One of the things you hear most in regards to sales and marketing is that nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Being able to shake your client’s hand and get face time is inevitably going to be more effective than cold calls or emails, or so says traditional thought. I think there is a lot of truth to this. However, I think one of the main reasons personal interaction is so effective is a reason that is often overlooked.
Meeting in person gives you a chance to listen to your client instead of bombarding them with statistics or pitches. Obtaining a thorough understanding of their motivations, goals, and direction is what will lay the foundation for future proposals that address client needs and give you the best chance to increase your business with them.
I spent most of last week at the Mid-America Truck Show (MATS) in Louisville, Ky. Attending this event is a must for anyone in the trucking industry, and it gives me perhaps my best face time of the year with existing and potential clients. I attend the show on behalf of Road King, a magazine for professional drivers that we publish for Travel Centers of America. Virtually every advertising customer I work with is in attendance. Like almost everyone there, I spend the entire show on my feet, saying hello to current clients and introducing myself to potential new business contacts. MATS gives me a great sense of the general direction of the industry as a whole, and each conversation I have is vital to understanding what I need to be focused on.
I know in the past at MATS I’ve made the mistake of spending too much time refining a pitch that I would launch into the minute I shook someone’s hand, only to finish and have them explain they were shifting their focus to a different target audience. Or maybe they were mainly interested in exploring digital options and the print media I just finished discussing didn’t fit their current needs.
I’ve learned it doesn’t hurt to ask a few questions, then sit back and listen. Clients like to discuss their goals. They like to give you details on a new product launch coming up. They get excited about working together to increase sales through the proper media. If the campaign I had in mind for them prior to our face-to-face discussion ends up not being the best fit, I have a chance to adjust & propose something that better helps them achieve their business objectives. And, that is the essential ingredient for long term client relationships.