Technology has made many aspects of modern living more convenient and “connected,” but the pendulum has swung too far. This “technology takeover” is not without consequence. Misunderstandings abound. Relationships stagnate. Trust is at an all-time low. And all of these issues are at least partially due to the fact that genuine human connections are becoming a thing of the past, replaced by mouse-clicks and keystrokes.
Face-to-face meetings are how my partner Bonnie Harvey and I bootstrapped our Barefoot Cellars wine company from its laundry-room beginnings to the successful brand we sold to E&J Gallo. I can’t say how many retailers, suppliers and potential customers I visited in person during those early years; what I can say is that I would have never gotten satisfactory results if I had tried to build those relationships via email and social media. People don’t just buy your product; they buy you. Now, as business consultants, we’ve seen this truth proved in the many different companies we work with.
Those who make the time necessary for personal meetings — if not in person, then via Skype or, at the very least, on the phone — find others will not only remember them but will appreciate the effort put forth.
The time investment shows you really care. It’s a fairly universal truth that human beings want to be valued and appreciated. Spending time with someone else is one of the best ways to convey these things. Minutes and hours spent with another person have the power to create a bond that money can’t buy. Plus, visiting someone repeatedly over a period of time can also provide valuable non-verbal clues to his or her values and concerns.
You’re better able to give personalized attention. This is perhaps the biggest key to successful sales and the establishment of any long-term relationship. When you use someone’s name along with eye contact and an attentive demeanor, they’re more likely to be agreeable and to give you the benefit of the doubt. They know that your time is valuable and that you chose to give it to them. The next time they see you, they will be more relaxed and familiar in your company. And the more visits you have, the more your relationship with that individual strengthens.
You’re more effective in general. When you’re talking to someone else in real time, you can make progress in real time and solve problems in real time. Thanks to facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, you’ll usually find out more than just the basics when you have a verbal conversation. In fact, if you’re really observant, you may notice things about the other company or clients they themselves aren’t even aware of!
Facial expressions, body language and tonality help get your message across. Did you know that the human face has at least 20 muscles that work in concert to create a myriad of telling facial expressions? Observing those expressions during verbal communication can give you instant feedback about how your message is being received.
Similarly, and unlike looking at a posed profile shot or any still image sent over email, being face-to-face with another person gives you the opportunity to see the other person’s dynamic reaction and make adjustments to your own message. Real-time body language provides tons of non-verbal cues that are impossible to convey in a text or email.
Words themselves can have very different meanings based on the tone, inflection and emphasis the speaker gives. It’s much easier to “get” intentions behind the spoken word than through text or email. And if the other person sounds reluctant, uncomfortable or guarded, for instance, you can take advantage of the opportunity to ask why and discuss ideas that might never have been brought forward over email.
With these in-person cues, you can quickly adjust your message on the spot to make it more meaningful or agreeable, and avoid possible misunderstandings.
Your vulnerability shows (and that’s a good thing!). In the virtual world, you can almost totally control the image you show to other people. But in a real-time, face-to-face relationship, the other person can see you in 3-D and observe your dynamic, spontaneous behavior. The other party sees your human imperfections and vulnerability, which make you appear more believable and sincere. This can be a big advantage in the long run. And in the short run, you take precedence over all the other person’s virtual relationships.
A relationship can start through text, email or social media; entrepreneurs and other businesspeople should utilize those resources. But in order to be lasting and dependable, a relationship has to grow in person.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, authors of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, started the Barefoot Wine brand with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, employing innovative ideas to overcome obstacles and create new markets. They now share their experience and innovative approach to business as consultants, authors, speakers, mentors and workshop leaders.