Meetings, just for nothing

When last did you meet a customer for no reason at all? I’ve been reflecting how outcome focused we’ve become, that we’ve lost sight of good old fashioned relationships.

A while back it wasn’t uncommon to just catch up with a customer because you wanted to. Without agenda or objective — just to develop a relationship and connect in person. Thinking back, many of these led to constructive, business-worthy discussions. And some didn’t, but I made friends along the way. So much of our time is spent working that developing friendships with kindred spirits along the way is not such a bad outcome.

At Ad Dynamo we run a sales focused organization, and we regularly reinforce the importance of face to face meetings with customers. It does seem though, that these are progressively harder to come by and I can’t blame the customers. Customers have been so conditioned to being hard sold that they shy away from meetings wherever possible. We only meet customers when we want something, and that must be pretty damn exhausting.

It comes as no surprise that great salespeople listen more than they talk. Showing sincere interest in a customer’s business challenges and objectives, as well as their life outside of work is a refreshing change and is usually welcomed. A couple of frustrated colleagues returned from a meeting recently, venting about how the customer had rejected all their ideas. When we got chatting we realised that the customer had in fact shared a lot of insight about their business — and that is gold (and rare!).

So my insights in short are:

  1. Bring back lunches — connect as human beings on a regular basis and without agenda.
  2. Qualify a meeting — telling a customer that you want to share some new product news & that you only want 15 minutes of their time is a great way to get in the door. Stick to your promise, and don’t change the agenda by closing with a sell. If something resonates they’ll open the door for you.
  3. Stop selling and start solving problems: don’t sell your product, solve a problem your customer is struggling with. And you can only do this if you’ve built a relationship that goes deeper than sales pitches.
For me, the benefit of putting relationship first is that you get to interact with your customer in a variety of contexts. If you only engage a customer to sell or when there’s a complaint, you’re not building a great perception of yourself.
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