By Rieva Lesonsky
I love email, social media and all things online. But I also spend a lot of time on the road meeting with clients and prospects. Why? Because when it comes to building your small business, I’m still a huge believer in the power of face-to-face communication. A new study from Cisco proves that plenty of business leaders agree with me.
Cisco’s Business Intelligence Unit surveyed business leaders globally and found that 89 percent say face-to-face communications are useful both in internal business functions, such as employee coaching and training, and in communications with partners and customers.
Some of the common situations when companies prefer face-to-face communications are:
- To discuss/resolve major issues with customers such as a service or product failure or dissatisfaction with the partnership
- To renew contracts
- To brainstorm
- To introduce clients or customers to people in your company
Executives pinpointed six key factors that matter to effective communications and noted that four of them could only be achieved in person:
- Engagement and focus on shared content (92 percent)
- Tone of voice (81 percent)
- Facial expressions (81 percent)
- Words someone is using (72 percent)
- Subconscious body language (72 percent)
- Conscious movements or gestures (67 percent)
The most important use of “face time” was in meeting with customers. Interacting face to face with customers was cited as more important than doing so with partners, suppliers or co-workers.
When it comes to sharing critical information, email is the most commonly used tool for business leaders (cited by 66 percent) but is widely seen as inferior to meeting in person. The telephone was the next most common tool (25 percent), but it, too, falls short of face-to-face meetings for most execs.
What’s the takeaway for your business? You may be trying to save money by doing everything online, by conference call or videoconference, but it’s important to know when you’re selling your business short. If you’re trying to build relationships, gain trust or hammer out an agreement with a client or customer, realize that sometimes, you’ll need to meet in person. Otherwise, you could be saving on travel costs, but costing yourself a customer.
Image by Flickr user Victor 1558 (Creative Commons)