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Phoenix Forward

5 times when conference calls are no substitute for face time

Two collegues meeting face-to-face

While the days of the old school “road warriors” — those business people who logged hundreds of thousands of airline miles per year — may be waning, there is still a place for face time in business. Here are five scenarios for when “face-to-face” is still the best way to do business.

1. When you’re working with a new client.

When it comes to establishing relationships with new clients, face time is key, according to Scott Goldberg, DBA, a full-time marketing instructor for University of Phoenix as well as a faculty-training manager for the University’s Asia-Pacific Military Division and a marketing industry veteran with 20 years in the business.

“There is an emphasis on saving travel expenses at a lot of companies today; however, most companies will still allocate a percentage of their budgets for sales travel,” he says. “Initial introductions to a new client are best-suited when they are done in person. It gives the client a sense of confidence that they are dealing with a real entity.”

2. When it’s a “big deal.”

When it comes to multimillion-dollar contracts, major one-time purchases and other complex transactions, there is no replacement for old-fashioned face time, says Goldberg.

“I believe that for some very expensive items, it is always best to negotiate business transactions face-to-face,” says Goldberg. “The cost of travel and setting up meetings should be built into the project budget, and considered a required selling-related expense.”

3. When the “sale” depends on the person, not the product. 

“I believe that while the world is moving toward the concept of virtual business, there are still some areas where face-to-face is the best method,” says Goldberg. “In some industries, each of the various sellers are offering the same product. The actual sale takes place because the personality of the buyer and seller connect. Some purchasing agents do prefer to see a live person — they get a sense of security knowing that this person can answer their specific concerns.”

4. When managers need to keep tabs on virtual workers.

While telecommuting has become commonplace in companies both large and small, it does create some challenges when it comes to how supervisors manage their remote workers. “Supervising virtual workers can be a problem,” says Goldberg.

Requiring telecommuting workers to have some face-to-face interaction with their supervisors (even if it’s only once or twice a year), explains Goldberg, can help improve the lines of communication and ensure that remote workers are pulling their weight.

5. When it’s time to hire or fire employees.

In today’s era of tight travel budgets, managers can supplement traditional face-to-face meetings with videoconferencing, using programs like Skype™. “Skype can be a wonderful tool for managers to keep in touch with their sales force in particular,” he explains. “For example, a sales manager can hold a weekly meeting with the sales staff on Skype to keep abreast of current developments [and provide incentives.]”

Two exceptions: the moments when you have to hire or fire employees. At these times, explains Jay Saoud, senior director of program marketing for University of Phoenix, it’s more appropriate to meet face-to-face.

Skype™ is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation.