Senior Vice President, Business Development
I was having breakfast with a client recently. This is nothing new. I have many breakfasts, lunches and dinners with clients. The breakfast meeting was a really good one. We talked about business opportunities and discussed ways we might be able to help each other grow our respective businesses. We talked a lot about networking and building trust with clients, and that developing new business is a process that requires more than cold calling. It was a nice conversation and a mutually beneficial meeting. However, it’s what happened after breakfast that may have forever changed our relationship—in a good way.
My client is from St. Louis, and we were having breakfast in Chicago. We wrapped up our meeting around 10 am so she could have plenty of time to hop in her rental car and make it to the far northern suburbs for an important noon client meeting. I had a noon lunch meeting as well and had planned to spend the next hour or so catching up on emails that had piled up during our meeting. We walked outside, shook hands and discussed my plans to come visit her and her colleagues at their office in St. Louis in the fall. The sun was shining, and we were both excited about the rest of our respective days.
As I turned to head to my car my client had a look of utter shock and disbelief on her face. She looked up the block and didn’t see her car. For a moment she thought maybe she parked on another block, but that was just wishful thinking. She had indeed been towed. As panic began to set in, I assured her we would figure out where her car was and go get it. I even chuckled a bit in disbelief myself. She would later tell me that chuckle and my statement put her at ease.
As we drove to the impound lot to get my client’s car she was still visibly frustrated by this crazy turn of events. It took her 4 or 5 phone calls just to learn where her car was, and now she was most likely going to be late to her important meeting. After finally learning where her car was she laughed and said to me “Well this certainly takes our relationship to a whole new level! Talk about networking.”
We shared a good laugh, but inside I couldn’t help but think how this whole episode would have never happened if my client and I didn’t arrange this breakfast meeting and take the time to meet with each other. Sure, we email, text, and exchange phone calls. However, we both are big believers in personal interaction. We know that business is still earned, grown and solidified in the face-to-face interactions we have with our customers. True bonding and rapport cannot happen on LinkedIn or Twitter. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big believer in the power of Social Media and developing a network of connections on the outlets that are most appropriate for your business. But, all of the activity on those Social Media platforms can’t replace the dynamic of actual networking and personal interaction.
It’s easy to sit at your computer, tablet or smartphone and fire off tweets and status updates on LinkedIn or Facebook. It doesn’t take much effort to be honest. I do it all the time. I have made many good connections as a result. However, those relationships are strengthened and cemented in the three dimensional world of networking events, conferences, business meetings, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Heck, you may even be in a position to rescue a client in need one day and change your relationship forever. I know I won’t forget this day. I’m pretty sure my client won’t either.
Senior VP Business Development