As an international paper business operating in fifty-five countries around the globe, the team at PG Paper is without a doubt, a globetrotting bunch, with hundreds of international business trips notched up annually.
With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at the value of face-to-face client meetings for international business. When we have so much technology at our fingertips that allows us to connect from almost anywhere in the world for a telephone call, a Facetime catch-up or a boardroom video conference, what are the key influencing factors in making the business decision to book a foreign trip to catch up with existing or prospective customers? At what point do the scales tip in favor of the visit over the phone call?
The Cost-Benefit Principle
Poonam Gupta, PG Paper’s CEO is clear on the fundamental necessity of taking the time to travel to meet with current and prospective clients, and she is certain that the exponential growth of PG Paper is in part due to her and her team’s commitment to travel:
Poonam said, “Operating in the international business arena means that PG makes full use of all communication tools available to us. Face-to-face meetings are however a strategic imperative. We would, of course, like to meet all of our clients, but the cost-benefit principle is embedded in all of our discussions around building positive client relationships and I am happy with the balance that we have achieved.”
Positive Project Engagement
A recent survey, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit supports this view. Results indicate that project engagement success is as high as 92% if the meeting takes place face-to-face.
PG Paper’s International Business Development Manager for LATAM, Vito Castellana agrees with the findings:
“Meeting my customers has been key to really understanding their business, getting to know each other, seeing where the products are manufactured, as well as getting to know the person behind the telephone calls. It builds trust and it’s also fun! Body language can overcome any language barriers, and you can only do this by meeting up. Meeting a client, getting to know them as a person, as well as understanding their business, is so much more powerful and rewarding.”
People Buy from People
Emma Smith, also from our business development team, who regularly travels to visit her clients in Europe and Africa added: “A face to face meeting gives a whole different layer to communication that just isn’t available in the virtual world of emails, Skype, etc.
After a meeting you always have a much better understanding of a client’s business, their requirements and also their personality which helps you build a much better relationship – at the end of the day people buy from people.”
Verbal & Non-Verbal Communication
The survey also indicated other success factors achieved by a face-to-face meeting include: facial expressions, subconscious body language and conscious gestures, such as a handshake or the offer of a cup of coffee ahead of a meeting.
Phil Brien, PG’s Procurement Director believes that face-to-face meetings are “vital in the digital age and crucial to understanding business”. He added, “client meetings build trust and allow us to develop strong & resilient relationships with our partners for the long term, whilst helping the better appreciation of the many cultures we operate in.”
Creating Strong Foundations of Trust & Confidence
The consensus amongst the PG Paper team is that the time, effort, cost and planning that is often involved to organize client meetings is a worthwhile endeavor. So long as meetings are productive and focused, they are crucial for business success.