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Relationship Building 102: 3 Tips for Communicating in a Digital World

Communicating in the digital world is fun and fast paced. It is convenient but sometimes detrimental and inefficient when your core business or responsibility is developing relationships. My previous blog post, Four Tips for Relationship Building in the Construction Industry, raised many comments and questions about the “art” of communicating in our society today when people don’t return phone calls, take weeks to respond to emails, blow off meetings that you know were “accepted” from a calendar invite.

Relationship building truly is an art form and one that takes practice and patience in the construction industry for the sales and business development force. So I have come up with a follow-up post which addresses the ever changing world of communicating with clients, colleagues and collaborators.

#1 Be Present

I want to start by reiterating my final point from my previous post about being present. If you remember, people are reading you the moment you walk into the room and gravitate toward those who generate a positive vibe.

Don’t walk into a room full of potential relationships “tweeting” your location or what you had for lunch. Picture the numerous times you’ve sat down at a restaurant, looked across to another table only to see a family of four staring at their individual smart phones or tablets. It’s disturbing, unhealthy and it sucks the air out of the room. It visually says “I don’t want to talk, leave me alone.” That's the last message you want to be sending when you're there to build relationships.

#2 Don't Always Be On or Available

Personally, this is my biggest struggle. I’m always trying to convince myself that I am capable of multitasking via electronic communication as I move through my work week and unfortunately my weekends. Today’s workforce has this false sense of having to always be on, reachable and available to respond to an issue instantaneously.

This increase in availability is counterintuitive. Several Fortune 500 companies have recently proven that always being connected or tethered to the office or workplace by a handheld device of sorts is not productive and in most cases, counter productive.

The take away here is to set limits with your clients and colleagues while also respecting their limits and methods of electronic or digital communication.

#3 Know People's Communication Preference

In today’s era of developing new relationships and business opportunities it’s hard to figure out how people want to be contacted. With so many forms of communication available, it's hard to know how they will respond efficiently. Some like texting or instant messaging. Some are all about emailing and believe it or not some prefer an actual phone call.

I’ve found it very personal and effective to come right out and ask a potential new client or new relationship how they prefer to communicate. This interaction is actually an amazing way to begin building a relationship. It immediately strips down the faux electronic wall or screen we all occasionally hide behind. Make a note of how they prefer to be contacted as you add them in your smart phone. You can send me a fax.

Above all, don’t get lazy and think that as soon as you've sent a text, email or even a voice mail that the ball is now in their court. Until they've confirmed it, you can't assume it actually reached them and was read or heard.

It’s no secret that we all receive more electronic information than ever before. Keeping up with it all can be daunting, a seemingly impossible task, yet we are expected to do so. Schedule time each day for communication. Dedicate this time to catching up with email, Twitter and everything in between.

Organizing an internal follow up protocol for your electronic communication might be helpful and there are several applications that can help you do so. Be diligent yet efficient in your own responses, and remember: don’t assume that hitting send covers your bases.

To wrap this topic up, let’s go old school and admit that we all truly appreciate and actually crave human interaction and the actual face-to-face meeting. We also love the handwritten thank you note! It’s authentic, it’s transparent and it connects. Thanks for reading our blog. While you’re at it, send me your address.

Until we meet again in person, head on over to our resource library for more resources to help you build buildings and relationships in the construction industry. Unless you're in a meeting--you should probably put your phone away! 

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