Client visits are often very important in IT Outsourcing where you get face time with client and get a chance to build the rapport. It also helps to get client perspectives first hand and understand his decision-making/working style.
Such a great opportunity is often WASTED due to the drama that surrounds it.
Here are some suggestions to make it more effective and professional.
- Clients hardly care whether you have rangoli at the door or pretty girl with the garland. Understand that he is coming on business , not on visit to Bollywood studio. So, forget all rangolis/poojas you planned. Making him plant the trees all around the campus or golf cart tour is big waste of time as well. If you really want to give him flavor of Indian culture, he has got it already when he travelled from Airport to Hotel. So, just forget all the pomp and get down to business quickly.
- Respect his personal space as he goes around floor walks. It means that you do not have to clamour all around him. If you have more than 10 people following him all over the floor, it is just like walking in Bazaar. Ideally, you should leave him to wander around the floor and connect with people. He will get much better sense of things happening on the ground rather than attending stage-managed show.
- Western fashion has moved miles ahead since you wore that ‘suit’ in your marriage. You have since grown in size and that ‘suit’ no longer suits you 🙂 So, if you wear it for client visit, it simply looks funny. Plain professional clothing should work just fine. After all, client is not here to see what ‘suit’ you wore during marriage any ways.
- During floor walks, forget stage-managed speeches, rather keep it as an open conversation. So, it is perfectly alright that your team is not able to answer some of the questions. Admitting that you do not have an answer is much better than having a bluff caught.
- Client is not treating you as ‘Slave’, you should not treat yourself either. You should consider yourself as partner. It means that if he needs to go to wash room, you do not have accompany him till then. If he needs to drink water, its perfectly alright that he get by himself. Give him space and earn your respect. Direct your conversation around how you can make this partnership better and valuable to both instead.
- Plan your conversation starters if you are not ‘big’ on conversations. Questions like ‘Is this your first trip to India?’ or ‘Have you been to Taj/Goa?’ are just too common. He might already been asked same couple of times already. Now if you ask same questions again, it might just be simply annoying. Obviously you can not ask ‘Is this your first trip to India?’ every time he visits the country 🙂
- Not all clients prefer to eat Pizza and Coke, as you might have assumed. Plan your lunch/dinner menu carefully. Keep some healthy options on the menu. Ideally, best way to connect with culture is via its food. So, it would be nice to put healthy indian food options rather than junk foods like Pizza & Coke. He might understand more about Indian culture by eating than all the rangolis you had put together on front door.
- Evening parties/get-together with the team can be often noisy affair as clients battle jet lags and loads of curious questions from the group. On top of it, if you request him to dance to Indian numbers, it might be just too much for him. Would be good idea to consult with him before planning team outing. He may be more interested to discuss business with close group of people in quiet restaurant than all ‘band-baaja’ you planned for him.
- Finally, understand the culture where he is coming from. Pre-study of cultural norms would really help. Some cultures do not prefer personal hugs/touches as we do, so better stick to plain handshake. For example, in one of the visits, South Korean client was really uncomfortable from tight hug he received from his Indian counterpart.
Client visits are unique opportunity to strengthen long-term relationships in shortest possible time. So, use it to your maximum advantage. Focus on partnerships/value adds & you will be surprised how it pays in long-term.