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Email: That’s Not Selling, That’s Typing


Email: That’s Not Selling, That’s Typing

Written by: John Mongillo

What a great interview with Kasper Rorsted, C.E.O. of Henkel, in The New York Times (“Corner Office,” by Adam Bryant).  When asked about his leadership style, Rorsted replied, “I do less e-mail and a lot more of being present.  I think e-mail is very often disruptive in corporate cultures.  You sit next to people and send e-mail to each other instead of walking over or making a call or just trying to look for the personal interaction.”

Right on, Kasper—so much so that I just had to call you today.

“Hi, it’s John Mongillo. Is Kasper in?”

“What’s this in reference to?” asked his assistant.

“His interview in the New York Times.”

“What about it?”  (She had not read the interview I learned later.)

“It was excellent.  This isn’t a sales call or a prank call.  I just wanted him to know how much I enjoyed the piece, especially his thoughts on email.”

Turns out that the C.E.O. is based in Germany, not in Henkel’s North America office, but I left my number with his assistant.

Excessive email in the workplace is partially to blame for the poor economy.  Corporate America’s fingers are a little too happy.  How many hours are wasted each day on email when the better use our time can be spent more efficiency on the phone?  People insist on going back and forth with “War and Peace” text about matters that are best handed by picking up the horn.

“I’m sending Joe an email.  How does this sound to you? …Hi Joe, blah, blah, blah … ”

How does this sound?  Are you kidding me?

Do C.E.O.s want their workers wasting time on email? 

And isn’t it strange that those loud cell phone conversations you hear when you’re trapped on the train, or standing in line for coffee, are almost always pleasure calls, never business calls?  I never hear, “Hey, Sally, let’s close the deal with Bill today.”  I never hear anything close to that, but the next time I do I’m going to call Kasper and tell him that I found a person that’s a good fit for Henkel.

“That’s not writing, that’s typing,” Truman Capote famously said about how Jack Kerouac composed “On the Road.”

You could say the same thing when it comes to email and sales:  “That’s not selling, that’s typing!”  Very few deals, if any, are exclusively done via email.  There has to be some audio involved. 

Voices need to be heard.  Human interaction needs to take place.

Are salespeople guilty of sending out too many messages over the course of day?  Probably.  Certainly sales managers would have a good idea if they bothered to look into the matter, and they should.  I’m not advocating Big Brother and tracking your team’s every email, but a manager should know how their salespeople are spending their time.  After all, it’s pretty easy.  Just listen.  If hear more typing that human voices then you have a problem.

I’m not against email.  There is certainly a place for it, and more and more people are becoming email people.  But it should never dominate a salesperson’s day—it shouldn’t even come close.  As Kasper rightly points out, “E-mail can’t replace human interaction.”

No, it can’t, but it’s trying awfully hard.

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