I recently received a request via email. The sender was asking for a proposal from my company for some bookkeeping services. After a lengthy email dialogue, I figured out that the person requesting the proposal was not a good fit for our business.

Several times during the email exchange I suggested that the prospective client and I meet for thirty minutes to see if we could work together effectively. These efforts were cleverly diverted with email responses. The last one indicated that the only time we could provide the services was on Monday afternoons. The final email also indicated that the potential client was going to get additional bids.

After this final exchange, I politely indicated—by email, of course—that we would pass on the opportunity.

As I thought about this experience, it reminded me of the challenges of doing business with people who think that business can be done solely by social media, email and various types of computer generated communication. They attempt to amaze everyone with their productivity which is based on filling up other people’s email inboxes and sending texts at any time that is convenient to them … and expecting an immediate reply.

This was simply another example of technology gone wild.

Last spring, I requested a proposal for some landscaping work. I was very impressed when I met with the owner of the business. However, when he followed up, it was in the form of an email with a link to an electronic proposal. In reviewing the proposal, there were a few changes that I wanted to make. Despite several attempts to modify the online document, I could not figure out how to communicate the changes within the format of the proposal program.

I called his office and discovered that I had inadvertently accepted the proposal as I was trying to modify it. Fortunately, his office staff was very helpful, and I was able to modify the acceptance to only buy the services that we needed.

My interaction with the potential client over the last few days reminded me of the proposal incident. With regards to the landscaping company, the fact that I had met with the owner encouraged me to call his office and work with them. In the case of my prospect, the lack of any personal contact made it very difficult to find a way to work together.

Most social media, email, and many software platforms are really great tools for business. They increase productivity and are very helpful in connecting people. Texts and email can be fantastic tools for scheduling meetings and dealing with transactions.

However, there is no substitute for meeting face to face with the people you choose to work with. My personal rule is that if someone is not willing to spend thirty minutes meeting with me, then I will not buy from them or work with them.

Some will argue that their time is so important that they cannot afford to meet with people. I would argue that you cannot afford to not meet with people. Internet profiles, resumes and Facebook pages are great examples of the need to have personal contact with people in your business and your personal life. What you see online is often not true! We’ve all heard the real-life stories of people whose online persona was completely fabricated or at least greatly exaggerated.

I encourage you to make meeting with people a due diligence step when you consider working with someone. This is even more important when you consider developing personal relationships with someone that you met through the internet.
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