Communication today is all about speed.
In our personal lives, so many opt to shoot a quick note while watching a movie, eating lunch at a restaurant, or event sitting at a red light in their cars (I hate that one). Or in the business world – how many times have you seen people text or email during meetings, or handle important situations solely by email?
There’s no denying that in many instances, using our smart devices helps us multitask, and ultimately save time. But in the business world, we can’t let the human element get bullied out of the way in the digital era.
Very early in my career I was taught that business is about relationships. I was a 20-something sales manager for a nationally recognized hotel chain, and in the first few days of being on the job, I was given the Pacific Mutual account. Not knowing much about them, I checked to see how much business they were giving us – and after double and triple checking, the answer turned out to be zero.
Several sales managers before me had attempted to win over this company, but none were successful. I even had the name of the decision maker, who had been with Pacific Mutual for 25 years – Judy. My predecessors sent emails, made in-person cold-calls to her office, tried to reach her by phone, to no avail.
Over the course of the following months, I managed to get a phone conversation with Judy, and asked if she’d meet me for lunch so I can learn more about her company as I was new to the area and the business. At lunch, I did just that, I asked questions about her company, and got to know her a bit as well – including the fact that she loved wine. But I didn’t ask for her business.
Over the next 6-8 months, when I found an interesting article in the paper about her industry, I’d drop it in an envelope with a note that read something like, “Saw this article on your competitor moving to town – I’m sure you read it, but just wanted to give you a heads up.” (mail was something we used in the dinosaur age). I also invited her to our hotel’s monthly “manager’s receptions” where we treated our guests and clients to a nice buffet – and wine.
About a year later she showed up to one of the manager’s receptions, and I still remember the look on the faces of my boss and peers when I introduced her to the team. They couldn’t believe it. That night I asked her questions about the hotel she was currently using, and what she liked about them, what she hated. I could read her body language after each question, which helped lead me to the next. At that point I gave her a tour of our property, and told her that if we could ever help with Pacific Mutual’s hotel needs, to let me know.
And then one day, Judy called me because the hotel they were using exclusively made a mistake, and couldn’t accommodate a few of her VIP executives. She could’ve gone to any hotel, but there’s no doubt that the fact that I took time to meet with her personally and build a relationship resulted in us acquiring the business. Two years later, Pacific Mutual was one of our hotel’s largest accounts, and over the course of that time I met with Judy – in person – often to learn about her upcoming needs, and the latest bottle of Cabernet she was enjoying.
My point here is that we do business with people, not company’s. Texting and email take the personal touch and emotion out of the equation, and while face-to-face communication may take longer than a text, in the long run you will:
– Build trust and a stronger working relationship
– Read body language and get answers quicker
– Eliminate any doubt of interpretation in an email or text
– Learn more about the “why’s” of their needs as opposed to simply “what” they need
Attend those hospitality nights, meet with vendors or customers at their place of business and at trade shows, do more lunches and build lasting relationships. Because if anything, it’s easier to stop doing business with someone that you don’t have a good relationship with. Just ask Judy.
–So. Cal-based PR & Communications Director Justin Gottlieb has been with Interbike since 2012. He’s been in the cycling and sporting goods industry for more than 20 years, from retail to racing, to supply-side sales & marketing management to the event business. Raised just outside of New York City, he’s a die-hard road cyclist, proud soccer dad and college football fanatic. Gottlieb earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida and an MBA from Averett University.