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Optimizing Face-to-Face Encounters for Web-Based Companies

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By Fausto Mendez

For 2013, face-to-face events will continue to be a major factor for about half of small businesses. For these companies, optimizing direct encounters with the client can make or break the deal, but exactly how can they make the most of these critical moments? We have a few tried & true tips to share.

    A survey of small businesses connected to the Web uncovered that at least 45% of these companies will continue to rely on in-person events and 33% of them will bank on in-person meetings as well. Unfortunately  the problem with face-to-face encounters is that they are relativity easy to botch. Even if you’re a rockstar in the meeting room or on the sales floor, all it takes is a missed meal or a slightly better presentation to knock your company out of the client’s memory for eternity. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy problem to fix; here’s what you can do to help you close the deal or at least remain memorable enough for future deals. 

+ First, sell a product or service that delivers the expected results. Also, if your product doesn’t at least inspire some kind of passion, excitement or curiosity in yourself, you can’t expect the client to feel the same way. For example, Blackberry is learning this the hard way.

+ Presentation is critical. The difference made by a few simple details can be critical. More importantly, if you don’t want to be there, your clients will feel the same, and they will be distracted by the search for an exit. On the other hand, if you offer snacks, give out coffee, vacuum the floor, polish the wood, offer comfortable seating, practice your argument, update your marketing materials, etc., you can make a huge impact in the focus and attention of your client. Consider Microsoft’s “lounge” at the Macworld expo vs. some of the more plain booths at CES.

+ You need to smile. Be happy about the encounter with your client, or fake it if necessary. Nothing is more uncomfortable than visiting a store, booth or office with attendants that would rather not help you. 

+ Give off the right signals and stay seated with the client most of the time. Present on your feet, but sit down for the negotiation. Standing up suggests a major change in the negotiation, possibly encouraging the client to get up and leave. 

+ Take notes even if it’s unnecessary. It suggests that you’re paying attention, and for people with social anxiety, it’s an easy way to keep your hands and eyes busy as the client speaks. Most importantly, it suggests to the client that what he’s saying is important enough that you went the extra mile to remember it.

+ Take it easy on the caffeine. It’s easy to consume too much coffee and energy drinks, which could easily boost anxiety and reduce confidence during awkward moments. Drink no more or less than you would on any other day.

+ Make eye contact, and remain confident. The eye contact is a sign of respect. The confidence suggests capability. Both are critical.

+ Don’t treat potential or past clients any different than you would current clients. 

+ If you can, know your client well. This means researching the client’s website, industry, competitors and more. Don’t ask questions with answers that you should already know. The client’s goal is to move on to the next step, but it’s hard to do that when you’re asking questions that don’t need to be discussed, such as, “what’s on your website right now?” Everyone involved wants to move forward, so hit the ground running.  

+ Also know the individual’s personal tastes and preferences, not just the company. For example, a graphic artist is likely to be moved by a very visual and emotional presentation. A CEO with a background in accounting might prefer a less-exciting analytic presentation with binders full of spreadsheets and graphs. 

+ More importantly, know your product better than anyone else, or bring along an engineer or specialist that can explain it for you. The client shouldn’t know the company better than you, and if he’s asking questions that you can’t answer somewhat instantly, he’ll assume you don’t care (and no one wants to work with people that don’t care). 

+ Unless you’re eating dinner with the client, don’t schedule meetings or events just prior to, during or after dinner. People get really hungry and tired towards the end of the day, which is also when people stop thinking about work. It’s best to catch them while they’re coasting on their morning coffees or hearty lunches.

+ Try presenting multiple choices as if the client has already decided to work with your company. It’s a simple psychological tactic that also works with toddlers that refuse to eat.

+ Use a phrase like “authorize the deal” instead of “sign the contract”. The idea of signing contracts can be daunting, but “authorization” is just giving permission. 

+ Offer a useful gift that is branded with your company’s logo. This is the letter opener that your client uses every evening. It’s the solar charger for mobile phones that your client takes to the woods on the weekends. It might even be the cutting board in the client’s lunch room or the Bluetooth (wireless) boombox in his warehouse. More importantly, the measured statistics speak for themselves. About three out of every four expo/show attendees in a 2003 survey favorably remembered the name of the company that gave them a promotional product. A company like AnyPromo can label virtually anything with your logo or name, so it’s easier than ever to stock up on self-branded apparel, customized office supplies and other promotional products and gifts.

    Tomorrow, we post the full info graphic with PaySimple’s research (check the sneak peak above). Today, Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+, and stay updated with marketing & business advice.

  • 14 February 2013

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