How to make the most of face-to-face meetings
From creating a bond with clients to showing off your expertise, there are many benefits to meeting face-to-face – if you get it right.
In an era when email, video conferencing services and internal messaging tools are widely available to businesses, I’m still a great believer that meeting people face-to-face can greatly improve your chances of striking a deal.
During the course of any one month, I attend roughly 40 meetings, in person, to sell my company’s services. On average, I find that a quarter of those meetings lead directly to someone signing on the dotted line.
People now have very little time for real-life interaction – whether it’s a formal boardroom affair or a casual coffee. Emails and phone calls tie us to our desks. But seeing potential sales leads in person provides you with a wealth of information that's hard to discern via any other channel. It can be difficult to read reactions on a video conference call and near impossible through the vague and ambiguous medium of email.
We all need to push ourselves to get out and meet our clients and suppliers. Here are some tips for making the most of the meeting time you have.
Brush up on body language
It’s much simpler to pick up on unconscious signals when you’re in the room with someone, compared to being on a call. There are rarely distractions. The people you meet are giving you their time, so they're unlikely to check phone messages and emails while you chat.
Make a connection
You will have the benefit of getting to know the person with whom you want to do business before and after the nitty gritty of the meeting. That few minutes-long conversation can go a long way to winning people over and letting them see the real you, creating a bond that sticks in their minds.
Show off your expertise
Directly addressing the business problems facing the person whom you’re meeting is a good way of convincing them that they need your services. In the case of our marketing agency clients, that means making use of the pitch to unveil successful advertising campaigns.
Be ready to adapt
Meetings can take unexpected turns, so be prepared for tricky questions or tough negotiations. This is often much harder during a call or video conference. Reasoning and empathy work best when you can maintain eye contact and convey an understanding of the prospect’s particular situation.
Do your homework
Make sure you match your team’s personalities with the others in the room. On many occasions, I’ve seen assumptions made about the most senior person at the table, only for everyone to be embarrassed when it turns out to be someone else.
Match job roles
If budget controllers are going to be there, take your managing or financial director to discuss monetary requirements. Leave unwanted characters behind. If you believe that one of your team would be the wrong fit for the meeting, make excuses and don’t take them. If they really must go, make sure that someone else on your team is in charge of keeping the meeting under control to avoid a personality clash.
Consider different scenarios
If a meeting isn’t going to lead straight to a deal on this occasion, be gracious enough to thank your hosts for their time and offer to keep in touch. In my view, every connection that you make is positive. Even if you’ve travelled a long way and it transpires that there isn’t a major opportunity on the table, you’ve still got nothing to lose by being there.
“People buy from people” might be a cliché, but face-to-face business has stood the test of time. With more determination to get away from our desks, we might just make 2017 the year that meeting in person is once more considered time well spent.