Reach Out and Touch Someone
Last weekend, my extended family celebrated the 21st birthdays of our twin grandsons. As we waited for twin #2 to arrive, I sent him a quick text--- checking to make sure he knew which restaurant to go to. Of course he did, and texted back --- “on my way.” We went ahead and ordered appetizers.
It reminded me how all the tools we have these days to connect with one another, and, how easy it has become--- at least for me--- to all too frequently ignore that most important communications tool of all: the human connection.
How does that fit into our business activities and relate to choices we make regarding our growth strategies? During the last 2-3 years, I’ve become passionate about my use of email, about my involvement in social media, and, about being efficient in my communications and connections. Recently, when a client and friend very clearly let me know she really appreciated phone contact, and short in-person chats, I began reflecting: How are my connections working?
Three questions I asked myself may offer at least some reflection:
- What do we want when we “reach out?” If I use email to set up a meeting with a potential client, does it really feel like I can’t wait to see them? Or, that I have something to talk about with them that has value to them? For more than twenty years, we’ve all been persuaded that interaction is critical to successful relationships--- and that relationships matter. Assuming that’s still true (especially when the relationship has substance and value for both parties), doesn’t it make sense that we carve time out of our over-committed days to physically see someone? How about taking just five minutes out, make a phone call and put something on the calendar?
- You’re reading this blog. How’s this connection working? There’s no question that we learn more about each other when we read something the other person has written. We learn even more when the reader connects, offering feedback or ideas. Yet how much more could we learn about each other over a 30 minute coffee? I haven’t seen a single blog that says something like: Want to talk in more detail? Feel free to call me at 651-603-0441 (insert your number--- that one’s mine); Monday and Friday mornings before 10 a.m. CST are best.
- We use a “buying” funnel that has 5 levels… and it is only on level 3 that we begin to interact. One thing I see over and over with clients is that they think they can go from 1 (we learn more about them) to 4 (let’s ask for the business). In reality, we can’t really even reach 3 (interact) until they know something more about us. What are we doing daily to help learn more about them, then sharing more about us in the context of their needs, and then, finally, trying to connect in person?
How can we challenge ourselves, in the midst of over-scheduled days and nights, to realize the importance of what I like to call the “eyeball to eyeball” meeting? Three clear ways:
- Listen to the experts. The power of in-person meetings has been studied in some depth by the Harvard Business Review and British Airways. A 2009 global subscriber survey found 95 percent of respondents viewed in-person meetings as a key to success in building long-term relationships. Specifically, face-to-face meetings were seen as most effective for nnegotiating important contracts (82 percent), interviewing senior staff for key positions (81 percent) and understanding and listening to important customers (69 percent).
- Realize what matters in our individual business worlds. The higher level of complexity in a potential client’s needs, the more we need to see them in person. This sounds so simple. In reality, framing what it takes to bring an ideal client in may require at least one face-to-face connection before there is even consideration of engaging our services. What rules of thumb are you following?
- If a buyer’s decision to work with our organization involves complex matters, we can’t expect to do it via Twitter, or email, or even a webinar. The more complex the issues, the more need there is for an ability to read their body language and facial expressions to build a stronger relationship and to reduce disruption and delays that often are part of technology based communications.
Whether doing professional work or keeping family life running smoothly, there is no question that face-to-face communication brings deeper connections and more opportunities for discussions about “the big stuff.” Several years ago, I implemented a program we call “breaking bread.” Every month, I would have breakfast, lunch or cocktails, at my invitation, with someone I didn’t know well, but felt would be a great person to know, to learn from and to possibly help. I’ve made a commitment to resurrect that program for business, to keep up my “eat with the grandkids once a week” for family ties, and to make sure I never miss a week without seeing close friends.
And you? I’d love to know if, and if, how this hit home.
Now for fun, listen and watch this Face to Face Meetings video.