I have amassed a wealth of years in the IT industry – far too many to admit – during which time there have been all kinds of changes in the way we do business. Challenges have always come and gone, yet none have been as transformative and demanding as the enforced shift from face-to-face (f2f) interactions to online due to the global pandemic. Albeit, technology enabled the transition to occur relatively quickly.
In the pre-COVID era, networking for new business was part of the fabric of day-to-day sales roles, to the extent that even popping in for a coffee unannounced on the way home was considered the norm. Pursuing fresh opportunities was and always will be difficult. But back then, it felt like it was more of an achievable objective, within reach through unwavering levels of focus and drive.
For existing customers, f2f dealings showed you cared and valued your contact’s business. In your own company, there was a high level of expectation for monthly or quarterly reviews that aligned strategies, with actions discussed sometimes immediately implemented.
Being physically present granted easier access to all areas of the organisation – sales, logistics, finance, marketing, etc. It provided a greater chance of forming stronger, longer-lasting connections and relationships, which built loyalty across the whole company.
Attending in-person meetings requires more effort and therefore has to be worthwhile. Communication and participation are generally better in f2f settings as there are fewer distractions. It’s not as easy, for example, to respond to emails when sitting in the same room and you’re less likely to be interrupted by the dog barking at precisely the wrong moment.
Being physically present allows you to observe how clients react to discussions through the subtleties of their body language and facial expressions. This, in turn, enables you to adjust accordingly and maintain your focus on achieving those all-important objectives.
It would be naive of me to suggest online meetings don’t equally deliver huge positives. Without a doubt, during the coronavirus crisis, digital dialogues helped us to keep in contact with one another, enabled companies to function and offered a connection to the outside world that we had momentarily lost.
Ultimately, we are living and working in our customers’ universe, so we must provide an engagement solution that suits them. We also need to acknowledge that the landscape has changed. This makes it really exciting to be in a sales environment all over again.
Being flexible, embracing change, and adapting are no longer options – now more than ever, they are the keys to success in business. It’s thrilling to develop creative ways of collaborating with clients. Calling just doesn’t seem to cut the mustard these days. You have to stand out from the crowd, be different from the rest and remain dedicated to the cause.
I love going out to see customers, both old and new. As well as strong meeting content, I am always good for coffee and treats, so it’s worth getting in touch to arrange a catch-up.
In my opinion, seeing people in their environment is the best way to understand their requirements and formulate a proposal that aligns with their needs and capabilities.
Lisa Hainsworth is Business Development Manager at Static Control Components Europe