In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the benefits of in-person meetings and relationships.

In the startup world, it’s very common for salespeople to sell their products through virtual meetings. While these can be useful in certain circumstances, there are other situations when in-person meetings can be much more effective for your businesses.

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thoughts on when it’s appropriate for you to have business meetings in person,  the benefits of doing so, how to utilize such meeting in the best possible way and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:32 Why this topic was chosen.

02:03 Why in-person meetings are good.

02:49 When in-person meetings can be much more effective.

03:41 How in-person meetings can differ from virtual ones.

04:08 How meeting in person can help teams understand each other.

05:26 How meeting someone in person is a more context-rich interaction.

05:55 Why in-person meetings are much less distracting than virtual ones.

07:22 How to determine when to do an in-person meeting.

07:40 How in-person meetings can help with conflict resolution.

10:49 How meeting in person can establish a much stronger relationship.

3 Key Points:

  • In-person meetings are good.
  • There are things that you accomplish faster through in-person meetings.
  • Meeting in person builds trust in a way that might not happen on the phone.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody. This is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about the benefits of in-person meetings, relationships, just like when is it appropriate to meet people in the business context in person, and what is the benefit of that, and how do you utilize that in the best possible way? I realize that especially in today’s world and especially with our audience and our listenership, we’re such tech people oftentimes that we love to utilize more and more technology to reach more and more people. We love automation to scale things up, and all that shit is amazing. We, too, have a particular soft spot and have talked about this many, many times on the podcast on the benefits of doing things that’ll scale, the benefits of human interaction, relationships, the benefits of having a brand that’s particularly human. I don’t know. I’ve had this conversation recently with a few people on very sales-specific on when and how to meet in person and what the benefits and downsides of it is, so I thought it would be a fun episode for us to break down, share some tactics, and just open up the minds of some of the people that are listening to this that are not used to meeting their customers or their users or anybody really within the business context frequently in person.



Hiten Shah: You might be reading my mind here.



Steli Efti: Huh.



Hiten Shah: Because we didn’t talk about this until we just jump in, because I’m sure the listeners by now know how we do it.



Steli Efti: That’s how we do it.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I don’t know. I was talking to somebody, I barely remember who in literally the last couple days. We were talking about, hey, in-person meetings are good. This sounds obvious, but it’s weird because my company is a remote company. All my companies are remote companies, and that’s on purpose. We don’t meet as a team. We don’t even do retreats or anything. We’ve never done them at that company, at the companies I currently work at or work on. I was just talking to somebody, and I was like, “It’s nice to meet in person.” I think there’s something where, in the past, I wouldn’t have agreed. I always felt like I could get things done without meeting in person, even especially with Google Hangouts and Skype and this video stuff and all these things that you can use, Zoom and all this stuff. What I’m realizing, though, is there are things that you just accomplish faster or accomplish with more depth when you can meet somebody in person. I think they go across many different areas of life. One is friends, right, in general. But you can go to business, right? Because, again, you’re right. A lot of people listening might have remote companies and all that kind of stuff, and that’s a trend. But there’s this aspect of being able to see somebody and literally be in their presence that’s a change. It’s different. It’s not the same as talking to them on the phone or seeing them on a Google Hangout or something. You get to actually experience that sort of physical aspect of them, whatever that means, right?



Steli Efti: Mm-hmm (affirmative).



Hiten Shah: I’m not saying you touch them or anything like that. I’m just saying that you’re in each other’s space in way that you’re not when you’re remote, and that can create a different cadence, a different set of emotions, a different set of conversation. I find this extra important when you’re looking to accomplish something with a person, whether it’s a sales sort of thing, and meeting in person builds trust in that case, I would assume you would say. Right, Steli …



Steli Efti: Yeah.



Hiten Shah: … In a way that might not happen on the phone and in other ways, email and things like that. Then, when you’re with your team, meeting in person can really help you understand each other. Because a lot of the context is lost when you’re on a Hangout, or when you’re on the phone, or when you’re in email, or when you’re on Slack. Context meaning, like, we have people on our team that come across, especially some people in engineering, that come across as very aggressive when they write just because they’re short on time. They’re very short sentences and very specific, and they can be abrupt because there’s less feeling that you can understand. But if you met these people in person, one of them … He’s just like a teddy bear, literally. Like, if you met him, you’d think he’s a teddy bear. But he’s this engineer that’s very short and precise and all that on comments and sometimes abrasive, it could come across as, right, and he’s a teddy bear. If you met him in person, you’d be like … If you see him on a Hangout, you’re like, “This is a teddy bear.” There’s no ill will there, right? I think in-person helps you set context level set and gives you this appreciation for the person and the relationship and what you’re looking to accomplish that’s, I think, actually hard remote. This is hard for me to admit, because I like remote.



Steli Efti: I mean, I love remote. I couldn’t agree more with you. I think first of all, when you meet somebody in person, it’s a more context-rich interaction. You have more communication channels because you don’t just hear their voice. You don’t just even see their face. You have the entire body language as a means to communicate both to you and the way you communicate back. So, it’s just a much richer channel to interact and communicate and to understand each other and also to connect, right? The other thing is that it’s a much less distracted way of interacting and communicating. Because no matter how great you are at this, typically when you’re on the phone in today’s world, most people will get distracted and look at their screen at times, or there’s a notification that pops up. They will give you their attention, and you will give them yours, but it’s very rarely undivided, right? But when you’re in person, you sit down in coffee shop or in their office or somewhere outside. You talk to people, and you have eye contact. It’s much harder for you, while they’re talking to you the entire time to be checking your notifications on your phone or laptop. People do that a lot less just because of the way the interaction happens. Man, I mean, we’re humans, and we do like other humans. We like human interaction, and we remember it differently. It’s a much more richer experience. I would say that obviously for most people, if an interaction with another human being is not worth an incredible amount of money, you probably can’t do it every day with every single user or customer or whatever it is, or even with every single employee. But it is important to do that somewhat regularly and frequently. Then, there are situations where I would say it’s absolutely crucial to do it because the in-person conversation or meeting communication will drastically improve the chances of success, right? One thing that I’ll bring up is conflict situations or conflict resolutions, right? If I have a conflict with a customer, let’s say, or an employee, writing with them and trying to figure things out in writing is going to be much more challenging and harder to do than talking to them on the phone or in a video call. Even a video call or a phone call will be much less fruitful than if you meet with them in person. I would grade this based on how big the conflict is, right, how important the person is. Sometimes it’s just hard to resolve things in a communication channel that’s not as humanly rich as in-person communication. So, when there’s conflict with customers or with people, employees, team members, co-founders, if you can, whenever you can, I would always meet in person. It’s funny you brought up the teddy bear that’s abrasive in writing sometimes. I have the same thing, and we’ve talked about this before where one of my co-founders … In writing, he comes across really aggressive and really abrupt and really unpleasant. When you talk to him in person, it’s a much better experience. He comes across much more thoughtful, much more calm in his energy than just aggressive and negative, and so it’s usually a super fruitful conversation. So, I’ve learned … This year, I was traveling. I was sailing in Croatia. I would check in my email or Slack. I would get these messages from him that were particularly unpleasant for me to read, but because I have so much experience dealing with him, I didn’t step into the … I didn’t step into the trap of responding in writing because I knew it would just escalate, and I just ignored it. I just wrote, “I will call you or we will talk when I’m back.” In the moment, he was not happy about that response, but now that we’re both in New York … Yesterday, we had dinner together, and we were able to have a really beautiful and human and just a really, really great conversation where all these issue that we had got resolved in a really beautiful way, in a way that writing back to him and trying to figure these things out in chat would have never succeeded. So, I think conflict is one really big one where I would encourage people to step up the communication channel if possible to meet in person.



Hiten Shah: I like that a lot. I think you can sort things out much faster in conflict, and I would say that having even in-person conversations prior to conflict can actually help you with your conflict as well. There are a lot of tactics to this, like going and actually meeting the people. We work with a lot of dev shops from time to time, and sometimes consistently. Some of them actually like to come see you in person, and they’ll put that on them in terms of cost. Because a lot of them are out of the country and things like that. We’ve found that to be actually really valuable in building the relationship and avoiding some of the issues.



Steli Efti: The other thing I’ll say in the sales context is that meeting in person can establish a much stronger relationship, a much more trustworthy relationship, and one that stands out, right? They had three calls with potential vendors, and then they had an in-person meeting that was really fruitful and positive with you. Most humans will tend to want to do business with people they like, they trust, they feel connected with, so that could be a real competitive advantage. There’s this old, quote-unquote, hack or trick in sales that’s been used countless times and has worked so many times, where sometimes sales people will tend to go to try to get on a call or schedule a meeting or something and then go back and forth and keep following up in email and keep following up and just not getting a response or not getting a timely response from the prospect and just … The relationship is really not progressing, and eventually, they would go … They would just show up at their office and say, “Hey, I was just in the area, and I thought I would drop by and try my luck and say hi.” These kind of just drop-by, drive-bys from salespeople, like, “Oh, I was just in the area. I thought I would drop by and say hi, see if you’re here to quickly chat with you for five minutes,” or bring you some coffee. You know, “It’s 2:00 p.m. I thought I would bring in some coffee since I was in the area grabbing some and say hi.” These have led to multimillion dollar deals. These have led to really incredible things. There’s a story even with Sam Altman who’s heading Y Combinator today. Back in the day, when he was running his own startup where they had lost a really important strategic partnership and decided to basically buy a ticket and fly to New York from San Francisco the other day and then just show up in the office of that potential partner and go, “Hey, we were just in the area. We were really heartbroken yesterday when we got your email that it didn’t work out. We wanted to say hi and chat about this a little bit more.” Then, when they sat down, they were able to figure out some details. They were able to build trust, and like an hour or two hours later, the partner decided, “You know what? Scrap what we had decided prior. Let’s actually work with these guys,” right, and they closed the partnership that ultimately saved the company. There’s so many stories of that. So, in sales, once in a while, not every day, not every time, but once in a while, when it’s a really important relationship, it does makes sense to actually just show up in person if you can progress the conversation and the relationship in other way and try your luck. Obviously, people know me. I’ve taught people to follow up forever, but you can’t show up at somebody’s office every day, not without getting arrested. Right? But it can be a really useful tool in sales if you use it in a measured way and the right way at the right time to show up in person and get somebody’s full attention, be able to connect with somebody on a much deeper level, and then hopefully convince them. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s really something that I would advise and give as a tip at the end of the episode to people to try out.



Hiten Shah: I really like that. I don’t have a tip. I think your tip was great.



Steli Efti: All right. Today we’re going to end up with one tip, then. Either way, we always love to hear from you, so if you guys have any feedback, any questions about this topic or any other, just send us an email,, If you have not done that yet, we’d highly appreciate all the stars and all the ratings you can give us on iTunes. We get this all the time. Once in a while, when I travel, I get a lot of Startup Chat listeners to pick me up from airports and drive me to hotels or show up at the conferences and chit-chat with me. We always love to see you and meet you in person, so if you ever have that desire, and you’re in San Francisco, New York, or anywhere where you see we’re at locally, please be courageous and reach out and say, “Hey, I’m a listener. I’d love to meet you in person.” We always love when people do that and when we can make that happen.



Hiten Shah: See you.



Steli Efti: See you.