Nowadays, many companies regard business travel as an avoidable cost, as modern technology enables direct interaction at a distance that was unimaginable before. Video conferencing is widely used when it is not possible to physically travel to the customer or partner, but is it really the best method when it comes to business? We have to admit that nothing surpasses personal contact, especially when it comes to establishing an initial relationship with the interlocutor or dealing with sensitive issues.
Let’s consider four reasons that shed light on the central role of business travel and show why it is crucial for business success and that a face-to-face meeting is better than a video conference.
- Fostering new customer confidence
Especially when you have to meet a prospect or a new customer, the face-to-face meeting is essential to establish a relationship of trust and mutual understanding. Emails, phone calls, or even video calls will never allow the same level of interaction and sharing as a meeting in person.
A real conversation allows you to go deeper, enabling you to better understand the needs, doubts and concerns of your interlocutor. The level of empathy that will be created in a physical encounter will certainly be greater, thus increasing the possibility of closing a negotiation or starting a collaboration. In addition, face-to-face communication often avoids possible misunderstandings, especially those that can arise through rushed, written communication. It also encourages a feeling of unity between the parties, an important pillar of corporate communication, which is essential for successful projects.
- Strengthening relationships with existing customers
The importance of face-to-face meetings not only applies to new customers: face-to-face meetings with existing customers are a crucial factor in strengthening and reaffirming the trust that was obtained and built at the beginning of the collaboration, sometimes with great effort.
Furthermore, organizing a live meeting can be an opportunity to propose a new offer and to show concretely how this can be integrated into the business of the interlocutor, something that cannot be done during a video call.
- Increasing the network of contacts
Being in the office all day long, the opportunities to make contacts and grow your business are certainly not very high. But during a business trip itself – perhaps while waiting to embark in the lounge of an airport or on board the plane – there is always the opportunity of discussing business matters with someone who works in an area related to your company’s activities and who may turn out to be a useful contact.
If the business trip includes a trade fair or conference, the opportunities of generating useful contacts are of course multiplied. Never underestimate the value and power of the network of your contacts and the knowledge that can be created, because they can often give rise to unimaginable and valuable opportunities.
- Improving travellers’ skills
The opportunities that business travel provides are not only commercial but also educational for team members. The latter, in fact, have the opportunity of increasing their skills, getting involved and growing their abilities in a new situation. These are experiences that promote cooperation and adaptability, and – not to be underestimated – the feeling that they can make an important contribution to the company.
Business trips can also be organised for training purposes. It is true that many different courses are available online, but the knowledge acquired cannot be compared to classroom training or acquiring skills on the road, having the opportunity to ask questions, clarify issues and interact with teachers.
Without a doubt, travel is a cost that companies cannot underestimate, but the chances of having a positive ROI are equally high. By optimising travel costs through small measures, you can avoid additional costs, so the benefits will be even greater.
In this respect, a travel manager can play a key strategic role in negotiating the best fares, reducing avoidable expenses and informing colleagues about the services included. He or she can raise awareness of the importance of complying with travel policies. By optimally managing travel expenses, it is clear that the gain in new opportunities and business growth will be greater than the cost of travel itself.
Despite the widespread diffusion of new and more advanced technologies, it is difficult to assume that a means of communication will replace direct experience and face-to-face conversation with the interlocutor in the near future.
Through direct relationships business trips enable the creation and consolidation of relationships of trust, establish new partnerships and increase the cultural horizons and skills of the traveller. It is worth considering the careful assessment of objectives and the effect on your business. If the assumptions are positive, there is no reason to reduce the budget!