I have a position that requires travel. It is part of being a salesman, you have to visit your customers. Much of my work is conducted by telephone and or email, but there is nothing that can replace face-to-face interaction.
Everyone wants to feel valued and important and it is important to try and make your clients feel that way, even if that is not how you view them. The best possible thing you can do is establish long term relationships with your clients. It is much harder to find new clients than it is to retain them, or at least that is how it works most of the time.
The problem with travel is that it takes me away from the field. If I am not making calls/emails I am not making money, so I have to be judicious with my time and careful with who I spend it with.
I have clients all over the world, but have yet to visit any of my international clients. It just hasn’t made sense. The bulk of my time away from the office has been spent in San Francisco or Manhattan.
San Francisco is easy. It is a one hour flight from Los Angeles. There have been a number of times in which I flew up one day a week, every week. After a while the flight attendants begin to recognize you and you end up getting an extra bag of peanuts. It is one of the perks of the job.
Manhattan is obviously a bigger trip. I fly out over the weekend and return home on the Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. Due to the distance I have to plan more carefully. I confirm and doublecheck all of my meetings as there have been times when I have flown out to meet with someone only to have them cancel on me.
It is aggravating and I am not real tolerant of that kind of behavior. It is one of the few occasions in which my clients hear me berate them. I am not flying 3k miles each way for you to cancel unless you have a really good reason.
Fortunately this is an infrequent occurrance.
In addition to meeting with existing clients I meet with my prospects too. Prospective clients are tough because they haven’t spent a dime with you and may not do so. And when you are in a position like mine where time really is money it is very important to vigilant in managing your time.
It is also a challenge because the initial contact for these prospects are often young people,. The are “straight out of school, have little in the bank account and can smell my expense account people.”
And they are happy to eat dinner on me, get drunk on me and in general allow me to take them around town for free. I find much of that to be boring, just kind of dull. I have been there already, I did my time and I am not going to get drunk with a prospective client or anyone else I work with.
These kinds of meals can suck you dry. There is no guarantee that you are eating with people you like or even find interesting and at the end of the day you go back to a hotel room that has a bed, four white walls and a television.
Sometimes the trips can be fun and relatively enjoyable, but they can also be a real grind and you still have to worry about the office. And when you are on the road managing those affairs can be challenging.
I need to schedule a trip out to New York and am stumped as to when to do it. I am a California boy who doesn’t own any winter clothing and has little interest in spending money to acquire it. I have few friends who own anything that I could borrow and fewer that wear anything that will fit me.
So the dilemma I face is this. I haven’t been out in Manhattan for around 18 months now, I am really overdue. Is it better for me to get out their sooner or can I wait until the springtime. It is a hard call to make, I am still doing business with them regardless of my not having been out there.
But, I could be doing more and the most effective way of making that happen is to hop on a plane. So the question if I wait will they commit the budget elsewhere or will I be able to increase my share by getting in there earlier.