A few months ago, I went to Lowe’s to pick out new carpet for my basement. First, I had to check out some carpet samples so I could try to match the carpet on my stairs. Turns out the carpet I picked (even though they gave me a sample) was no longer available. So back to Lowe’s I went. The second carpet I picked was also not available. I finally picked a Berber I liked but couldn’t place the order on my 3rd visit because the estimator wasn’t available. When I finally got the quote, I was asked to come back in to sign the paperwork. At that point, I gave up. It was too hard to work with Lowe’s. And given my schedule (work, 2 boys, selling a house), I didn’t have time to make it back to Lowe’s.
I remembered an advertisement from Empire Today. The appeal was that they offered to come to my house, show me samples and install my carpet the next day. So I went online on Sunday night and booked an appointment for Monday night. The sales guy came on time, helped me pick a carpet and asked what time I wanted the installers to come the next day. Amazing. And I didn’t even have to leave the house.
This whole episode reminds me, once again, of the importance of meeting clients and prospects on their own turf. I’ve rarely landed an account where I didn’t take the time to visit the prospect’s office, meet the staff, walk around, and learn about their pain points. Yes, I can probably get good information over the phone and via Webex, but somehow, meeting prospects in their own office makes a difference.
I just came back from a client meeting in New York City. Yes, it took all day because of the train ride up and back, but we had a fun and productive 5-hour meeting. While I don’t necessarily recommend marathon meetings like that, we had to pack a lot into the day to make the travel time worthwhile. But guess what? Meeting for five hours in person was enjoyable because of the amazing information the client was sharing, the conversation and the socializing during lunch. There’s no way to replicate that type of connection via phone and no way to hold an effective multi-hour conference call.
When I get busy, my first inclination is to do a call instead of a face to face meeting. And e-mail is quick and easy when I don’t have time even for a phone call. But I fool myself when I pretend that I connect with staff, clients and prospects via e-mail and phone the same way I do when I meet them in person. I know it’s not practical or cost-effective to do all of my meetings in person so I aim for in person gatherings for the kickoff and midway through the project.
How about you? Do you prefer in person or phone meetings? Voice or e-mail? And how do we steer our interactions back toward face to face in this busy, time-starved, electronic age?