Reaching out Featured

9:44am EDT July 22, 2002
The art of the deal is changing rapidly. It’s increasingly more common to close a deal via e-mail and build relationships by hammering out thoughts on a keyboard and zapping them into cyberspace.

But e-mail, as many people have come to realize, has a sterile feel to it. It’s difficult to infuse e-mail with the emotions and personal touch that exist in a face-to-face meeting.

Studies show that 55 percent of what we learn or perceive from other people comes from their body language. Observation is a key ingredient to business success. Another 38 percent of information is derived from tone of voice, but only 7 percent comes from the actual words used.

Those numbers speak volumes, says quality service consultant Karen Leland, co-founder of the Sterling Consulting Group and co-author of “Customer Service For Dummies.”

“We must incorporate proper attitude, tone and meaning through our written words,” she says. “And this is no easy task.”

So where does that leave us in this cyberage? How can we build — and maintain — relationships through the written word? Leland and her partner, Keith Bailey, offer three tips to make your business e-mail more effective and include that all-important personal touch.

Repeat key words and phrases.

In a reply message, use some of the more important words and phrases that the original message sender used. For example, says Leland, if the sender used phrases like “feel strongly,” “feel relieved,” “mutual goals” or “move forward,” try to incorporate those words into your reply.

It helps build a sense of connection between you and the e-mail recipient, and if it’s part of an ongoing business negotiation, it will help you close the deal with a much more “human” feel.

Use sensory language.

Research shows most people naturally use words that relate to their senses of seeing, hearing and feeling. The three main points of sensory-specific language your customers and business associates will use are:

  • Visual — “I see your point of view.”

  • Auditory — “I hear what you are saying.”

  • Feeling — “I feel your pain.”

“By using the same type of sensory language as the person you are communicating with, you add a dynamic, compelling and rapport-building quality to the messages you send,” Leland says.

Furthermore, “visual writers prefer to paint a picture or create an image of what they want to communicate. Writers with an auditory style use words that give tone to what they are saying. And, writers who have a feeling style use words that touch on the emotional content of their messages.”

Compose G.R.E.A.T. e-mails.

Make sure your e-mails pass the G.R.E.A.T. test:

Goal — Have you specified what the purpose of the e-mail is?

Relevant facts — Have you provided enough up-front information?

Emotional tone — What mood have you set for the e-mail?

Action — Did you make a specific request?

Time — Did you request a timeframe for a reply?

Leland says if you find yourself thinking that it’s only an e-mail, and your business associate, partner, client or supplier won’t care how it’s presented, think again.

“Building rapport is essential in the business world, whether in person or electronically,” she says. “Take your e-mails seriously and use them as a tool to improve customer service, build good, solid relationships and exude professionalism.”

How to reach: Sterling Consulting Group, (415) 331-5200

Dustin Klein ( is editor of SBN.