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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

When to meet, when to not

This image is from the Construction Business Development Blog (U.K.), the inspiration for the following posting.

How important is it for you to meet face to face -- or for that matter, on the phone -- with potential clients? This question is raised in Ian Brodie's Sales Excellence Blog, where the writer suggests that he always obtained better results with direct client meetings; but observed that recently he has found it easier to purchase in some cases from vendors who don't push for the meeting, but effectively answer his inquiries and provide the information he needs by email.

A Sales Conundrum: Do We Need a Sales Meeting to Sell Nowadays?

I discovered this posting at the Construction Business Development Blog from the U.K. I've never met any of the people behind either of these blogs. Many times now, indeed, I would rather get the information I need and make the purchase decision without 'encountering' a sales rep (or if I do, a simple email exchange or perhaps a brief phone conversation -- initiated by me -- are all that are needed to get the 'yes' response.)

Yet I believe face-to-face meetings are important, though not necessarily to sell! Undoubtedly we obtain useful business from our relationships at construction and community associations, but the difference here is that our sales guard is down; we aren't pushing for the business, nor are we intruding on any one's space or time.

Certainly, there are some situations where, for example, you need to go on site and get measurements, and in these circumstances it is probably helpful to have the decision-makers around. If you receive a cold inquiry to "just check the site, and email the estimate" you may be working with someone who is wired to work with a competitor and just wants a second quote to keep the regular supplier honest. But, again, I think if you force yourself in the "one stop close' model -- as advocated by some sales gurus -- you are playing in the high pressure world, which discourages rather than encourages most prospective clients (at least clients with money).

We've found something of the same situation in hiring employees. Virtually everyone who responds to our advertisements receives a response -- an introductory note and questionnaire. For sales career opportunities, I also provide my phone number and email address. I'll respond within 24 hours to anyone who inquiries, but have discovered that candidates who push for an interview right away don't work out. They don't really know who we are or understand that the thing that really matters to us is whether they can do the job, not "interview well". In fact, while we'll invite people in the Ottawa area to work from our offices for the evaluation working test, we expect other finalist candidates to work from their homes and only if they do well -- and we are ready to offer employment -- will I fly out and meet the finalist in person (and it is important to have that meeting then.)

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