This article is about face time; not the app—the other face time—the kind that existed before email, smart phones and social media. I am referring to face-to-face meetings that establish trust and long-term relationships with your customers.
While comments are geared more toward service companies, many of the suggestions can be applied to retail businesses as well.
Good customers rely on you to handle their needs; they respect you and your ideas. A good customer relationship starts with being direct, respectful, and truthful with them. There is no room for hot air or over-stating the benefits of working with you or your company. Customers quickly see through that communications style.
Once a customer relationship has been established, it doesn’t mean that future face-to-face meetings aren’t necessary and all ongoing business matters can be handled via email or phone. Having meetings on a regular basis is a way to build upon past successes and to meet other decision makers within the company who may need your company’s services.
Even in today’s world where we need to keep a lid on COVID, face-to-face meetings are still important. As long as there is a level of comfort, more companies are welcoming visitors to their offices. However, you need to be respectful of the customer’s policy regarding wearing of masks and social distancing, as well as the customer’s personal communications preferences (phone call, email, texting, etc.)
If a client’s preferred method of communication is email, of course you need to comply with that preference and be respectful of the person’s time. Just don’t be afraid to pick up the phone occasionally for urgent matters or offer to meet in-person from time to time, especially for the annual budget planning session.
If you are meeting a prospect for the first time, take heed of the following:
- A friendly smile, a firm handshake (or a fist bump in the COVID era) and direct eye contact are by far the most important. The first moments can make or break what comes next. Try to relax and be yourself.
- Listen and absorb what the person is saying. It is far more important for you to listen than to talk.
- Ask intelligent questions. Remember you are developing the client’s trust and confidence in your abilities. Do your homework before the meeting to learn about the company and industry.
- Look around the client’s office or meeting area. Are there any items to talk about—photos, paintings, awards or other personal items—that could build rapport? If you can learn what the customer is passionate about—whether it’s golf or family or music—talking about that is always a good way to establish common ground.
- The client has a need; offer thoughtful solutions that your company can provide to meet those specific needs.
- When wrapping up the meeting, review the key points of the meeting and always thank the prospect for his or her time.
- Follow up with a brief thank-you email. It’s always good to say thanks and give you another opportunity for client contact.
We sometimes get comfortable behind a keyboard or a mobile phone, but face time is just as important today as it ever was, if not more so. Establishing and maintaining a business relationship is a win-win for both client and company.