You don’t have to see the faces of your prospects or clients any longer. Technology gives entrepreneurs the ability to conduct almost all business from their desk. But is totally sacrificing face time with clients good for business?
Savvy entrepreneurs know that face time may be more important than ever for the health of technology-confined relationships. Even using Skype or some other program that allows one-to-one, face-to-face communication on a screen can’t compete with a dinner or sit-down visit with a client.
Surveys show consumer technology, and smartphones in particular, cause some people to become alienated and miss out on the personal and financial benefits that only face time can provide.
A study by Oxford Economics and quoted in The Wall Street Journal shows business travel leads to increases in corporate revenue and profits. The study found that every dollar invested in business travel for face time results in $12.50 in added revenues and $3.80 in new profits.
Consider the situations where face time is essential: meeting new customers, closing sales and increasing revenue. Technology can augment face time but still cannot replace it. The Oxford study indicates that 77 percent of people think offsite meetings are a necessity not a luxury, and 85 percent believe face time can result in breakthrough thinking.
When traveling, social media and mobile technology can increase the opportunities and benefits derived from face-to-face interactions, and when used correctly these electronic options can enhance the quality, and increase the quantity, of business relationships.
Here are four specific tactics that entrepreneurs can use to make the most of face time and build business relationships.
Network During Unplanned Stays/Layovers. If you find yourself stuck in an airport or spending another night in a hotel because of bad weather, use the time to network through social media for face time with prospects. Do you know anyone in the city where you’re marooned? Are there any businesses that could be good prospects? All business people have spent time waiting to get home. Take advantage of that time to schedule a dinner or meeting with a new prospect in the area.
Find Local Clients That Meet Your Search Criteria. How do you find contacts within your industry before or after you arrive in a city? Try online networking sites such as Linkedin.com where you can search by location, company, job and interest groups. When you locate a prospect, you may discover a mutual connection that can introduce you.
Announce Your Trip (Discreetly) Before You Go. Letting clients know you’ll be in their area through various social media is a great way to spread the word. It’s also a way to spread the word to people you might not want to know you will be away. Take the time to go through your client list and create a group for a private message or, if you have the time, send a private message to each one personally. Many large companies have policies that restrict sharing your location publicly, but as entrepreneur, you can decide how loudly to broadcast (or singlecast) your location.
Design a “Vacation” to Generate Profit. Many entrepreneurs spend at least part of their vacations keeping up with business via email or social media. Everyone needs a rest so it’s best to try to keep business access to a minimum. If you decide to go to Las Vegas for example and you know that you have a loyal customer living there, meeting for drinks or a coffee may help cement that loyalty. If you have a strong prospect, dinner and in-depth face-to-face conversation can help land the account. Or, if you want to do some gold mining and prospecting on your trip, use social tools to plan prospects for your journey.
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