This week I am focussing, together with Andrew Wilson, Business Development Director EMEA Contraload, on the changes of how we manage external communication with our clients and other stakeholders. The experiences we get in this crisis time of having to stay connected virtually with external stakeholders, will shape the new normal of tomorrow.
Increased willingness to use existing technologies for external meetings
Normally sales people of Contraload would be travelling across Europe by trains, planes and automobiles to connect with customers and the market, but today we are facing a new situation of working from home and being unable to physically meet with our clients. This situation is challenging our skills of making use of technologies provided to us.
The show must go on and we, as well as our external partners, have to rethink the way we communicate. The idea of meeting virtually has become much less abstract to people that made little use of technology before Corona arrived in our lives. We can observe that the overall willingness of having a virtual meeting increased.
Regular meetings are still required since customers still need our pallets and containers to transport valuable ingredients, raw materials and packaging to the factories that make essential products for all of us. We at Contraload know what an important role we play, when it comes to the support of especially the food producing industry in the UK and across Europe in current times.
Businesses have the chance today to make use of this global shift in mindset and accept non face-to-face meetings as a standard. This will create less travel time, less travel costs, less greenhouse gas emissions, etc. etc.
Could face-to-face external meetings be totally replaced in the future?
At the moment, we are maintaining “Connectivity” through virtual means and show the customer that he can trust us to deliver on time, the right product, the right quality and enough products to meet supply chain demand. However, as we highly value the human side of our collaborations with our stakeholders at Contraload, the virtual meetings are not intended to stay the main or only communication tool, once the crisis is over. A strong relationship is built up through the human factor, not through the deals you set up together. People do business with people and physical meetings will remain important to build trust, especially in services. It’s the small things like seeing for example that your client supports the same good cause, the certificate of having planted trees in order to fight against deforestation that is hanging in the reception area, the company values translated to the work floor, etc.. The direct customer contact and physical visits, one of the nicest and most human parts of our job, have to stay. If we stopped physical customer visits, our day to day task of being in contact with clients would lose its charm.
An efficient meeting, virtually or face-to-face – The same rules apply
We also came to the conclusion that the same general meeting guidelines are applicable in virtual meetings as in face-to-face meetings:
- Be well prepared
- “Time is money” – ensure you check the meeting is convenient and the right length
- Send an agenda and presentation in advance to help understanding
- Listen more than talk
- Ask open questions “What do you need and by when “ and “What problems can I solve”
Andrew Wilson, is one of our best dressed sales men at Contraload and he has a point when he says:
“I am old fashioned and every day at home I am dressed to the nines, polished shoes, clean shirt and favourite waistcoat ..if the communication is non video, no problem but if everyone decides to use the video ..then thank goodness I looked my best – after all it is only good manners to respect your customer, audience and indeed yourself ..”
I strongly believe that we can make use of the increased global willingness to do a virtual meeting amongst our business contacts after the crisis in order to increase efficiency in our jobs. The personal contact however and being physically present will stay highly important for creating strong long-term relationships. Therefore, a combination of both ways of communicating, virtually and in person, will create the perfect mix.
Let’s train ourselves in using the virtual tools provided now. Consider this period as the training camp before we can make use of our new skills with external parties for the coming years.
Stay connected and learn!