Long before Facebook there was face-to-face

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Since Samuel Morse’s first telegraph in 1844, communication technologies have sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe. What hath God wrought, indeed.

Almost 170 years later, there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication innovations. And this discomfort is especially keen when connecting with customers electronically: Should you call, email, text, or instant message? And when should you use social media?

But from telegraph to Twitter, one constant has retained its relevancy: in-person connection. What is face-to-face contact if not the original social media?

In businesses, social media euphoria must ultimately be tempered with ROI reality. And as useful as each new communication resource proves to be, they are, after all, merely tools to leverage physical efforts, not eliminate the basic human need for interacting in person. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the performance of one of his people was off for the third consecutive month. Up to now, he had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now there was a downward trend.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production was too much electronic contact and not enough in-person. The rookie was relying heavily on virtual tools and missing face-time opportunities with the customer.

It turns out lack of training and “rubber-meets-the-road” experience left him uncomfortable and unprepared to ask for and conduct meetings, like a proposal presentation. Consequently, he wasn’t benefiting from how the success rate of growing customer relationships can increase when certain critical steps are conducted in person. This manager immediately established a training program that set standards for how and when to integrate all customer connection tools, including face-to-face.

If your company’s sales performance isn’t trending upward, perhaps your salespeople need help getting in front of customers, particularly at critical steps. Like the manager above, you may need to establish specific and measurable standards for when face-to-face meetings should take place.

From phone to Facebook, one connection option whose relevancy has borne witness to all of the others: in-person contact. Let’s remember John Naisbitt’s prophesy from Megatrends: “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want."

Write this on a rock … Face-to-face is the original social media.

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Jim Blasingame is one of the world's leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. He is the creator and award-winning host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Small Business Advocate® Show.  In addition to his weekly columns, Jim is the author of Small Business is like a Bunch of BananasThree Minutes to Success and The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Small Business

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