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E-mail and other virtual means of communication have replaced face-to-face and telephone interactions, so much so that today we have the reflex of writing instead of talking!
By spending our days communicating by email, we have come to believe that it is the ultimate means of communication for us as evolved human beings. And even if we regularly see all the limitations of email (misreading and understanding the message, subjective interpretation and even conflicts created by email), we tend to stay in the comfort of this secure mode of communication where everyone is behind their screen.
As proof, who still walks into the office of their colleague who is 12 feet away from them to ask a question? Who picks up the phone to answer their colleague who asked for information by email?
Researchers have shown that face-to-face interactions are actually much more effective than e-mail. The study “Ask in person: You’re less persuasive than you think over email” quantifies this difference in effectiveness… and the least we can say is that it is impressive! Direct interaction is 34 times more effective than email.
Why such a difference and how to put direct interactions back at the heart of our days?
Why do we react more positively to direct interactions?
We like to think that what distinguishes homo sapiens from other animals, including the most advanced mammals, is our ability to think. Anatomically speaking, it is the cerebral cortex (the grey matter) that is the site of this reflection. But, we must not forget that the brain is composed of two other zones: the limbic system and the reptilian brain (brain stem).
It is this reptilian brain that is responsible for the secretion of different hormones that influence our behaviour. The one that plays a major role in our response to e-mail and in-person solicitations is called oxytocin. It can be called “hug hormone” or “love hormone”. She is the one who is responsible for the bonds that are forged between people.
It is no coincidence that shaking hands is an ancestral way of doing business and that this practice still exists today. This simple contact creates a real human bond.
The comedy “” illustrates the importance of shaking hands for sale. There are other good sales lessons to be learned from this movie.
Oxytocin is also produced when acts of generosity are made and received. This reciprocity is extremely important. Acts of generosity are those from which we expect nothing in return, where we give time and ourselves.
We all have 24 hours in a day, so time is a universal commodity that can never be recovered. Giving money, on the other hand, does not work to secrete oxytocin. Money does not create bonds between people, it only creates transactions.
How do the effects of oxytocin manifest themselves in life and in sales?
Let us return to the experience of the “Ask in person” study. Two groups of individuals asked different people the same thing with the same words. One of the groups did it by email and the other one face-to-face. The group that made the requests face-to-face was 34 times more effective than the group that made the requests by e-mail.
The difference is that the first group, through direct interaction, was able to create an oxytocin-generated link between the individuals. The chemical compound oxytocin has therefore created an emotion that is itself at the root of the decision to say yes at the individual’s request.
On the other hand, reading an email does not trigger the same chemical reaction and therefore produces different effects. E-mails are associated with:
- A low level of trust
- An impersonal message
- A communication shortcut
Writing an email is not a way to show that you take time for people. However, from the beginning, I have been talking about face-to-face interactions, but even a call can, to some extent, have an impact on the perception of the person opposite.
Your colleagues and customers all see the value of a phone call or a visit (even a quick one), because they understand that you have sacrificed a little of your time for them. It’s unconscious, but it’s real and it’s what helps to create bonds between people.
Why the chances of making a sale when you call a lead who has completed an online form within the next hour are so high? Because the person needs help and you stop what you are doing to take the time to listen.
While communication technologies are evolving rapidly, the human brain is not keeping pace. We are still guided by the chemical secretions of our brain and they dictate our emotions and decisions.
In our hyper-connected daily life, we must not forget that our bodies have a natural tendency to push us to repeat behaviours that are in our interest and that make us feel good… and emails are not one of them!