For those of us who are a bit farther along in our careers, business travel is anything but glamorous. For less experienced individuals, however, business travel represents a rare opportunity to get out of the office, network and shake up the status quo.
Unfortunately for the inexperienced, business travel also represents a great opportunity to make a fool of yourself. I know, because I’ve done it myself more than once.
If I could go back in time and give the young Chris Myers a few business travel tips, I would. Since I can't go back and save myself from embarrassment, I’ll instead share my tips here in the hopes that I can influence a young professional or two.
1. Make sure you have a refined message.
First and foremost, whether you’re managing a relationship or presenting a new product or service, you’re most likely on the road to sell something. The people you’re engaging with are probably inundated with pitches of one kind or another, so it’s vitally important to make sure the message you’re delivering is short, sweet and impactful.
Be exceptionally clear in articulating the story of what your product does and the value it brings. When you’re just starting out in your career, remember that road trips aren’t the right time to explore new messages or sales pitches. You want to keep things pithy and impactful, and that means sticking with a refined and tested pitch. Remember that you only have a 30 second window to catch someone’s attention, so make it count.
2. Be memorable.
Here’s the thing about business meetings -- they tend to be sort of boring, especially if you have back-to-back meetings. People and pitches blend together, and it’s easy to become just another face in the crowd. That’s a huge problem for anyone trying to build relationships or sell a product. Plus, business travel can be expensive, and young employees are pressured to justify the cost of their trips. How do you get around this? It’s simple -- be memorable.
Anyone who has met me on the road or seen me on TV knows that I’m a bit of a bow tie aficionado. My bow ties and penchant for colorful pants have become a trademark of sorts. My style helps me stand out in a crowd that otherwise looks entirely homogenous.
In addition, my team and I always try to make sure that we stand out in how we engage with customers as well. For example, we hand out unique video books that automatically play when opened. I’ve yet to encounter another team that has these, and they definitely help people remember us.
3. Behave yourself.
Business travel tends to bring out interesting behavior in people, especially after hours. After all, things like conferences and trade shows are generally held in exciting locations like Vegas and New Orleans, where drinks flow freely. This preponderance of free alcohol -- and the fact that people are outside of their office -- tends to form a perfect storm of debauchery. My advice to people presenting at conferences? Steer clear.
This is one situation where I can speak from personal experience. I wish I could say that this lesson came from my youth, but I cannot. Last year, my executive team and I attended a conference in Austin where I presented to a sizable group. My presentation was on the first day. After the presentation, there was a large reception for all of the attendees. Since my part of the conference was over, I spent the evening with my team, networking and enjoying the open bar. While the evening’s details may be amusing, the next day’s lesson was crystal clear -- don’t overdo it, or you’ll regret it.
The moral of the story is that business travel is what you make of it. Travel can be a fantastic opportunity to grow your sales pipeline, make powerful connections and share the story of your brand. If you remember to keep your sales pitch pithy, be memorable and to behave yourself, you’ll be happy with the outcome. If you don’t, you might end up with a less-than-stellar experience with a hefty price tag.