TABLE OF CONTENTS
The emergence of digital technologies has completely changed the way we communicate on a daily basis, affecting not just our personal interactions but also our business communications. With the array of digital tools, such as emails and virtual conferencing, one would think that face-to-face meetings have gone obsolete. On the contrary, in-person networking has actually become more important than ever.
This finding is further reiterated by our survey with over 1,100 top-level executives, where 79% of respondents currently use face-to-face meetings to generate new leads and business. When asked which channels they would prefer to get clients, face-to-face meetings rose to 81%, and is the top preferred channel among our respondents.
The new generations venturing into the job market also reaffirm this preference as 68% of junior level professionals place more value in in-person business meetings than online interactions.
But why are face-to-face networking still crucial even with all the communication technologies at our beck and call? Will meeting clients in person make a big difference compared to talking on the phone?
Over the next 7 steps, we’ll discuss the whats, hows and whys of effective face-to-face meetings, and share with you the best practices and strategies for optimizing your one-on-one networking sessions to successfully close deals and build long-lasting business relationships.
STEP 1: UNDERSTANDING FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGS
So what is face-to-face communication? In the most basic definition of the term, it is an interaction where the parties involved are able to see each other during the conversation. Sounds simple enough, but in reality, the concept of face-to-face meeting is much more complex than that.
Face-to-face networking is a social interaction between the meeting attendees without the use of any mediating technology. It should be a bonding experience that fosters feelings of trust and respect, and engages the parties to build a mutual long-term relationship.
As businesses extend their geographical reach and grow into multinational companies, face-to-face interactions are often replaced in lieu of more convenient communication methods, such as telephone calls, emails, instant messaging platforms, and virtual conferences.
However, direct one-on-one communication is still highly preferred due to the many advantages that face-to-face meetings provide to business professionals.
From enhancing credibility to establishing strong partnerships, in-person business meetings have a ‘personal touch’ that leaves a memorable impression and genuineness, which can’t be replicated by modern technologies.
But is face-to-face communication very different from virtual conferences? What are the defining differences between in-person and virtual meetings?
Virtual meetings are usually used to allow remote participation for attendees in different locations and time zones, and to save on travel costs. It’s best for short information-sharing discussions with known acquaintances or clients with whom you’ve already established a relationship.
In a word, it’s all about convenience.
But rather than being the default networking method, digital meetings should be seen as a convenient substitute. This is because virtual meetings can take “as much as four times longer to accomplish the same amount of work when conducted face-to-face.”
Meeting through virtual space also inhibits people’s innate need to see each other, which plays a vital part in gaining and making a lasting impression to build strong business relations.
In fact, organizations that decreased their efforts in face-to-face meetings experienced a 17% decrease in profits. To quote Beau Ballin, the Vice President of Business Development at CWT Meetings & Events, “It’s not about which meetings are best for face-to-face, but rather can you afford not to meet in person?”
However, with the recent COVID-19 crisis, virtual meetings have increased considerably due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. While differing in aspects and benefits, one-on-one remote meetings can still form client relationships with the right online networking strategies. For tips on how to succeed in online sales, read our 9 Steps For Successful Online B2B Sales.
STEP 2: PROSPECTING FOR DECISION MAKERS
In our previous step, we identified the benefits of face-to-face meetings compared to other more digital communication methods. But the most important question now is – how do you prospect for potential clients for your face-to-face meetings? How do you ensure that they will benefit from an in-person conversation with you?
The good news is that with the array of social and sales platforms available today, there are many ways you can acquire new business leads for your sales pipeline. But you will first need to identify qualified prospects from your leads, which is where prospecting comes in.
Creating buyer personas is a good start to establishing a clear picture of your product’s target audience. Once you have specified the target market, then you can begin to search for organizations that will benefit from your products or services and map out the key decision makers. These are all parts of the prospecting process, which also includes identifying the stakeholders, influencers and gatekeepers of your targeted organization, and finding the contact information of the business leaders.
To start prospecting, it’s a good idea to plan an organized prospecting campaign for yourself. Here are 7 steps you can take to prospect for potential clients efficiently.
7 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE PROSPECTING
1. Be Consistent
Set a weekly schedule where you put aside a fixed amount of time each day to work on your prospecting. Regular dedication to prospecting enables you to become more efficient at bringing in new leads and consistent sales.
2. Stay Focused
Set up the goals and objectives you wish to achieve with your prospecting campaign, and make a daily task that will keep you on track in achieving those results. Turn off all distractions and stay focused on your daily prospecting objectives and end goals.
3. Use Different Techniques
Make a list of prospecting methods, and plan how much time you will spend and how many prospects you wish to gain from each approach. Focus on methods that bring the best results for you, but remember to adjust your prospecting technique based on your prospects.
4. Have A Script
Create a template or a prospecting script to ensure a productive conversation with potential clients. Write responses to common objections, make observations on what works and what doesn’t, and tailor your words to the prospect’s needs and wants.
5. Focus On The Goal
Remember that the point of prospecting is to obtain an appointment with these potential clients. Prevent yourself from turning the prospecting calls and emails into a product presentation or a needs analysis, and focus instead on opening a relationship.
6. Practice Cold And Warm Calling
While there are debates on the effectiveness of cold calling, it is still considered as one of the fastest ways to open relationships and should be in your list of prospecting methods.
For warm calling, get on your prospect’s radar through referrals or social media to establish prior contact, and follow up with a phone call. Learn more about warm calling and its different types in this insightful article by The Balance Careers.
7. Nurture Relationships
Even the best prospecting campaigns will encounter a “no” from prospects, so it’s good to remember that business relationships take time to build. Create a nurturing plan that will help you to stay consistent in establishing relationships with your prospects and to find ways to create values for them.
The important thing to remember is that prospecting is not about selling your products or services. It’s to reach out and open valuable business relationships with the prospects.
For more prospecting tips, watch Mark Hunter, the ‘Sales Hunter’ who wrote High-Profit Prospecting, as he shares his secrets to great prospecting.
STEP 3: SCHEDULING BUSINESS APPOINTMENTS
Once you have identified your prospects, now comes the crucial part – scheduling a face-to-face meeting with them.
During your prospecting, you should have already conducted research on your prospects and their needs. Now is the time to customize your approach according to the qualified leads’ preferences, and contact them to set a face-to-face appointment.
In our previous step, we mentioned cold calling and warm calling, which are two popular and effective methods to win prospects. In this step, we will talk about other approaches that will help you get those face-to-face meetings with CEOs, senior executives and other key decision makers.
5 TOP METHODS TO REACH YOUR PROSPECTS
Did you know that B2B buyers are 5 times more likely to engage when they are introduced by a referral? Studies show that 73% of B2B executives prefer to work with sales professionals who have been referred to them.
Unfortunately, only 11% of salespeople actually ask for referrals. So take full advantage of referral selling, and ask for a referral from your network or when you’re meeting an existing client. You can also ask for an internal referral when you’re reaching out to an organization for the first time.
2. Cold Callings
Contrary to popular belief, cold calling is not dead. According to a study mentioned by Spotio, businesses that don’t conduct cold calling experienced 42% less growth than companies that do.
The best way to making cold calls is to change your mindset. Embrace the thought that the calls are never truly cold as you have your research and insight to back up your prospecting.
Another approach to cold calling is to remember to provide value to your prospects with every single interaction. Focus on building trust and relationships to show that you’re willing to invest time and effort in helping to ease their pain points.
See how sales strategist Marc Wayshak sets appointments with his prospects in his insightful video, 7 Keys to Set the Appointment Immediately with Any Prospect in Sales.
3. Social Media
Many salespeople warm up their prospects by following or interacting with them on social media. This method is highly helpful in familiarizing potential clients to you and your company before you reach out to them.
A white paper by IDC discovered that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president executives depend on social media when they’re making their company purchasing decisions, while salespeople who use social selling are more likely to fill their sales pipeline compared to those who don’t.
Make it a point to connect with your prospects before contacting them through other channels. The warm connection will help greatly in getting higher response rates and appointments with your prospects.
Email is a low pressure and high impact method to contact your prospects for a meeting. However, there are different types of email approaches, and you need to know which approach is best suited for each of your prospects.
Ask yourself questions when you are drafting the email: Are you approaching a new client? Have you connected with the prospect prior to the email? is it a company introduction or a product introduction? How will the email provide value to them? Construct your email with these information in mind so that the email is relevant to that specific prospect and their needs, and entice them to set an appointment with you.
The subject line is another important aspect to keep in mind when writing your email. With the average person receiving over 140 emails a day, your subject line needs to be personalized and resonate with the prospect in order to stand out from the rest of the inbox.
For more tips, here’s an article by Emma Brucher from HubSpot, who gave 3 simple steps in how to get an appointment with your prospect through phone calls and emails.
There are also other methods that effective salespeople use to get through to the decision makers. Read our article, How to Get Appointments with Decision Makers, on getting past the gatekeeper, adjusting call timings, and using a combination strategy of voicemails and emails.
STEP 4: PREPARING FOR C-SUITE MEETINGS
Congratulations! You’ve successfully booked sales meetings with your prospects – but now, what are the next steps you need to take?
After all the hard work you’ve put into prospecting, you need to make the most out of all your appointments. So here are 5 steps to help you prepare an efficient and productive face-to-face meeting.
5 Preparation Steps For Your Face-To-Face Meeting
1. Research Your Prospect
You might be wondering at this step as you have already conducted research on your potential client during your prospecting. However, there is always information that you may have missed out or details which need additional research.
For example, prepare questions that you would like to ask your prospect to further understand their pain points or desired end result. It would also be good to predict what questions they may ask you and prepare your answers or relevant case studies of your products or services to share with them. Preparation is a critical stage so ensure that you are armed with the right information for a customized and data-driven meeting.
2. Set Goals And Objectives
Determine the main goal of the meeting. It’s understandable that the objective of in-person business meetings for salespeople is to make a sale.
However, the face-to-face meeting you painstakingly worked to set up is not just about you – you also need to keep in mind the objective of the potential client. So set your primary goal as understanding the client’s pain points, and break that goal into smaller achievable goals.
You should also set a clear objective and purpose of the meeting to ensure that both you and your prospect stay on track. By knowing what you are attempting to achieve with the meeting, you are able to maintain the flow and direction of the discussion, which is in line with the following step in meeting preparation – planning the meeting agenda.
3. Plan The Agenda
To help keep your upcoming meeting organized and productive, plan an agenda for it. Add the goals, objectives and purpose that you determined in the previous step as anchor for the meeting.
You should also list down the main points on how you can achieve those goals, which will serve as the outline of your meeting with the prospect. Some main points you can list are:
- your prospect’s expectations on the value and performance of your solutions,
- the expected ROI from their investment in your product or service, and
- the possibility of setting a demo date.
Each agenda item should allow you to measure your success rate as the meeting proceeds.
Make sure you keep the agenda flexible to adapt to the prospect’s needs, but keep it within a respectable time frame to ensure that you maximize both yours and your potential client’s time.
If possible, share your agenda to the prospects so that they know what to expect from their meeting with you. It also shows them that you are efficient, and that you value their time.
4. Have A Backup Plan
Even with the best minute-to-minute planning, there’s always a chance that something might go awry. That’s why it’s best to have a contingency plan in case of unexpected problems.
For example, in cases where the meeting might start late or get cut short, consider which content you could shorten or postpone to the follow-up meeting. Also plan which information is the most important to convey to the prospect should the meeting get sidetracked due to lengthy discussions.
Other preparations you can do is to make sure you have a physical copy of the materials you wish to showcase in the event your laptop is not working, and ensure that your laptop’s battery is fully charged. Additionally, confirm arrangements with your prospect prior to the meeting, and exchange contact numbers with them in case of last-minute emergencies or changes.
Confirming the appointment also lowers the risk of no-show from the prospect. Discover how you can make sure that your prospects show up for your meetings with these tips from SalesBuzz.com and Yesware.
5. Prepare Your Follow-Up
Face-to-face meetings have a close rate of 40%. However, there’s no guarantee that your prospect will convert into a new client during your very first meet-up, which is why planning the follow-up should also be included in your preparations.
Depending on the success rate of your meeting, your follow-up could be a call, another meeting, a demo or hopefully, a purchase sale. While your follow-up will depend on the agreement between you and your prospect, a recommended step is planning and drafting a recap email.
The recap email should be sent within 24 hours from your appointment with the prospect and include a summary of your meeting. This will allow your prospect to digest the contents and provide feedback or ask any questions that they were unable to pose during the discussion.
Regardless of the meeting’s outcome, you should use your follow-up email, note or call to thank your prospect for their time and consideration of your product or service. Not only does it show that you value them and their needs, it also leaves a memorable impression and is a great touchpoint to keep you in their minds.
STEP 5: Effective Meeting Strategies
Now that you’re all prepped up for your meeting, let’s move on to how you can effectively hold your meetings and convert your prospects into long-term clients. There are many factors to keep in mind when you are having your face-to-face meetings with potential clients.
The type of client, your communication skills and body language, even the amount of time you have with your client, should all be taken into consideration. You need to maximize every single minute for an effective sales pitch.
Talking To C-Suites
Getting serious face time with senior and C-level executives is a dream for all salespeople. But once you do get a meeting with the elusive CEO, you need to be properly prepared in order to have a truly productive and successful meeting.
C-suites are constantly on the move, attending meetings after meetings. Having met numerous salespeople throughout their career, it’s no surprise that these high-level executives are wary of what you’re trying to sell to them. And that’s the keyword – ‘selling’.
As mentioned in our article, Talking To CEOs: Face-To-Face Meetings With C-Suites, don’t jump straight into your product, service, or company presentation like a typical sales pitch. Instead, focus more on your potential client’s pain points and goals for their company. This point is also reiterated in IBM’s how-to document on calling CEOs, which emphasizes the conversation to veer more towards strategy rather than technological dialogue.
For more best practices on talking to C-level executives, we recommend these articles for further reading:
A good thing to note in face-to-face meetings is that your body language and other non-verbal signals communicate more with your prospect than your actual words.
Here are some body language techniques to keep in mind for your in-person networking:
Hand gestures – Pay close attention to your handshake and the way you position your hands. Your handshake should be strong and firm to reflect your character and the strength of your solution. If you’re sitting, you should keep your hands to the front or the side with your fingers locked together to show confidence.
Eye contact – Maintain eye contact for at least half of your meeting to create a connection with your client. Avoid too much eye contact as it might make you appear awkward while too little eye contact will make you seem uninterested.
Body postures – Stand with your spine erect to convey confidence, and turn your torso towards your client. Crossing your arms is generally construed as being defensive or disengaged, so keep your hands free or over your waist if you’re standing during the meeting.
Discover how you can emphasize on positive body language in this article on the meaning behind body movements.
There are many more aspects to conducting an efficient and effective face-to-face business meeting, and we will continue to update you on the latest and best practices, so visit our Insights page regularly. In the meantime, let’s move on to one of the most important parts of face-to-face meetings – closing deals.
Step 6: Sealing Sales Deals
Closing is the hardest, yet most rewarding, part of a sales process. Often times, salespeople will walk away from a face-to-face meeting without a definitive answer from the client, leading to follow-ups which can be even more difficult than closing the deal.
In our article, How To Seal The Deal In Face-To-Face Meetings, we listed 5 effective closing strategies to help you get that sale.
1. Starting At The Beginning
The more information you have, the more powerful you are. That statement holds very true for in-person meeting, where preparation is key. Prior research on your prospects and deep product knowledge allow you to tailor-package your offerings to your client’s needs, providing a big push towards successful closing.
2. Creating Urgency
Knowing the right heartstring to pull and building urgency are critical aspects of closing. By uncovering your prospect’s pain points and making them aware of the consequences that those problems bring to their company, you naturally create a sense of urgency, and they will be more eager to consider your solutions.
3. Asking For The Close
Some salespeople are afraid of rejection, therefore they fail to ask one of the most important questions in face-to-face meetings – asking for the order. However, if you lead the meeting efficiently towards the buy-in, the closing question will come naturally. Read on these modern closing strategies by the sales engagement platform, Klenty, to convert your meetings into successful sales.
4. Remaining Silent
Silence is golden, and in sales meetings, silence can be a great push for your client to reveal their true needs and interests. When you ask for the sale, simply wait for your prospect to reply or follow up on the question. Even though the silence can be uncomfortable, stand your ground and let the client do the talking.
5. Following Up
Unfortunately, not all sales are closed in a single meeting. In fact, sales usually require more than 4 follow-ups before it becomes a closed deal. If the meeting requires a follow-up, secure a commitment with your prospect, and establish a clear timeline and agenda for your next meeting.
Sealing the deal with potential clients is all about patience and strategy, but does the same apply for the tougher, more difficult prospects?
Regardless of your years in sales, you will occasionally encounter difficult clients who may be aggressive towards you or counter your every word throughout the appointment. While you may not be able to control the prospect’s attitude or responses, you can take steps to steer the meeting towards a more favorable direction.
One of the best approaches in dealing with a tough decision-maker is to not take it personally. If the meeting turns difficult, stay calm and maintain a positive mindset. However, this doesn’t mean you should let the client make demands or that you should try to establish dominance.
Instead, be firm and professional, and assume control over the meeting to guide the client back through the sales process. Ask about your prospect’s pain points and get them to talk about their business challenges. Then lead the conversation to possible solutions and how you and your product or service can help ease their problems.
Once you understand the root of your prospect’s aggravation, it’ll be easier to discard the impression of them as a challenging or intimidating client, and prevent their brusque actions from affecting you personally. You can read more details on how to handle tough decision-makers in our article, How To Close Tough C-Suites In Face-To-face Meetings.
Step 7: Following Up With Clients
As we mentioned earlier, many face-to-face meetings require multiple follow-ups before you can successfully close a deal. Unfortunately, some prospective sales end up being lost due to inefficient follow-ups.
To prevent your prospect from ghosting you, or vice versa, use the momentum of your meeting to set a timely follow-up strategy.
1. Establish Clear Action Items
Take a few minutes near the end of your meeting to discuss the next steps with your prospect. Will the follow-up be another meeting, a phone call or demo? When is the follow-up? Be specific on the agenda for the follow-up, and ensure that both parties are in agreement before ending the meeting.
2. Send Out Meeting Notes
A critical part of an effective follow-up is sending a concise recap of your meeting, highlighting important points of your meeting. Remember that your prospects might have listened to similar sales pitches, so the meeting notes will help you to stand out from the competition and stay in their minds.
Find out the best tips in writing a follow-up email by reading this guide by Keap, an email marketing and sales solution provider.
3. Show Appreciation
As part of your follow-up, it’s a good idea to send a thank you note to your prospect to express your appreciation to them for meeting with you and for considering your product or service. Be sure to include any recommendations, advice or suggestions that they gave you during the meeting. This is a good method to show that you value your prospect, and help your follow-up to be less ‘annoying’.
4. Focus On The Solution
Many salespeople make the mistake of using the follow-up to push the deal through. However, the primary focus for your follow-up should be on easing your prospect’s pain points, which is the same focus as during your face-to-face meeting. Provide examples or case studies on how your product or service solved similar problems that the client is facing, or share relevant articles. Remember, be a helpful resource, not a seller.
5. Know When To Stop
According to statistics by Salesmate, 44% of salespeople tend to give up after just one single follow-up, which is unfortunate as 80% of deals require at least 5 follow-ups after the first meeting.
To help you stay on top of your leads and prevent your prospect from falling into the cracks, set up a follow-up sequence. As an example, refer to TaskDrive’s article, How To Use Follow Up Emails After Meetings That Close Sales, which listed the follow-up timing below:
1 day after meeting (Day 1)
2 days after Day 1 (Day 3)
4 days after Day 3 (Day 7)
7 days after Day 7 (Day 14)
14 days after Day 14 (Day 28)
30 days after Day 28 (Day 58)
Followed by once every 30 days
Of course, there will be prospects who will stop replying to your follow-ups, especially if they deem your follow-up to be exasperating and tedious.
While persistence is key in sales, there’s a big difference in being consistent and being relentless. Read Nimble’s list on 8 follow-ups that you can apply without annoying your prospects and Hiver’s article on effective follow-ups without irritating potential clients for best practices in follow-up methods.
Although you might need to send a ‘break-up’ email to prospects who have stopped responding to you, always keep the conversation line open and offer them the opportunity to reconnect with you in the future.
Face-to-face meetings might seem less convenient than virtual conferencing and more daunting than cold calling. But these in-person networking sessions have advantages that will help in building stronger long-term relationships with your prospective clients.
Even LinkedIn, the online networking platform, salutes in-person networking with the launch of their new feature, Events, which allows members to plan, announce and invite people to face-to-face meetings and events.
Although technology has irrevocably changed the way we approach clients and generate leads, it has also led us to re-shape our perception of face-to-face appointment and re-discover the personal touches that make a memorable and lasting impression with our prospects.
As Michael Massari, the Senior Vice President of National Meetings and Events at Caesars Entertainment, said in the interview, The Immeasurable Importance Of Face-To-Face Meetings:
He further explained that, “If we don’t continue to nurture strong and positive personal relationships with our clients and coworkers, we won’t build trust, understanding, or a sense of a shared mission – all of which are critical elements to successful partnerships and business success.”