2021 – What does it mean for sales leaders, travel & relationships? (pt1)

Let’s assume that travel restrictions start lifting by the end of Q1, will it be business as usual by the end of Q2? Personally, I don’t think so – some aspects of business are forever changed. One example is travel. I’ve been arguing for years that businesses are spending too much money on sales related travel (especially airfare). My argument is that many of the F-2-F calls that take place during the sales process can be substituted by virtual calls – and that customers will prefer virtual calls. Mind you, I am not suggesting that F-2-F calls be eliminated, just that many of them are not necessary.

For the past ten years my argument has fallen on deaf ears, with typical responses being “a video call cannot replace the relationship building of face-to-face”. While I don’t disagree, customers are savvier today than any time in the past given the massive amount of information at their fingertips. As a result, the value of relationships has been diminishing over the years.

While “relationship” sales were declining, “solution” sales were increasing in importance. This is one of the reasons I say that all travel cannot be eliminated – most solutions require onsite time and investigation. But the concept of ‘courtesy’ or ‘follow-up’ F-2-F calls is simply outdated.

One of the obvious benefits of reduced travel is expenses (which could go to sales/productivity tools), but that is a secondary benefit. The real benefit is in salesperson efficiency. Think about the rep that has an eight-state territory, would it be reasonable to assume some states would only get touched once a quarter? Then, when he/she arranges a trip there the response is overwhelming, and some customers/prospects must wait until next quarter. That all goes away with virtual calls as travel time between appointments can now be seconds, not hours.

I realize this may be controversial for many – but let’s face it, business has continued with serious travel restrictions in place. I’d like to know your thoughts on this – is business travel, and therefore the sales process, forever changed?

Next up is the “trusted advisor” ….

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