As shocking as it may seem, being a traveling salesman often leads to… a lot of travel. No pun intended.
The company I work at operates on a global scale, meaning that I get to see a lot of the world. Well at least a lot of airports, hotels and exhibition centers. The thing is that after a long day of consecutive sales meetings or evangelizing your product at a tradeshow or conference, you are often times tempted to head to your hotel room, especially if you are traveling alone which can often be the case.
If you are unfamiliar with business travel, I propose we do a thought experiment together. Imagine being blindfolded, then flown to a mystery destination. Next, you`re brought to a conference hall. What happens when your blindfold is removed? Firstly you have no idea where you are, because you could be anywhere in the world, all these venues look exactly the same apart from some minor décor changes and no windows. You could however say what kind of room you were in, as these conference rooms are all set up the same way.
This led me to believe there was a glitch in my experience of business travel. I love traveling. I was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, and every year I make it a goal to go someplace new. The biggest difference when I travel privately and with the job is that I always take time to absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the sites. On business trips however, I am going from A to B and all the impressions are closed out. Could this be the reason why many traveling salespeople get tired of travel? Are we shutting everything out?
This repetitive experience is ok for a short while, but after a while, you find yourself in a situation where you have wandered around the same airport and enjoyed the same lounge 10 times earlier that same year.
That`s why I started focusing on how I can make the business trip a success for both me and the company. Besides bringing my trusty ABC-Toolkit, which is always a part of my travels. I also make it a point to do at least one thing outside of the hotel during a multiday trip. And it doesn’t have to be anything fancy either, just being able to walk around the city center, or dine at a local restaurant rather than ordering room service. Believe it or not, but it actually makes a world of difference.
One time in Abu Dhabi, I ventured to a local market in the evening. In the middle of the market there was a restaurant sign. Being hungry and ready for dinner i decided to check it out. The sign led me to a backroom and an anonymous freight elevator. What met me when the elevator doors opened was different than what I had experienced in my entire life. Suddenly I found myself on the rooftop of the market surrounded by locals enjoying their dinner and a soccer match with family and friends. Even though I sat there alone, I didn’t feel lonely. I absorbed the smells, sounds and tastes of a more realistic, everyday Abu Dhabi.
How does this make my trip a success for my employer? Well for one thing, it gives me more energy for my meetings and helps to fight away travel fatigue. It gives me something to talk about with my prospects/clients. Little things like talking about how nice the city center was, or how I was dining at this or that restaurant. It can be a great conversation starter, loosening up the tone at the beginning of a meeting, in the airplane or at the lunch table of a conference. You might even meet your next client at the seat beside you. Maybe the most important thing is that it makes your trips more varied and memorable, ensuring that you never stop enriching the work you love.
Do you have any special traditions or things that you do when on business trips? Please let us know so we can inspire and learn from each other.