If you’re trying to do business with me, do me a favor:
DON’T CALL ME.
I’m not just saying don’t cold-call me; it’s already mainstream to hate having your phone ring unexpectedly. I’m pushing the hate envelope: I’m saying don’t even set up a planned call with me.
Instead of calling me, just send me an email.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I have some information to give you?
Put it in an email.
Ah but what if I want to walk you through some information, like a huge PDF document or a product demo?
Send me an email version of the walkthrough.
What if I have a bunch of questions to ask you?
Ask in an email.
Can we chat and catch up?
Maybe we can… via email.
But what if I’m your family member or friend?
Then this post doesn’t apply to you. What I hate is an unnecessary business call.
Why You Want To Call Me
If you’re asking to call me unnecessarily, you’re probably a salesperson looking to attract my business or a service provider looking to get more of it. That itch you’re feeling to get on the phone with me is probably because:
You want to get through all my objections
Salespeople are trained to get on a call, hear all the objections, get through each one, and leave the target with no objections. I can see why this would be more efficient for you, but it doesn’t particularly help me (unless I’m desperate to buy as fast as possible).
You think you can understand my needs better on a phone call
If you can’t understand my needs just as well via email, then your abilities are lacking. It may be best for someone with better written communication and comprehension skills to handle my account.
You just *like* phone calls
Hearing the person’s voice who you’re dealing with may “feel right” to you, perhaps because you’re an extrovert. Well, I’m an introvert. I’m not interested in getting some uplifting midday human connection from you, I just want to maybe do business with you.
You may also think that a phone call helps you “feel out my personality”, and then you can communicate with me more effectively. If that’s the case, I’ll just tell you my personality ok? I’m relentlessly analyzing how to optimize my business’s success, that’s my personality.
Why I Hate Calls
Calls take time
Once I get on a call with you, I can pretty much kiss goodbye to 30 minutes of my time. Let’s say 5 minutes go by and the call has been close to worthless. I’ll keep muddling through because I don’t want you to think I’m rude, plus who knows if in 20 minutes you might get to something I’ll really want to hear.
Calls are slow and boring
I prefer listening to podcasts at 2x the speed of normal human conversation. My reading speed is even faster than that. So a phone call usually feels to me like consuming information in slow motion.
Calls break up my “maker’s schedule”
I avoid calls for the same reason I avoid meetings: I often work on a maker’s schedule which requires long uninterrupted blocks of time. If it’s noon, and the only thing in my schedule is your call at 2pm, now I can’t plan on an uninterrupted 5-hour block of time because I know your call will come up.
Calls reward the wrong kinds of efforts
If you’re particularly fun to chat with, or you’re particularly smooth at guiding me along your sales script, then you’ll be able to get what you want more effectively on a call with me. I don’t want to incentivize or deal with your efforts to use these tricks with me.
Why I Love Email
I read on my own time
I don’t need to schedule in advance exactly when I’m going to pay attention to you.
I read at my own pace
I can skim over some parts, and spend a long time on other parts. I can go back and reread parts. I can pause on some parts to do my own additional research on them. I can even pause to do something totally different, then come back and pick up where I left off.
I comprehend it better
I tend to have good reading comprehension and bad listening comprehension. When you’re talking to me on a call, I often space out or get distracted by a Slack notification. Then I don’t always feel comfortable asking you to “rewind” what you’ve been saying.
I can respond at my own pace
I can write out my thoughts, then mull them over and edit them before sending. I can individually quote parts and reply point-by-point.
Email leaves a record
I can easily search any text we’ve ever communicated to each other.
Email lets me see your thoughts laid out more clearly
When you write me an email, you’re putting all your best points on the record in an organized form. Phone calls are always worse than this: Either you’re not well-prepared and you’re thinking up your points on the fly, or else you’re well-prepared because you prepared good notes. But in the latter case, you could have just emailed me the notes ahead of time instead of making yourself the host of the world’s slowest podcast.
Email showcases your analytical and communication skills
It’s relatively common for people to possess the skill of being able to get on a phone call and chat. It’s relatively rare to have the skill of sending prompt, well-written, productive emails. It’s important to me to work with someone who has the latter skill.
Email showcases your competence and dependability
Ramit Sethi’s post from 10 years ago has always stuck with me: I use small barriers to avoid kooks. Small barriers such as composing an email don’t just screen out the kooks, they screen out the mediocre masses.
If you call me, I’ll get one data point from our chat about your dependability. An email exchange is better for me to ask you an adaptive series of detailed follow-up questions, and observe how you get back to me on those each time. Each email back-and-forth is like a mini-task I’m giving you, and I’ll evaluate your ability and motivation to consistently get these mini-tasks done well.
And finally, email tests your compatibility with my personal working style
Down the road, when we’re working together and you have something to ask me or report to me, I’ll want you to organize your thoughts and communicate them clearly in an email. A lot of people lack that skill and I prefer to know it during the early stages of knowing them.
If you’re always saying “let’s get on a call” during our early interactions, and then we end up working together long term, are you always going to want to answer my email-questions by getting on a call? That would be an ongoing productivity hit to me.
People often talk about why email sucks, but I’ve gained a new appreciation for the awesomeness of email communication after thinking through all the reasons why it’s better than phone calls.
My Etiquette for Avoiding Calls
When I get an unsolicited call, I handle it like this:
- Caller: Hi Liron, it’s Joe from Acme. Is this a good time to talk about the progress of…
- Me: Hey I can’t chat right now, but can you summarize the update in an email and I’ll send you my thoughts?
- Caller: Uhh… I guess I can do that…
- Me: Great thanks, looking forward to reading it. [click]
Similarly, when I get an email asking to set up a call:
- Emailer: I’d like to find time for a call this week or next to discuss strategy moving forward, please let me know a few times that work for you and I’ll do my best to accommodate.
- Me: What kind of strategy are you thinking? Happy to look at any info and answer any questions you have. [I just ignore the call request and dive into the substance of the conversion.]
- Emailer: No problem blah blah blah I’d also like to find time for a quick call to chat through your goals so that I can make sure I’m supporting you properly moving forward.
- Me: Can we just pretend there’s a call going on and whatever you would say just email it and I’ll do the same?
This admittedly shouldn’t count as “etiquette” on my part, it’s a smartass line that strays outside the boundaries of what’s polite and socially acceptable, and it made me realize that there’s currently some friction between what’s socially polite (accepting phone call requests) and what’s rational (sticking to email).
So from now on, my standard call-avoiding etiquette will consist of linking to this post in order to explain why I’m breaking from social convention with my insistence to keep the conversation email-based:
- Me: Sorry but I hate phone calls