April 21st, 2022
Breaking Bread with Customers Can Never Be Overrated
During the pandemic many salespeople transitioned to the use of videoconferencing to conduct sales calls and meetings. These business tools have proved to be invaluable. Conferencing software isn’t niche anymore—it’s the main place where most meetings happen these days. It’s true for all types of companies and allows more key people to be involved in meetings since it eliminates the necessity of travel. But one thing is for certain – in person sales calls and meetings are still crucial when it comes to developing and maintaining long lasting business relationships. If Jesus would have been born in modern times, I am pretty sure He would not have chosen Zoom for a meeting with his disciples in those final hours. Nothing can match the impact of breaking bread in person!
According to the COVID Data Tracker, 94% of the counties in the USA have COVID -19 Community Levels classified as low. Now this is not to advocate throwing caution to the wind. There were many important lessons learned during the pandemic. Number one – do not meet people if you do not feel well. Before COVID, how many times would you go visit a customer even if you felt a little under the weather? As a salesperson, you were always taught to be a road warrior and to carry on.
Times have changed. If you do not feel well, a phone call to reschedule a visit will be greeted with nothing but appreciation on the other end. Secondly, keep practicing what you learned during this whole process. Wash your hands thoroughly, avoid overcrowding a dinner table, and perhaps offer a fist pump instead of a handshake. No one will be offended when you use a little extra caution. This is because, unlike early on during the pandemic, everyone now knows someone who was became really ill or even died as a result of COVID, and people have become much more empathetic and respectful regarding the fears and wishes of others.
Either way, just realize that everyone has a different take on the pandemic and how much caution should be exercised. Just this week, a Federal judge struck down the President’s mask mandate causing the airlines to modify their mask requirements from mandatory to optional. The result is that some of the fliers were happy and ripped their masks off while others kept theirs on and felt uncomfortable about the fact that not everyone had to wear one.
Getting to know your customers intimately still means traveling to their city, visiting their plant, seeing their operation, meeting their employees, offering potential solutions and at the end of the day, enjoying dinner together. These in-person visits have been somewhat curtailed over the last few years due to both corporate and personal travel restrictions, but perhaps it is time to trend once again to a more personalized approach. I can say one thing with certainty. In my sales career, I would never have achieved the same level of success without personally visiting customers, spending time with them and seeing firsthand both the problems and opportunities which they were pondering. We pondered together, found solutions together, broke bread together and celebrated success together. This has served to forge relationships that transcend the daily business ups and downs. These are friendships that last a lifetime.