You probably know the sounds all too well – the beeping and bubbling of the Skype ringtone or the minimal, repetitive call of Google Hangout. For business leaders who need to communicate with clients across the world, these tones have become the anthem of the modern office.
These affordable and (often) high-quality teleconferencing solutions have helped usher in a Jetsons-esque era of global communication, enabling businesses to eschew expensive international trips in favor of quick face-to-face meetings from thousands of miles away.
Business leaders using this technology can enjoy the convenience and financial benefits of holding meetings anytime, anywhere. While this might relieve you from having to hop on a plane every month to keep up with clients, you shouldn’t undervalue the profit-driving potential of in-person meetings.
Face-to-face visits with international clients can still provide tremendous value, whether you work at a Fortune 500 company or a bootstrapping startup. Here are four reasons why:
1. Humanize relationships.
Teleconferencing is an efficient way to do business, but it’s often only good for just that. Meeting face-to-face lets you to learn about a client beyond work. It might seem trivial, but this type of intimacy can often lead to a more open and fluid professional relationship.
The benefits extend beyond existing clients, too. International trips are the perfect time to start relationships with new prospects and set up more informal getting-to-know-you meetings. Ring up potential clients you find on LinkedIn or Google for low-key meetings or dinners. Schedule multiple meetings on a trip or even carve out time on personal trips to mitigate the risk and make your investment worthwhile.
Prospects will be more likely to say yes to an informal get-together than a formal teleconference, especially if a free dinner is involved.
2. Expedite the sales process.
Closing deals is the fuel that keeps every business running. And few methods work better than meeting a global prospect in person. I find I and my team members attain a spectacular business close rate in face-to-face meetings. This is partly because we come prepared with a product we have vetted extensively beforehand, but it’s also because we can take a more hands-on approach to showing prospective clients what we can do for them.
Although product glitches are often easier to handle virtually, demonstrating the value of a product is challenging from afar.
3. Cultural norms become more apparent.
Entering a foreign market can feel like you’re starting over. You need to learn and relearn specific customs and nuances to get a handle on doing business. Traveling there in person is the ideal way to identify and adjust to these differences.
When I first started doing business, most clients resided in Europe. I knew these countries were early adopters of data security and enforced data laws more strictly than the United States. I had to get accustomed to the culture there to keep the business going. Remote management just wouldn’t do.
4. Gain an edge in emerging markets.
While Europe was the best place to do business initially, that didn’t stay true for long. The United States has since cracked down on data security laws and is continuing to grow as a market.
And with the most recent Sony debacle, the Asian market has also begun taking cybersecurity issues more seriously, presenting cybersecurity firms with exciting new opportunities.
But the companies reluctant to shell out money for travel won’t be the ones capitalizing on this market opportunity. The ones willing to follow the market wherever it takes them, both online and in person, will profit.
Teleconferencing technologies are paving the way for a more integrated global market, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon everything about the past.
It’s understandable that budget-conscious companies want to save pennies anywhere they can. And in the short term, pushing travel down to the bottom of the priority list might seem like an obvious choice for companies operating within tight margins. But instead of sacrificing potential business or partnerships, invest in your company’s future by making smarter travel decisions and reaping the benefits of a global presence.