The Truth About the Phone

There is a certain variety of anti-cold calling charlatan that hedges their statements when they disparage cold calling. They’ll say that it is dead, that only a fool or a dinosaur would interrupt their dream client, and that no one answers the phone, that the medium no longer works (I know, this in the face of results that prove that they couldn’t be any more incorrect). But after making these statements, they say, “But of course, the phone still works sometimes, and you should make it part of your strategy.”  (I would rather they have the courage of their convictions and skin in the game by boldly proclaiming that businesses remove all phones from the sales force, allowing only LinkedIn and email for sales-related communications).

The idea that one medium replaces another is to misunderstand communication mediums and evolution. Evolution works by transcending and including what came before, by adding some new novelty. But because the ethos in Silicon Valley is disruption, ideas here in the United States are framed as “destroying what came before to create something new,” i.e. “what is old must die.”

Truth be told, things are mostly the same.

People have been trading since they figured out how to have something worth trading. This was done in face-to-face exchanges, a choice that we still tend to prefer when something is important. As we developed the ability generate in excess of some commodity, markets and bazaars appeared, places where people could go to buy, sell, and trade. Some of these markets traveled from place to place, trading all along the way.

Move forward in time, you add technology to buying and selling. You add newspapers, magazines, catalogues, and stores and shops. Markets and bazaars didn’t go away, they just found a permanent location. The ability to share what you have or what you need was printed so as to extend your reach. Still much was done face to face, even though catalogues allowed people to have goods shipped to their homes or businesses.

Move forward to the telephone. With this invention, the barrier of space was eliminated. I can speak to you as if I am standing in the room with you, even if we are on opposite sides of the planet. It allows something close to face to face when that is difficult or expensive. It allowed people in commerce to do some of the work across long distances.

Add television, which has shifted form and now appears on more and different size screens, but where advertisements still live. Add Radio, which now appears on more devices but is every bit as ubiquitous, even if what is broadcast has been democratized, with power shifting away from corporations.

The internet is a marketplace. It’s also television, radio, movies, books, grocery store, homeware stores, sporting goods. It’s news, opinions, and art. It’s an evolution of what has already existed in a form that transcends and includes what came before but doesn’t replace them.  We added all of the things, impossible as it might seem, to the one device we treasure above all else . . . the phone.

None of the ways we communicate have changed. The Pony Express turned into mail, turned into email. Amazon.com is the Montgomery Ward Catalog of 1895. You still need attention, regardless of where you go to get it. If you want to know what the phone is going to look like in the future, my guess is that face to face, the oldest of all the ways we buy and sell, will cause the phone to mean video and audio instead of just audio. In fact, I believe this is already true.

Look back over the list of mediums and notice they are all still in existence. Then decide of all the mediums, which ones is still dominant for your business communications.

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