Everybody is busy these days, including salespeople. That's why many salespeople are shifting to virtual meetings, emails, phone calls, and even texting as a way to communicate with prospects and customers. Yet none of these communication tools can match the face-to-face meeting's personal touch. While virtual contacts can be a quick and easy way to stay in touch, periodic physical meetings are still the best way to maintain a strong business relationship.
Meeting with someone in person adds a feeling of reality to the situation. If all you do is email with a customer, they might as well be communicating with a cleverly programmed sales robot. Phone conversations are a step better — and are probably the best option for staying in touch with customers from another geographic region — but still aren't the same as a physical meeting. As a rule of thumb, if you're just looking for a quick exchange of information, then phone or email is the best way to go. But if you haven't seen a major customer in quite a while or you need to find out something critically important, then a physical meeting is a good idea. And with prospects, at least one face-to-face meeting is almost mandatory.
Reveals Body Language
Physical meetings give you a chance to evaluate your prospect's body language as well as what he's saying. And since body language is usually more honest than verbal language, this will give you a significant advantage in figuring out what he really wants. Of course, you can also convey more information yourself through body language — so be sure you're sending the right messages.
Helps Build Rapport
A real meeting also gives you a much greater opportunity to build rapport, which is important with customers and absolutely crucial with prospects. Meetings usually open with small talk and a round of generally getting to know each other that you just don't have in a chain of emails. Sharing this personal information helps you build a comfortable working relationship with the other person. And if you find out that you went to the same college or prefer the same type of pie, that's even better.
Helps You Learn About Your Prospect
When you visit a prospect or customer at their location, you can learn a great deal about them just by looking around. For example, your first impression of someone's place of business might be high-pressure or relaxed, tidy or messy, stark and minimalist or cluttered. These perceptions give you a great starting place for developing the right sales approach. A very conservatively decorated office indicates a company that might be comfortable with a traditional sales approach from a suit-wearing salesperson, while a decor that screams funky indicates a prospect who is probably best suited to a more relaxed, casual approach. This information-gathering becomes even more useful if you have a chance to see the prospect's office. The photos on his desk, posters on the wall, even the degree to which he organizes his things can tell you a lot about that person.
An off-site personal meeting can also be very effective, especially if you're gathering information about that person's company. She might not be comfortable telling you about her bosses' personality quirks if they are ten feet away down the hall, but if you take her out to lunch, you could end up with a bonanza of insider information. And unlike email, a face-to-face conversation is not in writing and is, therefore, a less risky way to divulge information. No one wants their comments about co-workers showing up in the wrong inbox.