I have been with ImageSource for almost 11 years and in the computer industry almost 47. My journey has taken me from field engineer, to systems support engineer to management and finally to sales. To say I have seen it all is an understatement. Anyone who knows me has always heard me say that email, voicemail, Twitter and Facebook are all great sales tools, but that is exactly what they are – tools. There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings.
Just this past week the ImageSource executive team and I completed our third week of Nexus ’14; a week of personalized, private sessions where we meet with customers to discuss their unique ECM needs. We met with all of our customers face-to-face; listening to them, (I repeat: listening to them), taking notes and presenting the future direction of ImageSource. The results exceeded any of our expectations.
My clients are just like yours: They want to Skype, email and text. But here’s why you still need face time.
Below I give you:
5 Reasons You Need to Meet in Person
No matter what industry you’re in, we are all in the people business. We’ll only be successful if we truly get to know our customers and colleagues. Many of my tech marketing clients are so busy that they now prefer texting to even emails or calls. Skype, WebEx and audio calls are convenient and create the illusion of having an actual meeting — but nothing beats the power of interpersonal, human connection.
What can we learn from an in-person meeting that you can’t from a virtual one?
1. You’re off the record. In many places, there are few private offices. Many of my clients work in cubes and can’t have private telephone conversations. This means that when I talk to them on the phone, I might not get to hear the most important information they can share; the unique team dynamics or executive’s personality quirks that would make or break our ability to match an expert consultant. Over lunch or coffee or a walk around the block, my clients can let me know more — with more color — than they can over the telephone or in an email. This was quite evident in the past weeks at Nexus ‘14.
2. Make use of “not-so-small” talk. Most business conversations are focused on solving a problem quickly and efficiently, while business relationships are built when people take the time to share and learn more about each other. That happens more naturally in person than over the phone or in an email. What cements a bond between people? Talk about a favorite team, personal passions outside the job, parenting challenges, and the other bits and pieces that make us unique and interesting.
3. Make an impression. Be professional, look the part, act the part, and remember, face-to face is personal not impersonal. Engage in conversations that are interesting to others. Recently my customers wanted to know about the fires here in my hometown of San Diego due to my involvement with the local fire department. (And let’s face it, who doesn’t like a firefighter?) For others it could be the birth of a child, or a family member getting married. The list of possible subjects are endless, especially if it involves your customer personally. Engaging with them shows you care and it’s not all about you.
4. Read the body language. Facial expressions often communicate so much more than words. Host coffee sessions and invite a customer or two to better understand the nuances each brings to the table in a relaxed setting. We need to know what makes each person unique. In their eyes and in their body language we can see confidence, empathy, fear, friendliness or sincerity. The ability to “read” a customer beyond their keywords is a huge competitive advantage.
5. Learn where the action is. I find out so much more when I visit one of my clients in their office. Is the lobby bright and cheery? Are corporate values and visions proudly displayed? Do people seem happy? The environment speaks volumes and may factor into your business proposal or plan. By understanding company dynamics, we can communicate more effectively to meet customer needs.
Bottom line: meeting in person presents opportunities that you cannot cultivate any other way. So yes, continue to use email, social media and all the newest tools available, but never forget the importance of a handshake and a good, old fashioned, “Hi, it’s good to see you again.”
Sr. Account Executive