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We’re hopefully at a turning point in Hong Kong’s recovery from the coronavirus. With new cases either at single figures or zero for some weeks now, civil servants have begun returning to work from their offices. Many corporates, including Cognito, are following the government’s suit.

While it’s too early to declare victory over the virus, in many respects life here does feel like it’s returning to some sort of normality. Crowds are back on the streets of the central business district, and it’s getting harder to hail a taxi. Moreover, with social distancing rules being relaxed, people are once more arranging in-person meetings.

For many people, these will be the first face-to-face interactions they’ve had with clients and prospects for some time, so it’s worth planning them carefully. As lockdowns ease in other parts of the world, our experience over these past few weeks in Hong Kong might help you make the best of the opportunity.

The first thing to say is that people are, unsurprisingly, eager to get out and about again. It’s true that some firms here aren’t yet allowing meetings to take place in the office, so being flexible in venue and being prepared to travel to a local coffee shop will stand you in good stead.

This is more important that it sounds – many of your contacts won’t be ready yet to go out for lunch, and meeting in a park, for example, is too informal. Coffee shops are an ideal middleground to ease back into the meeting cycle, and showing willingness to meet near your contact will help if they aren’t yet completely comfortable traveling.

It’s also true that there’s a huge amount still unknown – business strategies have changed and sales cycles disrupted. So going straight into a meeting mobhanded with a fixed agenda may not be productive – or popular. Far better to start nurturing individual relationships again: picking up one-on-one with your contacts and taking the time to listen. 

Remember, too, that they’re going to be busy. Keep it short, no more than an hour – enough time to show them attention but not so much that you’re distracting them. We’ve all had to get used to constant online check-ins during the day, and for many firms in Hong Kong these have stayed in the diary even as employees have gone back to the office. Be extra mindful of the other person’s schedule.

Of course, much of this is standard sales practice, but when there’s been so much disruption to daily and working lives, it’s become more important than ever. It will also position you as a trusted adviser rather than someone who’s just worried about their Q2 targets. Overall, you should be seeing this first meeting as a chance to get insight into what stage your contact’s projects are at, what challenges they’re facing – and how you can help – in much more detail than you’ve been able to via a Zoom call.