The Negotiator Magazine

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Unquestionably, face to face regular customer contact is critical to retention and base growth as it would be in any relationship based on trust. In part, this is a matter of tradition and expectation. In part it is the result of true and valuable differences in face to face meetings from long-distance interaction. Let us look at some of these differences.

The mere preparation for meetings with travelers requires a focus on the event that takes the engagement out of the ordinary and into the important category. Travel to see another person is, in itself, a strong statement of their importance.

In person meetings also trump telephones and videoconferences in their inherent opportunities for the informal, casual engagements that occur in any face to face meeting environment and often prove to be the foundation of building and maintaining relationships between any group of individuals. The mere act of "breaking of bread together" at a conference table or in an evening at a restaurant creates a magic bond that we all know to be important in any relationship. Telephone calls, although becoming epidemic in restaurants, simply do not hold forth the same essential and invaluable social promise.

Although agreements are negotiated on telephones all of the time, there is a significant additional value in sitting across a table that is lost a long-distance negotiation. All of us use body language and read it as a major factor in communications. Bereft of these signals as a guide, we miss the nuances that may well make or break an agreement or substantially alter its terms. Profitable major customers are too valuable to risk less than providing them with our full skills in understanding, interpreting and building their relationship. Collaboration, at its root, is a patient and intensely personal process. It must be the core of all profitable major customer strategies. There is no other way to achieve this goal than through face to face meetings.

Humankind is a social animal. To ignore this factor and all it requires and entails would cost even the best of companies its most valuable asset, its customer base and its future.

I hope this helps.

Good luck,
John Baker

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