face to face

It is important for any business relationship to meet face-to-face. But remember when meeting, always be nicely dressed. It is much better to take a tie off during the meeting than having to put one on!

Obviously you heard and read already a lot about customer care, follow up and how to keep them with you in the long-term. Here my personal thoughts.

There is much around giving advice and handing out tips but the only way to keep customers constantly buying is to regularly meet them face-to-face. You have to strengthen the relationship through a mix of professional exchange, meeting personally and personal, maybe almost private talk.

The trouble in international trade is customers are far, so you have to travel. And when travelling and meeting you have difficulties to do business with others, unless being entirely connected always and everywhere with everything. But travelling places is the highest appeal of the international trade and contacts abroad.

Being active on many international markets it is not the choice of destinations, which turns the case complicated. But preparation is all. First you have to decide where to go. You pinpoint a country or region. Then you check the dates of travelling and if contacts are present in the office during that period. Like pearls on a chain you arrange meetings according to geographic and you fix the meetings. IT IS YOU GIVING THE TIME TO MEET! Sort your back-up in the office and then set sail.

As you are off the office and no replacement will be able do business with your personal as you yourself, you have to put at least as many meetings as possible into the schedule as you will lose out on short term business during your trip but easily compensate by increased long term sales once returned. Obviously you have to choose meticulously and well focussed, but if only one meeting turns out successfully, it is all worth the effort.

Buying customers, pure prospects or previous accounts now dead – they are all prone to be asked to get the possibility to meet. The meeting should be scheduled for an hour. Not more, not less.

For a producer all these ideas may not necessarily count, but for traders and distributers they do. Pop into the meeting, some personal words about the trip and impressions on the road, small introduction about your company … and then jump into the basic intention of your meeting: If, how and where can be more business generated. New products? New brands? New range? Check it all out and don’t stop making notes. Whatever you wrote down cannot be forgotten or overseen after your return.

And it is always interesting to see how your contacts appreciate you putting up the effort visiting them. This is the crucial thing. Meet them, be open, be professional, be witty. Talk about the trip; don’t make secrets as if your contact is the only one you visit. Be frank, and they will turn openly towards you.

See the office, check their warehouse, listen to the noise of their sales. How often is your contact contacted during the meeting? Does he offer and serve something to drink? Do you get an invitation for a lunch or dinner? And if so, who is paying for it – note, it should be your contact paying as you are his guests. Of course when you are visited at your office, it is you paying.

Also be independent. Never ask them to pick you up somewhere, to pay for your taxi. BE INDEPENDENT! If in one town, you are able to manage 5 meetings a day. Please do not think you are on holidays. But if you manage so, then take yourself the time in the evening to stroll around town. Feel the place, and you have a much better idea about how your contacts work.

Upon your return, check and summarise your notes and send each contact a to-do list and what you are going to do next. And then get it all working.

If you behave like this, you meet a lot of people, you see much clearer about the relationship and you can breathe regularly some other air than office-oxygen. And in the end, if taking up the chance to do some sideway travelling, you are one of the most privileged you know.

Give it a go!