Conversation Value

Email is a reasonable snapshot of how most of us communicate...who we connect with, how often, how much time we spend internal vs. external, etc. Look over your last 50-100 work related email conversations. How many were with customers, prospective customers or front line employees? 1%? 10%? If you work outside of sales, I bet it's pretty low (I must admit, mine is in the single digits). Beyond the front linesMost of our conversations are internal, with colleagues, bosses, vendors or sales people. Or, if you're at the line level, you might not even have access to email. If customers and line staff are inarguably the most important people to the company, why aren't we spending more time (at least half) communicating directly with them? Email, blogs, twitter, etc., are fantastic inventions for relationship building. So, why not use them more effectively with the people that matter most?

1. You (your company) haven't made building a loyal raving fan base your #1 priority.
2. You haven't given people numerous and easy ways to connect with you.
3. It's easier not to
4. We have sales people to do that
5. People don't like receiving e-mail and don't read blogs

Before you can tackle the big hairy obstacles at the top, everyone in your organization needs to come to some realizations about the sub roadblocks:

It's easier today to stand on the sidelines and watch. It will be harder next week, month or year to deal with lay-offs, job elimination, low morale, etc., when you don't have enough business.
It's everyone's job to make connections with strangers and turn them into friends. Everyone should be trained on the basics of professional, courteous and permission based communication. Everyone should have business cards. Everyone should hand them out liberally and ask people (guests as well as employees if you're a supervisor) if they can keep in touch and to call or write if they need anything.
People like hearing from people that they trust and for those that they believe care about them and put their interests ahead of the organization's.
Unless you are way out of touch, you know more and more people are turning to the internet for research, communication, and socializing. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Blackberry, iPhone and a host of online email solutions are the proof in the pudding.

Now, give everyone a reason to make the relationship side of their job a top priority. Give them training, tools and incentives. Develop measurable goals, whether it's email analysis or lead referrals or whatever.