Leaving a networking breakfast the other day, a fellow participant commented on how many business meetings seemed to take place in coffee shops nearby.
It’s ironic that in the age of instant communication – phone, email, SMS, Skype and online connection – Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ etc., just how much face to face stuff actually goes on.
Human beings are above all social animals. We crave connection and frankly nothing beats sitting down face to face – preferably over a meal.
While a lot of our business is done over the phone, email and skype with clients I have often never physically met, I was reminded of the value of face to face meetings in a couple of interesting ways.
The first was a client who runs an IT services business.
He’s been in business over 10 years and has about a 95% client retention rate! Frankly, that amazed me, so the obvious question was how did he manage this?
Well, great customer service was a start. But that’s not the whole story. Our client makes a point of keeping in very regular personal contact with all his customers. And not through phone calls, emails or newsletters.
He regularly turns up at their premises as he’s driving past, just to see if everything’s fine with their systems.
His clients get to see him, feel he’s being proactive in looking after them and visits often turn into 3 to 4 hours work as the client says – “while you’re here could you look at…” which he then charges for. And everyone’s happy with the result.
Last week we were in Melbourne to conduct a strategy day for a client. So we took the opportunity to go down earlier and drop in on some other clients we haven’t seen for a while (and in one case, never physically met).
In each case the meeting led to new projects being discussed and action initiated. Projects that were “somewhere out there” in the priority list suddenly became real and tangible.
Showed us once again that there’s nothing like actually sitting down together to help cement relationships and build trust.
Now I should point out that not every meeting is going to produce more business. And getting more business shouldn’t be the sole reason for meeting. That would smack of being self-serving and people smell that a mile away and generally react badly.
Your goal should be to form relationships.
Chill out, get to know the person better. Find out what makes them tick. Think of how you can help them wherever, rather than how they can help you. Be of service first, rather than expecting them to immediately do something for you.
Now some of you might be thinking, “I’m really busy, I have so many things I have to get done and just don’t have time to go visit my clients regularly.”
So here’s a cautionary tale.
A new client of ours told us he’d recently lost a lot of business to his competition. He’s been in business over 35 years and sells specialised products that cost $150K to $200K and up per item.
He’d built up the business through close personal relationships with his customers and by providing exceptional customer service.
But for various reasons he’d got subsumed into the business and while chasing new customers simply hadn’t had the time to keep visiting his old ones.
And they left!
When he asked some of these why they’d gone to the new opposition the answer was always similar.
“You used to come around frequently to see how we were. You gave us extremely valuable advice on a range of issues surrounding our operation. But lately we simply haven’t seen you. And your opposition is constantly here!”
The lesson? They know him, like him, trust him and his impeccable ability to solve problems, but if he’s not in front of them regularly, when the time comes to buy, they’ll go with whoever is.
So if you’re finding yourself in a similarly busy situation, get out there and meet your clients – regularly. If you don’t, you might suddenly find you don’t have them as clients anymore and once it happens it’s too late.
Remember, online social networking is all well and good. But nothing, repeat nothing, beats getting to know someone face to face, over a long period of time.
Rashid & Barbara.
P.S. One of the best ways to find out what your customers really think about you is to ask them. But rather than do it yourself, commission us to do it on your behalf. Believe me, they’re more likely to tell us (a non-involved third party, the truth). Get more details at https://revealedresources.com/marketing-services/client-interviews