There's no getting around it...for most of us in sales, times are tough. Sales managers everywhere are faced with shrinking travel budgets and getting pressure to reduce their cost of sales. One way to go is simply to stop traveling. This cuts costs, but is death to new business, and ultimately leads to a failed sales plan...and a failed business. In tough times, you need your sales force on the streets more than ever, knocking on doors and bringing in the new business that is still out there. Yet companies have significantly curtailed business travel.
A new survey by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives found that 71 percent of travel managers foresee spending less money on corporate travel and events in 2009. "Business travel is down in the range of 20 to 25 percent on a global basis," according to, Sam Gilliland, Sabre Holdings chairman and CEO, speaking at a recent business travel News symposium. "Even with large corporations, and in particular financial services, you see travel down in the 30 percent range" according to Gilliland.
So as corporate belts get tightened we continue to cut travel budgets, and end up seeing fewer prospects in the bargain. Seeing fewer prospects results in less sales, leading to tighter travel budgets...and a downward spiral that's tough to pull out of.
You don't want to stop traveling, but you still need to cut costs. Here's how you can reduce your travel costs, while at the same time, increasing your sales. The solution is to help your sales force plan smarter sales travel - maximizing the amount of sales calls they make, while expending the least amount of travel effort and dollars.
As the old saying goes, 'prior planning prevents poor performance'. So drill it into your sales reps that when planning sales travel, they need to think ahead. Make sure that whenever possible, they schedule sales calls with companies that are geographically close together. Ensure they create an efficient route that moves logically from account to account, taking the quickest routes that cover the least miles. When looking for hotels, restaurants and other business services required on the road, make sure your team makes every effort to choose locations that are on their route of travel so that they save time and fuel.
So how do you help your sales force work their territory more effectively, intelligently planning out a sales strategy that maximizes time in front of prospects while minimizing travel expenses? First, make sure they have the right tools. Tell them to purchase a laptop travel planning software. There are several products to choose from, including Microsoft Streets and Trips, MapPoint, Garmin Mobile PC, Delorme StreetAtlas, ESRI Business map and more. Most laptop software packages are in the $30 to $50 range, and most offer a bundled GPS receiver, with several of the combined packages running under $80.
With a laptop mapping solution, your team can import their prospect lists into the map, so that they see each account plotted right down to their street address. They'll assign unique identity pushpins to groups of prospects and customers to instantly identify the type of accounts in an area. Seeing the 'big picture' will help your sales people to spot opportunities they might have missed.
Laptop mapping programs incorporate planning tools that help sales people easily plan the most efficient and practical way to get in front of the account with the least amount of effort and expense. They are much more powerful than a Personal Navigation Device (PND) because they allow reps to find prospects and generate 'what if' routing scenarios based on their calls. PND's are great for helping you get to where you already know you want to go - but for sales people, it's more important to decide where you need to go to in the first place.
Choosing a combination package with a GPS Receiver helps your sales force travel more confidently, receiving turn by turn directions right to the prospect's door. Since they need to carry a laptop anyway, using a GPS receiver with planning software will save you a couple hundred dollars per rep as compared to buying them a Personal Navigation Device . And, it's more convenient for them, since all of their accounts are right there on the map, ready for them to route to.
You may be asking yourself - why should I have my team purchase software to run on their laptop when there are free online mapping services...I'm trying to cut costs - right? The answer is - when it comes to comparing online mapping versus laptop mapping solutions, it's best to remember - you get what you pay for.
The features and functionally of the laptop packages far outweigh their online cousins. Laptop trip planning software allows you to load thousands of prospect and customer locations into your map quickly and easily. Your reps can have the map with them at all times, without being dependent on an internet connection.
They'll update their maps with information that is critical to them while traveling their territory, and be able to respond to changes quickly and efficiently. A new prospect just called in? Plot them on the map and see if they fit into the current trip plan. Have a meeting canceled while on the road? Use the search tools to find a new prospect that's within a specified drive time. Need a restaurant with free Wi-Fi on the way to the next client? Quickly search the map and add it to the route.
Planning more efficient sales trips that maximize time in front of prospects, and reduce wasted travel time and dollars will increase sales and reduce costs. Sure - times are tough for those of us in sales. But when the going gets tough, the tough look for new ways to get the job done. Laptop mapping software will help your sales team get it done.