How important is face-time with clients?

March 18, 2014

In the modern agency age we heavily rely on email, video chats and phone calls to communicate with our clients. Technology will speed you up and increase your productivity, but can it replace good, old-fashioned face-time to keep the fires of your client relationships burning? It depends on how you'd like to be perceived as an Account Manager.

If you are happy to remain purely an order-taker, then email communication usually works just fine. The order comes in; you process it; done. If you would prefer to be a account-builder and sales-maker, then you need to push past the faceless, soulless realm of digital communication and into the real world of people and relationships. There is no better way to do that than visiting with your clients face-to-face.

Imagine a long-distance relationship: You meet your partner, fall in love and get engaged, but circumstances now keep you living across the country from one another. You email or talk to each other every day, and occasionally video chat. There is no doubt you are still together (she is still wearing your ring after all), but things are starting to feel somewhat strained. You can't quite pinpoint what the problem is, so you hop on a plane to go and see her...and just in time, too.

Is face-time an "expensive" use of your time? In some ways, yes. It will require you to be away from your office for at least a couple of hours at a time. You may return to 20 or more emails in you inbox and you probably won't be able to directly invoice your client for the time you spent with them. Now think about what you may have gained. If you can return with more work, the indication of more work, or simply the knowledge that you have strengthened your client relationship, then that will be more "valuable" then if you had remained sitting at your desk.

What about virtual meetings? Video technology is at such a level these days that it is almost like sitting in the same room as your client. It's certainly a viable option to consider, especially if your client is located in another country or city. However, it's still like comparing online dating to real life dating. Live face-to-face interactions will always continue to be the most effective form of communication.

If you are still a doubter, these face-time benefits may just convince you:

  • Visits open the door for cross-selling and up-selling opportunities that email misses out on.
  • Being on-site allows you to understand the company culture, management style, what goes on behind the scenes and business needs.
  • You will get a sense of your client's personal priorities.
  • Understand some of your client's day-to-day challenges.
  • This is your client's opportunity to get to know you better. 
  • You are able to read faces and emotions and pick up on nuances not visible in the written word.
  • As you listen, you can pinpoint opportunities to deepen the relationship.
  • Your client can see you smile.
  • Being on-site you may be able to meet with more decision-makers than just your main contact.

How you can maximise a face-time visit with your client:

  • Smile.
  • Listen.
  • Take notes. 
  • Say "hello" and talk to as many people as you can.
  • Hand out business cards.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Glean information from detail in the office environment.
  • Be proactive and offer suggestions.
  • Open up and give your client a chance to get to know you.
  • Arm yourself with ways you can help your client grow their business or handle a problem.
  • Find ways to show you care about your relationship.

There always needs to be a valid business reason for the face-time, otherwise you may be perceived as a time-waster and seeking to promote your company only. Always ask yourself, "what's in it for your client?" before you send your meeting invitation. The main objective is to lock in a meeting, lest you become a commodity only...faceless and easy to replace... 

Always ask yourself, "what's in it for your client?" before you send your meeting invitation. – Sarah Ritchie

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