Updated May 26 at 11:26am

Putting a face to a name

For many small businesses today, digital communications – email, texting, social media and others – have completely taken over. In many ways, this is a good thing. It’s super convenient, efficient and keeps you constantly connected. More

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Putting a face to a name

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For many small businesses today, digital communications – email, texting, social media and others – have completely taken over. In many ways, this is a good thing. It’s super convenient, efficient and keeps you constantly connected.

But some business owners are starting to wonder. Has it gone too far? These days, many people are reluctant to even pick up the phone and make an “old-fashioned” voice call. They’d much rather send an email. Meanwhile, face-to-face meetings are increasingly rare.

But this “technology takeover” has potentially serious consequences for a business, says Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Cellars, a wine-making business focused on being more fun, lighthearted and hip. Business is still built on relationships, and in a purely digital world, relationships can stagnate, or never develop at all.

Trust dips as well, as genuine personal connections are replaced by keystrokes and mouse clicks.

When Houlihan and his partner Bonnie Harvey started Barefoot Cellars, they had no wine business experience. So they paid personal visits to countless suppliers, retailers and potential customers to gain knowledge and build relationships. “The Barefoot brand would never have become successful without meetings, phone calls and recurring personal visits that kept relationships all over the country healthy and up-to-date,” says Houlihan.

Here are reasons to consider more face time in your own business dealings:

• Taking the time shows you care. People want to be valued and appreciated. Spending time with them – whether in person, on a computer screen or, if all else fails, a phone call, is one of the best ways to build a relationship.

• You can provide more personalized attention. This might be the key selling success. There’s no “multi-tasking” when you’re standing face-to-face with somebody (unless, of course, you don’t mind being terribly rude). You have to focus on the other person and respond not only to what they say, but also to their mood and other nonverbal signals.

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