Should You Meet With Customers Face to Face?
We live in the age of remote communication—we text, we email, we place calls on our cell phones while doing other things. Gone are the old days when it used to be exciting to come home, press play and listen to a message on your answering machine. Now we dial people back on the mobile without even listening to the message they left. They say the younger generations in our society are losing the art of speaking with each other face to face: They simply do not know how to properly communicate without a device involved.
In the world of sales, realistic concerns like geographic location, travel budgets and time constraints mean that sometimes client meetings must be conducted remotely. In such cases, face-to-face meetings don’t make sense from a financial standpoint.
But if you can conduct a face-to-face client meeting, it will give you an advantage over the competition. Face-to-face meetings, or “face time,” provide you with the opportunity to really connect with your prospects and existing clients on a deeper level. And let’s face it, while cell phones are phenomenal at texting and taking photographs, the main thing they’re designed for still does not work very well: actually producing a clear connection with your customers. Ma Bell this ain’t.
This is what good old-fashioned face time has to offer:
- In person, you can study the body language of customers, rather than having to rely solely on vocal presence. The way people sit, what they do with their hands, their posture, their facial expressions, even what they tend to do with their eyes—are they looking down at the floor the whole time? Are they making and keeping eye contact with you?—can and should be observed during a sales meeting. Non-verbal communication and physical “tells” reveal a ton about the customer’s state of mind, his or her sincerity, and whether she or he is on board with you or not. Up close and personal, you can read all those subtleties of body language that we in the sales profession have become masters at reading. Use your powers of observation to your advantage in face-time meetings to forge connections on a more personal, deeper, and ultimately more meaningful level.
- On the other side of that equation, the customer has the same advantage of being able to observe your sales presentation in person. Be aware of this fact and use it to your benefit by making a good impression. Job one is how you present yourself, starting with your outfit and general appearance. Crispness and neatness never go out of style, and personal items, such as a coffee mug or unique handbag or tie, can turn into great conversation starters. A friendly opening gesture may put your customer at ease. The simple fact that you and the client are in the same conference room could break the ice much quicker than if you were on the phone together.
- Clients may feel more at ease in person because they’re off-the-record, in other words, not on a call or video conference that may be being recorded, or even be perceived to be recorded. Face-to-face meetings are by their nature more private. They’re more intimate. The client or prospect will likely feel more comfortable describing his or her concerns over lunch than on a conference call with multiple participants.
- And speaking of multiple participants, face-to-face meetings ensure participation by everyone. You know how it goes on big calls—you can almost hear certain people tuning out. They may be on mute doing other work, or talking to someone who just sidled up to their cube to ask how their weekend was. The chances of tuning out are much slimmer when you’re all in the same room. Around a conference or lunch table, people tend to be at their best and are probably more actively listening.
- On a conference call, people often find themselves with their finger on the mute button, not fully concentrating on what’s being said and instead being preoccupied wondering when it is going to be their turn to speak. Face-to-face meetings also tend to be more efficient and effective because there is greater peer pressure to discuss the core topic.
So, for sales meetings, make this your motto whenever you can: Let’s face it.