Nov 17, 2010

Quality Time: when to be there in person

Working for a marketing and sales consulting agency, where some of my clients are hours away by plane, I think keenly about when to travel for an expensive face to face meeting, and when to conduct a phone call, perhaps with a Webex or Netmeeting presentation.

Here are some guidelines I've determined:

Need to be in person when:

* Creating relationships
* Major milestones
* Significant decisions made
* Building of trust
* Showing new creative concepts
* Discovery gathering, or knowledge engineering
* Creating consensus as a group

Over the phone or webex is sufficient for:

* Updates to presentations or analyses similar to those seen before
* Direct transfer of orders among people who have already met.

I have seen poor decisions made on both sides: consultants giving up a major trip and taking a phone call when in fact consensus was needed, or when their client relationship was shaky. I've also seen clients insist on face to face meetings continually even for matters where a phone call is sufficient.

The best account directors will think through the scenarios and consequences of each fly vs no-fly decision.