When Is Face-to-Face Worth It?

by Gil Zeimer on November 30, 2010
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With the convenience of free Skype video chat, online meetings, unlimited long distance phone plans, email, and instant messaging for staying in continual contact with clients, we sometimes forget that clients are people, too.

This raises a question: How often should you travel to see your clients vs. calling them on the phone? How far is too far to consider doing this on a quarterly, semi-annually or once-a-year basis?

When I worked for large ad agencies with out-of-town clients, we visited the closest customers once a month, while those furthest away were scheduled for meetings on their turf a few times a year.

When I became a consultant, I maintained my client relations with frequent calls and annual visits to review the current year’s successes and to discuss the next year’s contract.

To best answer the question of when a face-to-face meeting is worth it, I interviewed an expert who logs tens of thousands of miles for meetings each year. Cindy Steiner is founder of Steiner International Communications.

As a global business coach who offers advice about executive presentations, media coaching, international business cultures, and CEO and Board Management, she says, “I send update emails about three times per year, entitled: ‘Cindy checking in.’ These emails go to all of my past and present clients and any contacts I’ve made that haven’t yet turned into clients. I personalize each email. Though this takes time, it’s really worth the effort. I tell them my latest and any new service offerings I might have that they wouldn’t be aware of. And I ask them about their latest news, ending with a sentence like, ‘I look forward to hearing your news.’ I always get new client engagements from these efforts; it keeps me front of mind.

“Also, intuition plays a big role, of course. For example, a U.S. contact of mine introduced me to an executive at a big pharmaceutical company in Switzerland where I started my business years ago. It took me a couple of months to get a conference call set up with this guy and when we talked, we really clicked! We had the same philosophy on the importance of clear, concise verbal communications. He said he would like to meet me the next time I came to Europe and asked when that might be. I actually had no immediate plans, but I knew I would quickly disappear from his radar screen unless I made it happen soon.

“So I wrote him telling him I would be in Switzerland on business the last week in October and asked if he was free. He was and we set a date. I flew there, met with him, gave him a free coaching session to show him what I can do, and over lunch the very same day, he told me he had two executives for me to coach as soon as possible!

“Talk about a fast ROI! I’m now scheduled to start coaching these two gentlemen next week! So my trip is already paid for three times over! Not to mention I got to visit some dear friends I hadn’t seen for years.”

Cindy Steiner’s bottom line advice:

  • Keep in touch with your clients often and ask about how they are doing.
  • Be persistent in your communications and client visits to turn prospects into clients.
  • Follow your intuition.
  • And most importantly, have fun!

To find out more about Cindy’s services, visit her website at Steiner International Communications.

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