Prior to 2020, top producing sales executives made it a point to visit key accounts in person quarterly. That was before an abundance of caution over Covid-19 hit the pause button on travel. For the past year, practically all interactions have been via videoconference or telephone.
Now that some states are lifting the restrictions that have put dampers on business travel, companies – especially those with outside sales – are cautiously eyeing a return to full-contact operations.
From a corporate perspective, organizations will jump from having spent next-to-nothing on travel in 2020 to some level of T&L operating expense this year. For the employee who has a travel budget, now is the time to exercise prudence. Grease the skids on getting approval for reimbursement by reintegrating travel gradually. Three good questions to ask:
- Is this travel expense justified? That junket to Hawaii for a few hours of golf with a client is not going to fly this year. While Ka’anapali is nice this time of year (and every other time as well), be a team player and continue to nurture the account remotely for the time-being.
- Can this trip be more efficient? Seek ways of getting in front of multiple accounts in the same market with as short a stay as possible. Be laser focused with your itinerary and solicit your clients’ cooperation to maximize your time in their city.
- What distance is worth driving? Car travel may be the only approved expense for destinations within a certain radius of the home office. Screen time productivity is eliminated while driving, but windshield time is great for phone calls, audio books, podcasts, and thinking.
“And time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much. Are you still mine?”
The haunting lyrics in Unchained Melody, written by Hy Zaret and performed by multiple artists, perfectly capture the angst sales reps may feel before reconnecting with clients after a year without facetime.
Urgencies may have shifted since you last met with them. Needs have certainly changed due to market pressures.
Time spent cultivating relationships from afar during Covid is better than having had no contact, but it’s still not the same as in-person. Humans need connection and face-to-face interaction to build trust.
Remember that there’s work to be done to get back to the same level of trust and commitment that existed before the Covid interruption. A good first step toward rebuilding trust is practicing punctuality. Demonstrate your respect for your client’s schedule. Show up on time and with a calm, cheerful demeanor. Over the past year, we’ve all gotten into the habit of taking 10 minutes between appointments to check notes and attend to personal comfort needs before the next Zoom call. Accept that it may require some retraining to manage your calendar in a way that allows you to be on time for all commitments.
Given the States’ varying stances on re-opening the marketplace, early adopters will thrive on flexibility and adaptability. In one locale, sales calls are happening in parking lots with a briefcase on the trunk of a car. In other cities, account executives are doing the full “wine and dine” experience.
Be prepared for cultural differences when crossing state lines. Ask about state guidelines, local ordinances and company policies when booking appointments to call on out-of-town accounts. Recognize the culture in Austin, Texas is different than in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Culture does not exist solely at the community level. Culture is specific to your company and to your clients’ organizations, as well. At inclineHR, we offer tailored services to help employers manage culture and drive performance in line with company values and critical goals.
Contact us to inquire about our Culture Management Services and team training abstracts.
Building exceptional leaders.