Get Some Face-Time
Nothing builds business relationships like a little face-time. Find out why meeting in person helps make the sale.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Don't get me wrong-I love technology. I'm thrilled everytime I can say to someone, "If you want to know more about meand what I do, go to my Web site." I save the time and moneyof having to mail out packets of information, and potentialcustomers get to immediately evaluate what I have to offer.
However, there are times when nothing takes the place of aface-to-face meeting. The benefits of meeting in person are many,including:
Picking up on details you might otherwise miss: When youlook customers in the eyes, you communicate your sincerity andconfidence. Their eyes communicate the trust they have in you-orlet you know if they have unanswered questions. If there's morethan one person in the room, your peripheral vision can keep youinformed as to how others are responding-something you might easilymiss even in a videoconference.
Giving the customer a sense of who you are: If you selllower-priced items, a voice-response system may be all you need.But for a big-ticket item, there's no replacement for theface-to-face sale. If a prospect doesn't know you, he or shecan't trust you-and you can hardly blame your prospect forbeing a little leery about handing over a large sum of money to aperfect stranger.
Obtaining a firsthand look: Taking time to tour aprospect's business will help you build a special bond withthat person. While you're there, you'll uncover detailsabout the size of the business, its growth potential, itsday-to-day operations-and any problems it might be facing. Plus,you'll be able to meet other people in the organization, any ofwhom have the potential to bring you more business.
Breaking the ice: Take your customer to breakfast, lunchor dinner. There's something about sharing a meal that buildsstrong relationships. If you can't share a meal, take advantageof the cocktail hour before a large conference or a 10-minute breakfrom a long presentation. It's not about sharing deep personalsecrets, but rather the camaraderie that's built over smalltalk, finding things in common, making jokes, and understandingpersonality quirks-all the things you cannot get from phone callsand e-mail.
Cutting through the nonsense: There's a lot to besaid for body language. Your posture, gestures and air ofconfidence say a lot about you that a customer simply can't getthrough technological means of communication-and vice versa.It's easy to make misinterpretations from the written word orfrom a disembodied voice over a phone line. When the other personis within your sight, it's easier to get the real answers youneed and want.
It's not always possible to sell eye to eye. Sometimesit's just too far to travel, or you may not have the time. Whenit's impossible to make the trip, use every technologicaladvantage you have at your disposal. But when it is possible, domake the effort to have a face-to-face meeting with your customers.No technology in the world can form a bond as tight or asfundamental as human contact.