First Meeting: Face to Face or Teleconference?

Happy 4th of July to you!

Can you believe how fast the 1st half of 2012 came and left?

I met with a VP of Sales of a large health benefits organization here in town this week.

She and I discussed whether the first sales meeting should be face to face or by phone. She wanted to target the state of Iowa which can be a 3 hour drive. She’s had success both ways and wanted my opinion.

I came across a post from Mark Hunter and here’s what he said:

“Although it’s never easy to know exactly when to visit a potential cold-calling customer, a rule of thumb I tell people is that it’s perfectly acceptable to use the telephone to take the customer all the way to the close, if it will require you to fly to meet the customer in person. If the customer is in your city, then you need to visit the customer as soon as you’ve identified them as a probable customer or a suspect that has significant profit potential. When you do fly to meet the customer, it’s best to do it just prior to closing the sale.

Meeting in person with the customer will allow you to further exemplify why you’re the one they need to work with. It will allow you to deepen the relationship and in turn, deepen the need the customer has in working with you. Never jump in your car or jump on an airplane to go chase a hunch. Your time is far more valuable than that. If you’re not professional enough to be able to fill your pipeline with quality leads and prospects in addition to being capable of creating need and pain with a prospect, then you shouldn’t be selling.”

I agree mostly with what he said. Here’s my thoughts on the matter:

If a potential prospect is within 1 hour of driving, I’d ask for a meeting face to face. If the meeting is successful, you’ve invested 3 hours of your time: 1 hour driving there, 1 hour of meeting, and 1 hour of driving back. When I have a prospect that close, I make it a point to meet with them face to face. I’m a relational guy and it helps to see their body language during the visit.

But we live in the real world, not a bubble. Things come up: funerals, fires, family emergencies, client issues, etc and there are legitimate reasons why a prospect has to cancel or reschedule. And you’ve wasted time you’ll never get back. To me, it’s not the issue of the cost of gas, it’s my time. I can always go out and make more money. I can never regain that time.

At Connect 5000 we conduct business with technology and consulting companies nationwide. We have clients we’ve never met in person. My goal eventually is to hop on a plane and see them at least one time a year face to face. With the technology and tools today, there are several cost effective ways to chat with potential clients in a personal way.

I have no problem with having the first meeting be a teleconference. It’s efficient and if you’re doing your job properly, you can qualify need and challenges within the first 15 minutes.

I have  a Skype account and I’ve asked people if they do as well ONCE they agree to a conference call. If they do, that’s the medium I’ll use. If they don’t the phone is still an effective tool.

By the way, if the Sales VP of Microsoft, Oracle, IBM or a large technology company reaches out to me and asks me to meet with them in person, I’ll hop on the first plane available. There are always exceptions to the rule.

Many companies do business by phone and Internet worldwide without meeting face to face. Technology and time constraints allow them and us to do so.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

I’m Ray Ruecker and my team at Connect 5000 specializes in connecting executive decision makers to technology and software companies with high average sales by setting solid sales appointments for your sales group.