Customers are the lifeblood of your company. Understanding your buyer’s challenges, goals, and perspectives – particularly regarding your organization – should be a high priority for everyone in the C-suite.

Yet in an effort to pack as much as we can into our days, many of us have become overly reliant on virtual meetings, conference calls,  texting and emails. Time constraints lead us to forego in-person gatherings, despite a large body of research illustrating their many benefits.

Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer in nonverbal communication research and author of Silent Messages, developed a formula which underscores the importance of in-person meetings in developing effective relationships. Hint: the words you say aloud are a mere fraction of what you actually communicate. According to Mehrabian, 93% of communication occurs nonverbally through vocal elements, body language, facial expressions, and gestures.

My advice to executives?  Go visit prospects and customers.

Be the leader who shows up, commits the time, and delivers real impact. Value the personal connection. There’s much to be gained by breaking the virtual mold in favor of accompanying real sales people on real calls. And the benefits of IRL meetings reverberate around the conference room table.

  1. Better understanding of customer priorities – When you sit face-to-face with a customer and notice their eyes brighten at the mention of a new service you’re developing, you learn more about their priorities than you ever could from an email or even a call. Likewise, recognizing a look of boredom when you discuss bulk purchase discounts allows you to steer the discussion toward topics that engage your customer’s interests…and buying priorities.
  2. Deeper customer relationships – You deliver an unspoken message when accompanying a sales rep on a customer call. Your physical presence alone demonstrates how your organization values the customer relationship, their business, and their point of view. And the power of your in-person communication during those meetings can certainly help seal the deal, supporting both customer acquisition and retention efforts.

In the paper “Handshaking Promotes Cooperative Deal Making,” authored by a team from Harvard Business School and University of Chicago Booth School of Business, researchers found that the simple act of shaking hands promotes the adoption of cooperative strategies and improves negotiation behaviors and higher joint outcomes.

  1. Improved industry knowledge – Moreover, customers represent a treasure trove of first-hand information about the industry. They likely know a good deal about your competitors’ sales positioning and offer tactics, and they hold insider knowledge on your customer base. Candid conversations through in-person dialogue can generate significant value, impacting your go-to-market decisions and long-term growth strategies.
  2. More inspired and motivated sales people – Sales professionals also experience a direct benefit from your attendance at meetings. Having a C-suite executive along on a sales call motivates higher performance. Joint in-person calls improve a rep’s credibility with customers, driving both conversion and up-sale success rates. In addition to the financial benefits, your physical presence and expressed support affirms that your company appreciates the sales rep’s work and the contributions they make.
  3. Increased revenue and better business results – And let’s not lose sight of sales’ True North objective―revenue generation. In addition to fostering improved communication, face-to-face meetings with C-suite executives produce better business results. An Oxford Economics survey of executives, “The Return on Investment of U.S. Business Travel,” found:
  • About 40% of prospective customers become new customers through a face-to-face meeting. Without an in-person meeting, the conversion rate plummets to 16%.
  • Executives said customer meetings had a greater return on investment of any other spending, with $15 to $19.99 generated for every dollar invested.
  • Business leaders also estimated that 28% of their current business would be lost without in-person meetings.

 Increased revenue and better business results – And let’s not lose sight of sales’ True North objective―revenue generation. In addition to fostering improved communication, face-to-face meetings with C-suite executives produce better business results. An Oxford Economics survey of executives, “The Return on Investment of U.S. Business Travel,” found:

  • About 40% of prospective customers become new customers through a face-to-face meeting. Without an in-person meeting, the conversion rate plummets to 16%.
  • Executives said customer meetings had a greater return on investment of any other spending, with $15 to $19.99 generated for every dollar invested.
  • Business leaders also estimated that 28% of their current business would be lost without in-person meetings.

As with any business strategy, introducing execs into sales calls should be done thoughtfully and communicated carefully to avoid misunderstandings among sales people or customers. Sales reps should alert customers to C-suite attendance in advance and inform executives beforehand about special issues or concerns the customer may be experiencing. And like all sales activities, follow-up is crucial. A simple thank you email or phone call further promotes an open channel of communication and reinforces your confidence in the sales rep.

Customers are critical your company’s growth, and connecting with those customers is a winning proposition for everyone. So make the investment. Get out of your office and hit the street on some sales calls.

 


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