We've taken our last new business phone call

"Video calls will never compete with live and in person."

Last week, a co-worker asked if I wanted to catch up over a "good old-fashioned phone call."

I responded out loud without really thinking: "Why?" 

Like pretty much every company on the planet, our internal communication method has shifted from phone to video. And in the span of a few months, we’ve come to appreciate the undivided attention that a constant video feed requires.

It’s not like we’re brand new to video calls, we’ve done plenty. But lately we’ve only done video calls. And suddenly, unexpectedly, phone calls have begun to feel old school. Impersonal. Incomplete. Almost awkward.

Video calls will never compete with live and in person. Or even live and in person from six feet away. But they do offer certain advantages a phone call never did, and never could. 

Seeing body language and facial expressions has led to more nuanced, meaningful discussions. Deeper questions (and more of them). More empathy. Even our rim shot jokes land more often. Most importantly, being present via video sends a critical signal to our teams: that we’re invested in the conversation, and we value their time and energy.

It's just healthier, too. We get to see real life unfold: genuine smiles when a new face pops onto the screen, unfiltered reactions to ideas, and surprise cameos by labradoodles, Bernese Mountain dogs, and just yesterday, a four-year-old girl who wanted Dad to know the toilet was overflowing.

So here we are. All bought in on the power of video calls. And we’re asking ourselves: why settle for audio-only with our client and new business conversations?

In pre-COVID times, we did face-free business all the time. More often than not, meet-and-greets took place over polycom. It wasn’t uncommon to join anonymous new business calls with five other other agencies on the line. We’ve even given final pitches where we were seeing the decision-makers for the very first time. But now? In this new, Zoom-happy, dial-a-face world? It just doesn’t make sense.

From this day forward, we’re not just going to ask to speak to our new business prospects. We’re going to ask to see them.

It may not be the brightest position to take as we watch the economy contract. But for us, it just means doubling down on the one thing that’s always been the core of any business: relationships.

Which is really what great advertising is all about.

Let’s face it.

Jillian Davis is the director of brand strategy and associate partner at barrettSF.

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