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Surprise Visits: Yes or No?

Surprising customers with an office visit is not recommended—unless there’s a legitimate reason to do so like unreturned phone calls or financial problems.

Drop-ins can also cause stress and upheaval to already time-sensitive processes, so it’s better to get in touch, settle on the best time to visit, and tell customers why you’re coming.

For Theo Rumble, president of Fresh Start Produce Sales, Inc. in Delray Beach, FL, BB #:155975 and Mike Horvath, director of sales for Original Produce Distributing, Inc. in Chicago, BB #:210491 there are two instances when unannounced visits may be acceptable:
-when trying to collect a debt, and/or
-when visiting customers at terminal markets.

For the latter, there may be some wait time during loading or unloading, but these customers tend to have pockets of downtime for impromptu meetings.

For visits revolving around debt collection, showing up unannounced can prevent a plethora of excuses and generally puts the issue to rest one way or another.

Are there trucks around the facility? Activity and movement in the warehouse? Plenty of product in coolers? Are there more or less employees than expected? Are associates friendly or is the atmosphere tense? All of these can be indicators of a business in decline.

Horvath said customers will certainly “deal with you a little differently when you’re right in front of them.”

He cites the example of a customer in Cleveland that went out of business owing Original Produce Distributing $9,500.

“If I’d seen them regularly,” Horvath said, “I would’ve noticed their product dwindling down.”

On the other hand, when the financial situation is good, a visit can be more about listening to a client’s needs with an eye toward strengthening the relationship. What can your company do to make things better? Having a purpose in mind, whatever the circumstances, Horvath notes, should always be the first step in the process.

Lastly, if visiting multiple customers or cold calling new businesses, avoid complications by creating a wider timeframe such as late morning or early afternoon to avoid being late. This way, if a previous meeting goes longer than expected or there’s heavy traffic, customers aren’t forced to wait around.