help the deals go his way. He may enter the conversation with upbeat energy and an easy-going attitude. And the other side might think that they can control him and the fate of the deal. But, he throws his counterpart a curveball by changing his tone—this throws them off-guard and he is able to regain control of the conversation. 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. Frederik likes to strategically pause during his negotiations to show that he is 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 empathize with them, regardless of your issue can pay dividends—and voice is one way to do that!