I’m fortunate to have interviewed many savvy business people in the past few years in the channel and the wider ICT industry.
Many unexpected insights have come from these conversations, and some of the most interesting fall within the area of effective communication as an individual or as a company.
The nature of the IT industry, and the pre-Christmas events season, means there’s more emphasis than in other sectors on two communication methods in particular: electronic information exchange and face-to-face networking.
As the end-of-year rush begins in earnest, it is increasingly a juggling act to keep on top of email, voicemail messages, Facebook event invitations, Christmas parties, Tweets and more.
IT types are more likely than most to be early adopters of multiple communication devices, messaging programmes, unified IP telephony systems and social networking services. This includes everyone in a channel firm from the newest technical staff member to the most senior sales manager.
Because electronic communication methods are now so pervasive, individuals and businesses feel they need a presence across the spectrum.
What began as the domain of individuals is now skyrocketing among businesses, with recent US research by firewall vendor Palo Alto Networks showing corporate, sales and promotional use of Twitter rose more than 250 percent in the past six months, while the number of companies using Facebook for these purposes grew 192 percent in that time.
In the face of this, companies must aim to make their online presence stand out.
Everything from Facebook and Twitter pages to company websites need to be regularly fed with relevant content if they are to be of value.
But one thing interviewees have told me is this type of communication is no substitute for meeting face to face, or simply picking up the telephone. This is especially true if a business relationship is in its early stages.
It’s important, therefore, to gauge the best way to get your message across to individuals and companies you deal with regularly. Always keep the needs of the receiver in mind – you might prefer email, but you might be annoying others who prefer to meet for a drink or be frequently available to chat online.
On top of this comes industry events, whether its technical or sales training, vendor updates, conferences and seminars or simply a business meeting between two firms.
It soon becomes easy to see how small businesses in particular feel daunted at the prospect of making new contacts, maintaining relationships, upskilling, closing sales and socialising. This is especially true if they operate from a more remote location.
Also, the increasingly blurred line between personal and business communication is a challenge; as such business people need to separate the information they offer to contacts to be sure it is appropriate to the context.
An effective strategy for companies is to identify staff members’ strengths in various communication methods, and assign them to areas of responsibility where they can put them into effect. This can also ensure a business doesn’t fall short in quantity and quality of information in any one area.