Hi-tech communication can’t replace in-person meeting

Managing Partner and Senior Sales Associate , ICR Commercial Real Estate
  • Aug. 23, 2018

Today’s communication tools include email, voicemail, social media, text and electronic messaging services, video and audio conference calls and more recently, telepresence robots.

Barry Stuart, ICR Commercial

Columnist Barry Stuart, ICR Commercial.

All of these can be useful, but there are times when they just cannot replace a “belly-to-belly” meeting. I have many examples of interactions that started poorly, but immediately turned positive and productive upon meeting the individual(s) face to face.

A great example of this took place last week. I had two telephone conversations over a two-week period with an individual regarding one of our listings.

He was dismissive and impatient on the phone and yet my instincts told me he had a need we could fulfill. He agreed to meet with me; his persona in person was very different from his phone persona.

We had a productive meeting and we now have the potential to consummate a deal.

Ability to read the individual

I find when asking tough qualifying questions it can be difficult to accurately interpret the response. Even video conferencing does not always accurately reproduce the human voice and physical nuances that provide a proper read of the individual; much less with phone and electronic messaging.

The moment I sense there is risk of a communication I’m engaged in going sideways, I’ll stop and attempt to move to a different form.

In-person is always preferred, but when that isn’t possible, audio and/or video communication is second-best.

You’ve experienced it . . . many people react and behave differently when the person they are in conflict with is not physically present.

Three very difficult requests over the years for face-to-face meetings come to mind. In each of those cases, I was able to re-establish trust that had been broken through circumstances largely out of my control.

And in each case those repaired relationships resulted in many more mutually beneficial sale/lease transactions.

How to achieve traction

A client contracted me to represent them in the purchase of an out-of-town investment property.

I made many phone and email attempts to obtain the seller’s agreement, without success. He could not be relied upon to follow through with what he represented.

I proposed he meet me at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport to sign a purchase/sale agreement.

Based on previous interactions with him, I believed there was a 40 per cent chance he would show but nonetheless booked the trip.  The meeting happened, the contract was signed, and the deal closed.

I was dealing with a Vancouver lawyer who was the estate trustee of a commercial real estate portfolio. I had a client who was interested in one piece of the portfolio, a Saskatoon high-rise apartment.

Every attempt to secure a commitment from the lawyer to sell the property was met with ambiguity. She did, however, agree to meet with me.

I flew to Vancouver for the day, obtained her written commitment to sell and we were successful in completing a deal.

I could share more stories, but you get my point. I wish I could say that every “one-on-one” yielded positive results, but that’s not the case.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter how long I’ve known a client or how frequently we communicate; it never replaces the need to meet in person from time to time to maintain a solid relationship.

Do you have a preferred mode of communication?


Born in small town Saskatchewan, I began my real estate career in Saskatoon at a really early age in 1978. Although I can’t claim to be No 1 in North…

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Born in small town Saskatchewan, I began my real estate career in Saskatoon at a really early age in 1978. Although I can’t claim to be No 1 in North…

Read more





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