The benefits of digital are manifold – you can do more in less time, reach more people and work internationally without leaving your desk. But – and you knew there was a but coming – there are downsides. Digital doesn’t necessarily make us more productive; your communications may have a wider reach, but that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be as effective as traditional forms of communication. Sometimes you need to get out from behind the desk and go and sit with people.
Sales meetings are irreplaceable
I am not a massive advocate of inter-office meetings. I think too many of them end up as exercises in navel gazing, when really your time would be better spent actually getting on with the job. (Feel free to disagree – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!) However, in my opinion, meetings between salespeople and customers are invaluable and irreplaceable. Email has its place, and phone calls are great, but there’s nothing like face-to-face communications for really making progress. Here are just a few of the benefits you gain from in-person meetings compared to email.
A relationship with your customer
Sure, you can build rapport over email – but it takes a lot longer. It’s harder to judge how to relate to someone just by words on a screen. How often have you been left wondering whether an email was intended to be serious or sarcastic? That’s less of a problem face-to-face because tone of voice and facial expressions help us decode the hidden messages behind our words. While you can’t judge a book by its cover (though if we’re honest I think most of us do), there are also observations you can make about a person based on their style, and the things they surround themselves with, which can help break down barriers and establish a friendly relationship.
A real sales conversation
It’s incredibly difficult to hold a real conversation by email. What you end up with is a series of monologues. And without the added drama of expression that you get in an in-person monologue, you’ve got very little hope of persuading someone of your point of view. Even when it’s an email conversation between two people who like each other, you can end up feeling talked at and not listened to. The sales conversation is where it’s at – and that really works best in person.
You gain your customer’s attention
When you send an email, you have no idea how much of it – if any – your customer is reading. They may open it, scan it, and move on, or they may actually take the time to digest your message and review any attachments you send. In person, you can tell how much attention your customer is paying while you’re talking, and you get the chance to physically put them in front of your resources using a Sales Enablement Platform for your mobile device. Taking a tablet with you into meetings helps show off your content and gives you the opportunity for a real tête-à-tête with your customer. If they still don’t take any of it in, at least you know where you stand, but the chances are you can win them over by tailoring to their messaging and business requirements.
Ok, you’re not guaranteed a ‘yes’ at your first face-to-face meeting with a customer, but you have more of a chance of building on their interest in person than you do when you only communicate via email. Apart from the fact that in person you get to have an actual sales conversation, your very presence (presuming you are a good salesperson!) is helping build trust much more quickly than you could hope to do digitally. A recent Harvard Business Review article suggests you are 34 times more likely to be successful making a request in person as opposed to by email. Thirty-four times. That’s worth the price of travel isn’t it?
A better understanding of their business
You get so much more of a sense for a company from visiting their offices than you do by visiting their website. At the very least, you can see how their brand is interpreted in their surroundings and in the office environment. You might get to meet other people besides your immediate contact. You might even be invited to tour the office, or watch their product being made. Everything that you learn about their business can help you understand how best to sell to them, what their needs are and how you can bring them value. Even if you only visit once, all this can be used in follow-up communications to build the relationship and bring in their business.
What about the downsides?
The biggest disadvantage of traveling to visit customers is time out of the office and away from home. This is where digital really comes into its own, helping you keep in touch with everyone and keep on top of your workload. With a Sales Enablement tool that integrates with your CRM, you can even update everyone on your meeting progress on-the-go, all from the same app you’ve used to wow your customer with your presentation.
What do you think is the greatest benefit of sitting down with a customer? We’d love to hear from you!