Closing the Deal: Face-to-Face Business is Still a Must

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There has been a revolution in the way that we communicate with one another, as technology now allows us to reach people, almost instantaneously, around the world. Mobile technology means we can connect with each other wherever we are, and video conferences allow us to interact over long distances when a face-to-face meeting is not necessary.

While mobile and communication technologies have a critical place in the business world, there is still a need for people to meet in person for business. According to a study conducted by WSJ Custom Studios in collaboration with American Express Global Corporate Payments, face-to-face meetings are still important; and it appears business travel is here to stay.*

The survey was fielded to The Wall Street Journal Opinion Leaders, an online insight community of business executives.* Among the 609 surveyed, it found that 56 percent of respondents are taking the same number of business trips as they were five years ago, or even more. This indicates that business travel is stable if not growing, and some respondents also see the possibility for further expansion in business travel. A total of 68 percent of respondents predicted either the same frequency of business trips or more in the next five years.

Among those respondents who indicated they are taking the same number of business trips or more as they were five years ago, 77 percent said they were traveling more because their role has changed or expanded, but others were taking more trips for other reasons. Nearly a third of those respondents said they felt that it was “more important than ever to hold face-to-face meetings”.

There are clearly some important benefits to meeting in person. For 81 percent of respondents, connecting in person was the best way to build relationships, whether that was in an office context or via entertaining customers. When a business relationship is just starting, the in-person interaction is essential in creating the foundation of the partnership moving forward. In turn, that can make other key elements of business easier - over half the respondents said the best way to solve a problem was to communicate face-to-face. Crucially, nearly nine out of ten respondents said that when it came to closing a deal, nothing else compares to meeting with clients face-to-face.

In addition to problem-solving and relationship building, 38 percent of those surveyed found that meeting in person was considered the best option for proposals and presentation reviews. However, 32 percent of those surveyed said remote communication, through web or video conferencing, was their go-to option for these tasks. 23 percent of respondents said the same of email, meaning that over half of respondents thought proposals and presentation reviews could be done remotely in some way.

Despite the importance of business travel, it’s impossible to catch a flight or train every time a conversation has to happen. Sometimes businesses need to make the most of the opportunities offered by technology to save time and resources.

This may explain why just over three-quarters of respondents to the survey said they were more likely to use technology tools such as web conferencing for business meetings than they were five years ago. Videoconferencing has made it easier to maintain relationships over long distances, reduced costs and allowed businesses to be more agile by enabling faster discussion and decision-making. Technology can play a role in maintaining relationships. But it’s obvious that some critical business tasks should be done in person. Companies’ approaches may be changing, but it appears business travel is here to stay.

In an ever changing business environment it is crucial that companies explore all of their communication options. Technologies can offer certain solutions for employees in regard to their day-to-day operating efficiencies. But, when it comes to closing the deal, 88% of respondents agree nothing is more beneficial than meeting face-to-face.

To learn more about the survey and the findings, please click here to read the infographic.

*In October 2014, The Wall Street Journal fielded a survey to WSJ Opinion Leaders, an online insight community. Among those 609 surveyed: $346,551 is the average household income; 55 is the average age; 40% are C-level executives; and 24% are top management (executive directors, senior vice presidents, vice presidents).

"The Wall Street Journal news organization was not involved in the creation of this content."

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