6 Reasons Why Business Travel is Important

September 7, 2021

Without question, phone- and video-based meetings are easy. But was taking the easy path ever a long-term solution for success? The benefits of in-person business meetings are overwhelmingly persuasive. Sure, we know it’s easy to lose sight of them in the face of online convenience. But as vaccines become more prevalent and we march toward post-pandemic reopening, businesses are reconsidering their travel programs and guidelines for proving value from meetings. So, we did some research and unearthed six of the top reasons why you want to keep yourself and your staff engaged in business travel.

1. To close the deal better

Despite the unsubstantiated click-bait title of “Want to Close 10x More Deals? Have More In-Person Meetings,” this Entrepreneur article still has a point: In-person meetings will generate more and better closings than their remote alternatives. (According to Great Business Schools, the in-person closing rate is 40 percent.) Just think of the number of times you back away from an online transaction before clicking the Order Now button and magnify that by the dollar amount of your deal. In-person closing lets the buyer feel confident in asking more questions more efficiently, which can then increase trust. In-person discussions also promote clarity of communications, which can reduce confusion and post-sale support issues.

Clarity concerns apply to in-person vs. remote communication in general. Even in 2003, a book titled Inside Interviewing: New Lenses, New Concerns took an in-depth study of in-person and telephone-based interviewing and found that while remote interviewing might be better for quantity of discussions and easier data input, in-person interviewing yielded deeper, more insightful conversations, especially with older interviewees. The ramifications for business outcomes should be clear. If you want quality results from interviews and interactions, nothing beats doing them in person.

2. To put skin in the game

It’s human nature: The more we invest in something, the more of an active interest we take in its outcome. Whether or not you paid for the airfare and hotel, we all deeply grasp the sacrifice of time that goes into business travel. Those around the meeting table may be in the same circumstances. Even if they’re not, though, the understanding is clear: You made sacrifices to be here. Others will be inclined to appreciate that (see the law of reciprocity,) and you will act with more determination to make your sacrifice worthwhile.

Having skin in the game can also apply to job-related training. Contrary to many assumptions, many years of studies reveal that, overall, the efficacy of in-person and online learning are roughly equal. However, as experts noted in Training Magazine, some types of learning are better suited to in-person than others. High repetition-style learning does well online, but things like leadership training clearly benefit from the role playing and instructor/group interaction that come from an in-person classroom environment.

3. To avoid risks to business outcomes

Even if you’re the type who loves working from home, there are just as many — or more — distractions for us there than when we work from the office. So it isn’t a surprise that many people believe virtual meetings can present significant opportunities for negative consequences to business, as demonstrated in a survey conducted by business travel advisor tClara.

The survey listed 20 negative outcomes, including ineffective selling or negotiating, lost attention, ineffective leadership, and low tolerance of diverse views among others on the list. Respondents said virtual meetings would more likely cause all the negative outcomes on the list, while just 17% said the negative outcomes would be more likely caused by meeting in person.

 4. To create better ideas

Whether because we perceive inspiration, competition, or fear from in-person meetings, the fact remains that the quality of the ideas we generate when face to face is better than when we’re distant. An infographic compiled by Great Business Schools (mentioned previously) shows some startling advantages when comparing in-person meetings against virtual ones. When in-person, we generate 28.1% more ideas overall. That’s valuable in its own right, but even better is the fact that idea quality/originality goes up by 12.5%, as well. Similarly, the mean level of idea type flexibility increases by 16.7% when face to face. So, if you’re serious about stimulating more, and more creative, ideas, try meeting outside the home office.

side-by-side charts showing more ideas generated, better idea quality, and more idea types generated in face-to-face meetings than in virtual meetings. From GreatBusinessSchools.org infographic.
Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org, updated May 18, 2021

5. To create trust with small talk

According to Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy, we judge others according to their trustworthiness/warmth and competence/strength, in that order, because strength before trust elicits fear. “Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns,” write Cuddy and her co-authors in the Harvard Business Review. “Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.”

Two of the best ways to build trust stem from in-person presence. First, pay attention to non-verbal cues, such as genuine smiling and straight posture. Such factors are difficult or impossible to convey remotely. Second, make time for small talk. Not the “how’s it going, look at that weather!” sort of blather. Real questions that show an interest in the other party’s life. These are the sort of conversations that spring up outside the conference room or over lunch. Such trust is hard to quantify, but it can prove invaluable in negotiations and relationship-building.

 6. To be more profitable

Read on this topic long enough and you’ll stumble over a paper by Oxford Economics USA titled “The Return on Investment of U.S. Business Travel.” Now, full disclosure: The paper is sponsored by two travel organizations, so your mileage may vary, so to speak. But the study’s findings remain compelling:

·      Every dollar spent on business travel yields $12.50 in incremental revenue.

·      The average U.S. business would shed 17% of profits in the first year of eliminating business travel.

·      28% of current business would vanish without in-person meetings.

·      In-person meetings convert roughly 40% of prospective customers into clients; only 16% convert without in-person meetings.

·      The majority of business travelers claim that 5-20% of new customers stem from trade show participation.

So, can your company afford not to have business travel? Of course not. Just make sure you book that travel in a way that controls costs and puts more tools in travelers’ hands.

When your firm books business travel, make sure to use an intuitive, secure booking platform like Etta, powered by Deem to manage travel efficiently and easily.

Main image credit: Alex Knight, unsplash.com

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Deem Editorial

The Deem editorial team brings important, informative commentary and data to travel managers and everyone interested in technology and the corporate travel industry.

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