A client asks, "I'm the president of a small company. It's been suggested to me by peers and business advisors that I get out and meet my customers on a regular basis. I feel awkward at these meetings, worry that I'm wasting the customer's time, and don't see the value of it. Does it really do any good?"
It's critically important to the growth of any business that the person in charge not lose touch with the very people who help make their company a success. Making periodic customer visits is the very best way to do that. Why?
Peer to Peer
Company presidents like to meet other company presidents. It's as simple as that. No matter what the industry, executives share common issues and appreciate being able to talk to peers.
Taking the time to visit someone in their place of business shows them that they are a valued customer like no phone call or holiday card ever could. Nothing replaces being personally thanked for their business by the company president.
Share a Vision
Paying a visit allows you to talk about your company's plans for the future in a way a salesperson could not, and allows your customer to talk about their plans in a way they might not with the salesperson. Hearing about the customer's future plans enables you to think long-term about your business relationship with this particular company.
Take a Tour
I have never met a company president that did not enjoy giving a tour of their facility. It's usually very interesting and you will come away with a better understanding of how their organization really operates.
When two company presidents meet, they often think of several people they know that they think the other should contact. This usually doesn't happen, though, unless the two presidents are face to face. They may even offer to make an introduction to someone that you have always wanted to speak with but haven't felt comfortable contacting for one reason or another. Prior to the visit, you may want to think about who, in your network, they might like to meet.
Observe the Salesperson
How does your salesperson really interact with the customer? What do they actually say? What might they be neglecting to mention? Though company presidents often interact with their sales staff on a regular basis and may even manage them, they are often in the dark about how they conduct customer calls. Accompanying them is a great way to observe your sales staff first hand.
Proactive Beats Reactive
Some company presidents visit accounts only when the customer is extremely unhappy and may take their business elsewhere or to help close a large deal. Seeing accounts only in these two extremes makes executives hesitant about paying an ordinary visit. Use these visits to get to know your customer better so that when something does go wrong, or your assistance is needed in selling, you will be in a position to be even more helpful.
Most company presidents that I work with make the same comments after coming back from a client visit. They say they feel "relaxed," "re-energized" or "more focused." Many say they have a renewed appreciation for the jobs their salespeople do. They always, always learn something that they wouldn't have if they hadn't visited an account in person.
So get out there and visit those valued accounts. Start slowly. Make sure the first few visits are to accounts where you feel relatively secure. Once you're comfortable, schedule visits on a regular basis. You will be glad that you did.