SaaS companies communicate digitally – it’s essentially in the name. Being able to communicate over email, SMS, the occasional Google Hangout, and social media is a breakthrough in how business is conducted. However, even though there are as many ways to communicate with customers as there are customers, nothing quite replaces in-person communication.
The problem is that in-person meetings require people to be in the same location. This isn’t an insurmountable challenge, but setting aside the money to travel to another city to talk with someone who is already paying you can be hard to justify. The trick is knowing how in-person meetings can help make your business stronger, establish closer relationships with your customers, and improve how your business functions as a whole.
It doesn’t work in every situation or with every customer, but when properly applied it can work wonders.
How Remote Communication Falls Short
Remote communication is amazing – until it’s not. There are times when remote communication falls short, and it’s during those moments that you’re going to want a strong, personal connection with your customer. Whether it’s a big mistake where you accidentally CC’d a customer you were talking about on an email, or if you’ve had a security breach and your entire customer database has been leaked. Whatever the problem, there are some situations when remote communication just doesn’t cut it.
This is because remote communication can be avoided and misinterpreted. If someone wants to stop talking to you during a business meeting, they need to physically get up and leave the room (which is one of many reasons why this doesn’t happen often, outside of the movies). However, if you’re talking with someone over Skype, all they need to do is hit the red button. These technological features can also cause major issues for you. It isn’t just phone calls, though. If you’re emailing back-and-forth with a customer, there’s a very good chance that they’ll misinterpret something you said to mean something other than what you intended.
Whatever the medium, there are constraints to how you communicate. That’s why in-person communication is still the best way to communicate: in personal relationships, in business, and especially when discussing sensitive topics with customers.
The Importance of Proper Communication
What Makes a Great Conversation?
Great business conversations have three key elements. First, they have a clear objective that everyone is aware of at the beginning. Next, they feel like a give-and-take and not like a stump speech. Lastly, they end with everyone involved feeling satisfied at the outcome. By focusing on these three elements, your conversations with customers will go over much more smoothly.
The problem is that managing these three levers can be nearly impossible if you aren’t in the same room as the other participants. You may be able to send around an agenda, but unless you’re face-to-face with someone during a crucial point in the conversation, there’s no way of knowing if they’re engaged or just playing Angry Birds.
Customers tend to only agree to phone calls that have a clear purpose that benefits them – it may sound selfish, but instead of getting hung up on it, it’s better to just recognize the reality and move forward. Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to convince customers to answer detailed questions that would be useful for you to better manage the relationship. If you do manage to get them on a call, it often goes something like this:
Them: “Well, that’s all I had to go over. Thanks again!”
You: “Before you go, do you have time to answer a couple of questions about…”
Them: “Oh, sorry, no – I’ve got to run. But let’s schedule something soon!”
This type of exchange isn’t possible in-person. When you’re across the table from someone, they can’t just hang up on you. On top of that, you’re also able to guide the conversation more skillfully, as you can read their body language and better understand when it’s a good time to ask one question versus another.
Building Closer Relationships
How In-Person Meetings Can Work at SaaS Companies
While the benefits of in-person meetings are now clear, the question still remains: how can in-person meetings work in a SaaS environment? After all, customers are located all over the country and there’s no clear reason to spend tens of thousands of dollars flying from city to city just to chat with customers. Fortunately, no one is suggesting you do that.
Instead, think of in-person meetings opportunistically. For example, let’s say that you’re on a trip to attend a conference in a major metropolitan area. Now, normally you’d just buy your ticket, fly out there for a few days, and then come back after the conference was over – this would be a mistake.
Alternatively, you should think about what in-person meetings you can take while you’re at the conference. Not only should you find out which of your customers are attending the conference, but you should also look to see who is located within 50 miles of the conference. If there’s at least one, then it’s probably worth it to reach out and see if they’re open to meeting with you.
Whether it’s an impromptu meeting with a major customer while you’re on an unrelated business trip or a special meeting to build a deeper relationship with a client, in-person meetings need to happen. They’re more effective than remote communications, they help foster better dialogue in the future, and can provide key insights into how your customers think and plan for the future. By knowing how in-person meetings fit into your SaaS organization’s structure you can overhaul how you do business.