The hidden benefit of meeting with vendors

With information so readily available today, both clients and photographers can sometimes overlook the importance of in person meetings as a part of our relationship building programs. But for many freelancers and their reps, these in person meetings are still a substantial part of their outreach program both to connect with new potential clients and also to solidify relationships with existing clients.  Understandably, these meetings are very hard to come by because of busy schedules or a lack of perceived need for the service we are offering. I generally try to go on at least 30 or 40 in person meetings per year.  At the same time, I get calls and emails from assistants, retouchers, stylists, etc. offering their services to me on a weekly basis, some who want to meet with me in person.

I recently accepted an appointment with one of these potential vendors.  What surprised me was how much the meeting actually did influence my opinion about whether or not I would have the need to work with this person in the future.  Before the meeting I thought it would be never.  After the meeting I thought of this vendor on at least three separate occasions related to projects I was shooting or bidding on.  Although I have not had any opportunity to use them as of yet, the fact that I was even thinking about it made me hopeful about my own ability to influence the opinions of my potential clients in the same way.  I had two or three meetings of my own later that week, all of which went fantastically.  I am sure having been on the other side of things so recently helped my ability to be empathetic to the client and try to better show them how I could help add to their business offerings rather than focusing on my services alone.

I would recommend both to clients and photographers to accept more sales calls than you might think you need.  I am always surprised how much I can learn from even a short meeting with a new vendor, about the industry, their vision, and how they may or may not fit into projects I am involved with in the future.  And of course, how I can learn from them about the strengths and weaknesses in my own marketing.