Back in late 2014 while at Salesforce, I took on a leadership role for 50 bright, enthusiastic sales reps. As I began my integration into the team I decided to meet with all reps individually to get to know them better and uncover some of their key insights about the region. For the sake of consistency and triangulating feedback, I had a handful of simple questions I asked each rep. One of those questions was, “If you could go back in time and give your day-one self one piece of advice, what would it be?” Hands down the most common answer was, “I wish I had gone in my territory to meet my customers in person sooner!”
Regardless of how charismatic your phone personality is, something magical happens when we meet people in person. With the virtual layer of abstraction and distance removed, your customers cease to be fields in your CRM and become individuals you can more deeply understand and build relationships with. After you meet them in person customers are more likely to do things like share insights about their personal motivation to buy our solutions and the inner workings of their organization, not to mention return our calls. Adam Grant, a management professor at the Wharton School of Business, conducted an experiment to highlight the power of getting closer to your audience by removing abstraction. When he had students who received scholarships funded by donations share first-hand, life-changing stories with the fundraising reps, they saw a 400% increase in average weekly donation revenue.