Two out of five people spend half their days in meetings, according to joint research by CMSWire and David Coleman, founder and managing director of Collaborative Strategies.

And I don't have to tell you how many complaints that generates. A lot of people think meetings waste their time. And we get that: people come late, there are often unclear agendas, people arrive unprepared.

But a lot of those meetings today are held remotely. Could that be the problem?

When it comes to meetings and networking in general, would we benefit from more in person contact? We put that question to the test — and present the answers to you in the second of a two-part Discussion Point today. We invite you to also read the first part, Do We Need Face Time?.

The Question:

Should we ever talk face-to-face again?

The Answers 

Randy Chou, CEO and co-founder, Panzura

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Chou's experience spans 15 years of technical and management leadership in the security, networking, and application acceleration fields. Prior to co-founding Panzura, he was a member of the founding software team at Aruba Networks, where he managed the architecture and development of the company’s security software. Before Aruba Networks, he led the development of SSL security and load balancing software at Alteon WebSystems. Tweet Randy Chou

Face-to-face meetings with customers are essential in business. We see how companies are able to correlate the success of sales to the number of hours spent in front of potential customers. At Panzura, we value our customers and potential customers so we make the extra effort to interact in person as much as possible since it is the best way to build relationships and trust.

Another reason why in-person meetings are invaluable is because it shows how much value you’re bringing to the prospects -- attention, time, creativity, trust, etc. Sometimes that can be loss when you’re only speaking over the phone and there is a chance the prospect could be multitasking and not as focused.

While meeting technology and being a cloud-based business both make it so you never have to talk to clients face-to-face ever again, in-person meetings are invaluable. In person, we are able to develop a connection with prospects that are harder to develop over the phone or email. 

Denise Colella, CEO, Maxifier

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With 14 years ad tech experience, Colella has a track record of growing fast emerging technology businesses, at both a global and revenue level. Before Maxifier, Colella served as the chief revenue officer for AudienceScience, where she led the company’s revenue producing operations in the US, Europe and Asia. Previously she was vice president, international, at Right Media, a Yahoo company, where she developed and executed on the company’s international expansion strategy for its advertising exchange. Tweet to Denise Colella.

You may call me old-fashioned, but face-to-face meetings should never be supplanted by technology. Even though you may well have been on contact via email or Skype, the classic greeting when finally meeting someone for the first time, “it’s great to finally put a face to a name,” sums up just how important it is.

Face-to-face communication builds trust and transparency; it deepens relationships and makes them so much stronger, all of which are important in business. Grabbing that quick coffee with a client or meeting for lunch -- those are the times when you actually learn about the person -- more so than in the confines of a meeting. Overall, face-to-face helps to develop the relationship beyond simply a business one.

By nature we’re all social animals; human interaction and relationships are critical. At the end of the day, in business, you’re not selling to entities but to real people.

As most communication is actually non-verbal -- facial expression, posture, gesture -- even on video conferencing it’s difficult to pick up on these important cues. Being physically present in a meeting allows you to fully appreciate what is actually being conveyed.

As someone who travels very frequently, I’m fully aware and grateful for the benefits technology brings, but it needs to be seen as complementary to that face-to-face interaction. In an increasingly frantic, fast-paced global business environment, the time-saving, the efficiencies, and the ability to keep in contact across all channels -- conference calls, email, text, video conferencing, social networking -- is essential in helping support and maintain business relations. However, I think that as a result of all this technology and how easy it can make things, real human interaction becomes more valuable.

When push comes to shove and issues arise or competitors are pushing hard to win a client from you, often it’s that trust and relationship, built up from direct contact, that can help weather the storm. If there’s no relationship it’s very easy for a client to replace a vendor, but having that personal relationship can make all the difference.

Chris Byers, CEO, Formstack

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Byers leads the Indianapolis-based online form and data collection platform. Prior to Formstack, he co-founded an international nonprofit built on remote relationships with partners in Europe, Africa and the US. Tweet to Chris Byers.

Formstack operates a remote workplace. But we don’t feel our clients lose value as a result of our virtual model. Our structure allows the freedom to collaborate with clients when and how they like to work. It also opens up opportunities to connect with a larger global audience, and tap a larger network for new ideas.

With videoconferencing, chat and desktop sharing solutions, we can volley ideas and work on projects together across the miles with few hiccups. But we've found big decisions and large-scale planning discussions are always more impactful in person.

Making time for in-person meetings shows clients they are important -- and being willing to dedicate time and travel resources to milestone meetings or project kick-offs can go a long way in nurturing a good relationship with your client.

Face-to-face meetings can also cultivate more productive outcomes. When everyone’s not in the same room, there’s less urgency to engage in the discussion -- and misunderstandings can occur when you’re missing out on nonverbal cues like body language and eye contact.

So yes -- we should make it a priority to talk to our clients face-to-face on a regular basis. Virtual collaboration keeps the engine of the client relationship running, but periodic in-person meetings provide a tune-up to keep projects and communication on track.

Jamie Anderson, Global VP, Product Marketing, SAP

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Anderson is global vice president, product marketing, for customer engagement solutions at SAP with a specific focus on CRM, e-commerce and multichannel solutions delivery. He is a CRM veteran, with more than 15 years’ experience in the customer-facing solutions space, and has worked with many brands in defining and implementing engaging customer experiences. Tweet to Jamie Anderson.

In the B2B world, face-to-face communication remains the most important channel when customers are making a final decision about buying a product or solution. Since information is readily available, customers come to the table armed with more knowledge than ever before, knowing exactly what they are looking for.

This, in turn, changes the dynamic of that first sales call and the sales relationship, as the customer’s familiarity is already well established, and they will likely expect more from the in-person interaction. Because regardless of all the channels for people to find information about your company and product offerings, that face-to-face connection is invaluable and cannot be found elsewhere.

My opinion is that the salesperson role is changing. It has become less about cold-calling in this digital economy and much more about understanding that the buyer sitting on the other side has already done quite a lot of qualification before engaging with the sales teams. This fundamentally changes the sales cycle.

In a high volume B2B sales environment, people still feel the need to make that emotional connection and see the eyes of the person they are buying from. There is a huge amount of emotion that goes into buying and that is sometimes easily overlooked. To ignore that emotion is to ignore entirely many of the fundamental laws of being human. We are attracted to things or humans, based on how they make us feel about the situation we are in. So, how someone makes you feel about buying from them is an incredibly emotional driver so if we take that away, everything becomes commodity and price.