One of the most consistent, persistent and consequential business decisions most business professionals face is when to make the investment in business travel. Especially now, when the lure of high-technology conferencing beckons, it can be tempting to allow the timesheet and the balance sheet to make a short-term return-on-investment choice when a longer-term view could be more profitable.
Laura Longwell, co-founder of TravelAddicts.net and Tripit travel blogger, provides 4 Reasons Why Business Travel is Still Important in her blog, illustrating why some opportunities are best seized by investing in the business trip.
Building Relationships that Close Deals
Oxford Economics reports that business executives who travel for business testify; “roughly 40% of their prospective are converted to new customers with an in-person meeting compared to 16% without such a meeting.”
Simply put, company decision makers favor building new relationships with vendors who take the time to make a personal connection. This makes perfect sense. Not only do most people feel most comfortable doing business with people they have engaged with personally, but they also tend to feel more connection, trust and mutual investment in the relationship.
Building Your Network for More Opportunities
Business travel provides a wider array of opportunities to connect to new business prospects. Sometimes the opportunities occur en route, as you make small talk with other passengers. More likely, however, they take place in the business settings of other prospects, when you happen upon other vendors or industry partners with similar needs.
Validating Your Leadership
Visibility increases perceptions of authority. Client who see you more trust that you are acting with diligence and care about their needs.
Fostering Effective Communications
In many cases, particularly when working with clients and prospects with significant cultural or language differences, the benefit of personal interaction cannot be understated. So much of what we “understand” in communications is non-verbal, and those cues are easily missed in conference calls, emails and online PowerPoint presentations.
The raise of an eyebrow, a furtive glance from a mid-level executive to another, or a big smile are among thousands of cues that help you determine if you’re on the right track with your client – or not.
Deeper Benefits: Team-Bonding & Confidence-Building
In her LinkedIn blog, Caryn Seidman Becker, the CEO of CLEAR, points out two additional critical, yet often overlooked benefits of business travel: team-bonding and confidence-building. She notes that teams who travel together have more opportunities to brainstorm, seek counsel and guidance, and adapt to their teammates’ communication styles. She also finds that feelings of shared success when teams travel together increases their passion for the work, their trust in the relationships and their individual self-confidence.
Recognizing that all business is about relationships, it just makes sense to invest in starting those relationships off strong and fostering them on the most personal level possible. While not every communication must be face-to-face, of course – the bigger the client – the bigger the deal – the more it makes sense to invest in meeting them on their home turf.