The following blog also appears @

You may have learned in “Communications 101” that 70% of your communicative abilities are non-verbal. Your gestures, facial expressions, hand motions, and body position convey the majority of your intent, mood, and thinking.

So what happens when you’re communicating by email? In that medium, you lack even the most basic advantages of voice tone and volume. Countless deals have been lost and many good relationships squandered because of simple email miscues and misunderstandings.

Here are four strategies to get ahead of those misunderstandings and to improve your odds of successful communication.

1. Use direct language and ask specific questions. A sales person might say, “We’re really excited about being able to offer you the upgraded X7 model of our SuperWidget.” And the client might respond, “Sounds good. Can’t wait…”

So what just happened here? The sales guy thinks he just sold a year’s supply of the X7 SuperWidget. The client, on the other hand, was simply expressing interest—and doesn’t believe he committed to so much as a demo. A big crackup could be on the agenda.
In place of the amorphous language employed by the sales person, he would have been much better off saying, “I’d really like to show you the cool new X7!” “When would be convenient for you and your team to attend a demo?”

2. Check the temperature early and often. Just as your client or prospect can misunderstand you, you can misunderstand him. For that reason, I always check to validate my assumptions. I’ll write, “It sounds like you want a demo over the next week or so. Is that right?” Such a question requires a “Yes” or “No” response – and results in real clarity of purpose.

I’ll be equally direct on more “emotional” topics. For example, I might say, “I’m afraid I offended you in my last email – I just wanted to see if that was the case.” In response, he may welcome the chance to vent – but just as likely, he’ll say, “No, no, I’m fine!” Either way, you’ve acquired a better understanding of what your client is thinking – as well as the status of the deal.

3. Use “emoticons”. OK, so call me juvenile – but I do not hesitate to use the occasional exclamation point, winky face, or smile. Remember, in an email you’re operating at around 2% of your communicative abilities. A judiciously employed emoticon leaves no doubt that you are pleased, excited, or being mildly ironic. Just don’t go overboard. ;-)

4. Find out if your audience likes email communication. Sounds obvious right? But we’re so conditioned to fire off an email every time we have something to say, we rarely even ask. When someone “refuses” to answer your emails, it may just be that he prefers talking on his iPhone.

Give these strategies a try and you’ll arrive at a whole new level of productive communication. You may even save a deal or two!