Get on a Plane

Several months ago I was talking to a successful, serial entrepreneur. He had sold several companies and hadn’t had to work for many years. Even still, he loved creating companies and so was at it again with his next startup. After talking for a while, the topic of travel and sales meetings came up. Naturally, he loved chasing big deals and was on the road 50% of the time. His mantra: get on a plane. There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction.

Here are a few thoughts on the importance of getting on a plane:

  • People buy from other people they like (this is one of the reasons the best product doesn’t always win)
  • Collaboration tools like Google Hangouts and Skype Video are good, but in person is significantly better
  • Rapport and strong relationships help when challenges inevitably arise (e.g. bugs, downtime, late delivery, etc.)
  • Body language and subtle feedback are critical when negotiating important deals

While many entrepreneurs fantasize about a world of self-service products with no business development deals or humans selling, the reality is that most startups require a heavy human component. When there’s a heavy human component, there’s no substitute for getting on a plane and meeting in person.

What else? What are some other thoughts on the importance of getting on a plane and meeting face-to-face?

7 thoughts on “Get on a Plane

  1. One of the reasons we never had to open another office with Spunlogic (my first company) was because Atlanta has so many large companies and I was able to meet with them face-to-face. When you’re selling services, especially highly considered, expensive services, having personal relationships is hugely important. You may think you’re selling to a company, but in reality you’re selling to a person (or a group of people), and people want to work with people they like/know.

  2. Communication as you said has 3 major components; 1. words, 2. Tonality and facial expressions and 3. Body language (Kinos). I have a survey that says these communication components when all three are available are: words 7%, Tonality 35% and Kinos 55%. When we are emailing (like now) I am at a severe disadvantage, because all I have is words. Good reminder about communication and building productive relationships and deals.

  3. It might go without saying, but the first sales meetings many entrepreneur have are with angel investors. After knocking on numerous doors in Atlanta, it became clear that the people most interested in my concept were located in other cities. Although it went against my commitment to preserve cash, it has been fully worth the money or miles to travel to meet with prospective investors. Not every trip had a direct ROI, but the cumulative cost is now dwarfed by the money raised. I’ve never had anyone write me a check unless I sat across the table from them at least once – and usually twice.

  4. I have found that getting on a plane is only meets the minimum expectation. Best to live near your main customers in big markets like New York City. Those that come in to sell on a plane are easy to outsell when you live in your customer’s back yard and spend meaningful time with them versus have a long distance relationship and are more than “pen pals”. I did it when I move to NYC and it changed our business drastically.

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