"If you wouldn't mind having a seat in the lobby . . . Would you like a doughnut? . . . Let's see if there's a meeting room available. . ."
Is this the scene at your company when a customer comes to visit? It was at Symbol Technologies before the eventdepartment formalized its corporate visits program, turning these once ad hoc meetings into serious sales tools.
"Customer visits had been one of the areas in which our sales process was definitely lacking. Our competitors would actually suggest that clients visit us," says Joe Spaccarelli, Symbol's manager, events marketing. That's all turned around. Taking advantage of a move to a new headquarters building in Holtsville, NY, the mobile computing and communications company has built a dedicated corporate visits center, and created a system that helps to see that every customer meeting is not only professional and productive, but also offers a consistent brand message.
Here's how it works. When a sales associate or business partner invites a customer or prospect to the company, the meeting must be booked through the events department. Spaccarelli has a dedicated staff person who arranges for a limousine pickup for those flying in, name plates for the meeting, food service, and, of course, a meeting room. Perhaps more important is the paperwork now required. A sales associate fills out a kind of "situation analysis," says Spaccarelli, "which includes the prospect's status, history, and objectives for the meeting." The paperwork is then distributed to every executive who will meet with the client.
Once the customer arrives, the corporate visits center delivers the Symbol message in three main areas. The foyer has exhibits showing the company's financial history (news stories, visits by local government officials, and so on) as well as its product evolution. A demo facility, complete with a supermarket checkout counter, hospital bed, and truck cab, shows the vertical market applications of its systems products. And a boardroom is ready for the meeting. Later, customers might tour the manufacturing plant or the research and development facility depending on their interests.
"The salespeople can't get enough of it," say Spaccarelli. "It's part of a trend toward more customer intimacy and away from bigselling. Our closure rate is phenomenal."