The importance of face to face contact in building business relationships

Digital communication methods such as texting, email and video conferencing are fast becoming the norm for both consumers and businesses alike. But with these digital methods gradually replacing face-to-face contact in the world of business, what impact is this having on relationships, particularly when working with partners and resellers where communication is key?

I’ve been working in the telecoms industry for almost 25 years now and for the majority of that time, I’ve been working with partners. I’ve seen a lot of things change over the years but there’s one thing that has always remained constant for me and that’s the value of the relationships that I have with my partners. In fact, in my role at Zest4, relationships are now more important than ever as I’m focused on introducing M2M and IoT solutions which are new to our partners’ businesses.

I can totally understand the logic behind suppliers automating their service offerings via self-service portals and website front ends. It undoubtedly speeds up the sales process, cuts down on resources and increases margins, but I do struggle to see what the long-term benefits are for this approach and the effects it will have on business relationships.

For me, the best way to develop a productive, long-term trading relationship with a partner is to spend time getting to know them and to do that face-to-face. It’s vital to build a personal relationship and to invest time into the relationship in the same way that you’d invest capital into the growth and development of your business. People buy from people they trust, and the only way you can build trust is through relationships.

Face to face contact is certainly my preference when it comes to building relationships and many others agree. A recent survey by Forbes Insights, that surveyed over 750 business professionals, showed that 8 out of 10 respondents said they preferred face-to-face meetings over technology-enabled meetings such as videoconferencing.  They said that face-to-face meetings “build stronger, more meaningful business relationships” whilst allowing better social opportunities to bond with clients and co-workers. It’s also easier to read body language and facial expressions and interpret nonverbal communication signals that indicate persuasion, leadership, engagement, inspiration and decision-making.

Admittedly, video-conferencing does offer a face-to-face opportunity and web-cameras do capture some facial expressions and an element of body language, but there are still many angles that a camera doesn’t convey. And of course, when a firm relationship is in place, email and instant messenger communication can certainly aid discussions and speed things up, but to keep a relationship flowing and growing, they shouldn’t replace the face to face.

In my opinion, face to face contact is also crucial for resellers when it comes to adding new products and services to their portfolios. M2M and IoT solutions are a great example of this. One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen resellers make in the IoT space is assuming they can buy IoT services via an online portal in the same way they buy mobile or fixed line services. Whilst it’s true that most mobile sales are similar and connected via a handful of tariffs, for IoT, every deal is different and usually requires a bespoke build. This can’t be done by ticking a few boxes on a portal – it requires careful consideration and individual attention.

Here at Zest4, the rest of our team happily share my philosophy on face to face contact and that’s what makes us a great company for resellers to partner with. All of our channel partners have a team of face to face Account Managers who are available to help in whatever is needed. To help you grow your business, we’ll talk to you about new business opportunities; we’ll join you on your customer visits and sales calls; and through our dedicated partner programme, we’ll train, develop and mentor your staff on selling new technologies and new products.

To find out more about Zest4 and how we can help you grow your business, call us on 0161 956 3355 and let’s arrange a face-to-face meeting.