The life of a traveling sales rep may seem glamorous to outsiders, but ask anyone who has actually done it and they’ll tell you it can be a real tough grind.
While it can be fun and exciting to spend each night in a different town and see the world while you work - sometimes one long trip between cities and countries means managing intense stress and significant pressure.
Delayed flights, traffic jams, technology failures and the phones with batteries that last as long as cake at a kids party can all lead to missed meetings, disappointed customers, and general chaos.
In addition there’s the sheer amount of admin involved in booking hotels, rental cars, train tickets and - if you’re traveling internationally - travel visas.
This frequent travel across towns, states and time zones, can have a serious impact on your health.
Any seasoned and successful traveling sales rep will tell you that you need to develop an efficient routine.
From packing to booking hotels to setting up meetings, and assigning follow-ups - the key lies in making every step of the process a simple and repeatable habit. This will let you focus on the most important part of any salesperson’s job - selling successfully.
We’ve put together the list below covering the three most important aspects of selling on the road that you need to streamline. Use this specific guide to developing an efficient travel routine as a starting point to preserve your health, your sanity and your company’s bottom line.
Also, make sure your read through our detailed report on Managing Workplace Stress in a High Pressure Industry for a collection of expert insights and advice from Mental Health America to help you overcome pressure and prevent stress before it impacts your wellbeing.
Managing Admin on the Road
Some large companies will have dedicated travel administrators who can handle travel admin for lucky sales reps - but most salespeople in the real world work in the kind of environment where they’re expected to organize the details themselves, then submit expense claims at the end of the month.
Reps at fast-growing companies will also be under immense pressure to keep costs down, so simply handing your itinerary to a travel agent and hoping for the best is rarely an option.
Make Technology Your Friend
The secret to saving money and time is to book well in advance. Use the latest technology to help you keep a tight hold on your wallet and your sanity.
There are plenty of great apps out there but we specifically like Hopper. This app lets you set the dates you want to travel, then notifies you when the best rates are available for flights and hotels. This means you don’t have to trawl through flight booking sites, closing hundreds of pop-up windows.
If you’re traveling regionally or to the same destination frequently, airline loyalty programs may come in handy. Consider the value of working from the airport and weigh up the value of choosing an airline that includes the use of a free hospitality lounge. You’ll save money on food and beverages - and you can punch out some of your irritating admin work in peace with decent wi-fi and a comfortable environment.
There are a few basic things you’ll need every single trip - let’s call it a survival kit.
Once you’ve put this together, you’ll find it so much easier to maintain your kit and refer to your checklist drop before every trip. It should definitely contain the following:
- Clear ziplock bags
- Nail clippers
- Physical copies of your travel documents
- A phone power bank (charged)
- Ear plugs
- A blackout mask
- Aspirin or paracetamol
- Spare socks and underwear
- A change of clothes in your carry-on bag
Invest In Decent Luggage
You’re going to be spending a sizable chunk of your life pulling your bags through airport terminals and there’s nothing worse than a suitcase with a mind of its own. The last thing you want to deal with after a day full of draining meetings is a bag that goes careening off like a malfunctioning shopping cart.
Likewise, if you’re carrying a backpack, satchel or briefcase - you’ll want it to be comfortable, breathable and filled with enough pockets and pouches that you can store the stuff you need frequently in an easily reachable spot.
Don’t Neglect Your Fitness and Health
Most people underestimate the effect general travel (particularly flying), has on their body.
The combination of a changing routine, pressurized cabins, pre-packaged food, being seated for extended periods & the added stress of rushing for flights can really take their toll - especially if you have to travel regularly.
Dehydration, exhaustion, susceptibility to infections, and even depression are all well-documented effects of frequent flying.
Don’t Live on Junk Food
When you’re in strange surroundings, it is natural to find comfort in something familiar, so we tend to opt for fast food over an unknown local restaurant with unfamiliar food. You’ll find the secret is in the planning.
Ask your clients to recommend local eateries. Reaching out for this small favour will establish rapport and give you a personal connection you can lean on in future meetings. Better yet - the locals have the best tips!
If you’re staying for a longer period of time, consider renting an Airbnb instead of a hotel room.
Cooking for yourself will almost invariably be healthier and cheaper than eating out every day. It doesn’t take much skill to throw together a decent salad or a tasty pasta dish, and exploring the food markets of a new city can be one of the best ways to experience the unique culture of a new destination.
Look After Your Body on the Road
- If the city you’re in is safe, try walking in the evenings when you explore instead of relying on Ubers or taxis.
- Stay active during your entire day. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, carry a backpack rather than pulling a suitcase, and stretch regularly during long flights.
- Incorporate bodyweight exercises you can do in your hotel room, such as crunches, pushups, or yoga, into your routine.
- Stick to your eating routine. Don’t skip meals. Wherever possible, meet with friends for a home-cooked meal or if you have an apartment - make the effort to prepare a quick meal yourself.
- Lay off the booze. We know you’ll be invited for after-work drinks by your clients and it’s hard to say no. Just try and stick to healthy amounts. No one needs to travel with a hangover.
Make Sure Your Brain is Rested and Ready
The potential psychological dangers of business travel are real for every salesperson, according to Scott Cohen, deputy director of research of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey:
“Business travel has a wide range of physiological, psychological and emotional, and social consequences that are often overlooked, because being a ‘road warrior’ tends to get glamorized through marketing and social media.”
Frequent travel has been linked to feelings of loneliness, alienation, and depression. You don’t have to accept these side effects of continued time away from home.
If you have a family or a loved one back at home - try and talk to them every day, even if it’s just for a short period. Even if you just check in with a different friend when your work day is done, you’ll find it easier to maintain a connection to home and reinvigorate yourself to avoid prolonged bouts of isolation.
Make sure work doesn’t dominate your entire trip, even if you’re super busy with continual meetings and follow-up activities. You can make time for yourself with some of these simple additions to your day:
- Try to stop working at a set time every day
- Carve out 30 minutes to read a book or a newspaper
- Grab a coffee or tea at a local cafe
- Go to the cinema
- Explore the city on foot with a walk around your hotel
- Relax in a park with a few snacks
There is always pressure to work every minute of the day while you’re traveling, otherwise you feel like you’re wasting time - but this fast pace only works in the short term.
How to Switch Off and Preserve Your Mental Health
You need to find a repeatable habit to help you switch off work mode and build this into your travel routine.
Proactively prepare some of your schedule to make sure you have time to unwind. You can use this time for yoga, swimming or just to try some conscious breathing exercises at the end of your day. These practices have been shown to lower stress levels, enhance feelings of wellbeing and even improve sleep.
Meditation may be the best of all of these self care options. You can practice mediation almost anywhere to relax and decompress and even ten minutes can make a huge difference to your mental health during a high pressure work trip. This excellent meditation app guide from Healthline gives you a collection of free downloadable apps you can try to help you practice meditation on the road without the need for a costly trainer or teacher.
Always remember that travel is supposed to be fun and broaden the mind. Try to experience the destinations you’re working in. Don’t end up with a passport full of stamps and a memory bank exclusively filled with boardrooms, hotels, rental cars and airport departure lounges.
Developing Your Work Routine
The most testing part of working in traveling sales jobs is wrapped up in the difficulty of sticking to an efficient routine.
Sales is a high-pressure profession. So much of your job is already beyond your control, so once you start throwing travel, accommodation, meetings, client lunches, traffic jams and delayed flights into the mix - an efficient routine becomes even more difficult to maintain.
You can lean on helpful technology to minimize your admin and reduce that stress and pressure. A simple, sales-specific CRM is your best friend in this situation, acting as scheduler, personal assistant, memory, and manager - all in one.
Keep Your Work Compartmentalized
Usually, traveling sales reps will spend a portion of their time at their home office and the balance on the road.
This usually means you can package up one set of duties reserved for your regular office to give you clarity while you’re on the road.
This helps you to manage stress while you travel. You can focus exclusively on your travel-related portion of your role without juggling other work, confident in the knowledge you’ll have dedicated time to get this done on your return.
The best routines become habit. Don’t break the rules or these office and travel tasks will bleed into each other. Try not to leave your ‘office work’ undone with the idea that you’ll fit it in during travel. This will add so much more pressure to your trips when so much is out of your control and you can’t be sure you’ll have the right environment to complete the work.
Group Your Meetings Together
Grouping meetings by region is one of the simplest ways to shave hours off your traveling time. A sales-specific CRM with a map view of prospects and clients is invaluable when you’re planning and scheduling meetings on the road.
If you have five clients in one city, you really don’t want to get there and realize that you’re traveling past three of them on your way to your second meeting of the day. Doubling back is a productivity crusher.
The right CRM can help you out with this admin nightmare. We’ve added a new Nearby View to the Pipedrive mobile app to help you be more efficient with your time by working on deals that are near each other. The Pipedrive mobile app has been updated to show you the companies, contacts, and deals on a map view.
Create Value From Unexpected Free Time
Things don’t always go as planned. Traveling to a meeting, only for the client to cancel at the very last moment, can be a huge time-suck. You can also use the Pipedrive app’s nearby view to see if there’s someone else you could see in the vicinity.
Similarly, if a meeting ends early, you can check to see if there are any other contacts you have in your pipeline in the local area.
Time is a key resource for you. You never know when that last minute meeting or quick coffee chat will help move your deal forward.
Good Scheduling is Key
If you’re seeing key customers infrequently, they may have a lot more to talk about than you think. Meetings will run over, people will arrive late and there will be an expectation that they have your full, undivided attention. This is as it should be.
You need to plan your entire trip like a military operation. Build in overrun buffers, traveling time, and some open slots to deal with any surprises that may crop up.
Good sales-specific CRMs will have a scheduling tool that will give both you and your clients a great visual overview of your time. You can read through Pipedrive’s detailed instructional article to understand exactly how the Pipedrive scheduling tool allows you to simplify the admin involved in managing multiple meetings.
So the next time someone says something like: “Bill Gates over at Microsoft tells me he’s been looking for a service like yours for years,”you can schedule a meeting for the next day or later that afternoon right there on the spot, rather than the next time you’re in town.
Choose Your Transport Carefully
“When I was traveling for sales I was primarily driving, so I allowed ample time to get between appointments,” Randy Wilson, Inside Sales Rep at NW Test Solutions, Inc.
“Once I made a trip from Portland OR to Seattle WA and due to a bad accident where a truck lost its load of lumber, I was tied up it traffic for hours - even though I left at 4:00AM. I did not arrive in Seattle until 1:00PM - I sat in traffic canceling my AM appointments or seeing if we could meet later in the day. The next time I went to Seattle I took the train up on Sunday evening, rented a car, and saw appointments that week - it made for a much more productive trip.”
We might all be in love with our cars, but sometimes relying on trains, taxis and public transport is the better option, especially if you’re in big cities where parking is at a premium.
If you must drive yourself, use an app like Waze, which shows you the nearest parking lot to your destination.
Managing Hiring a Car Rental
Sometimes driving yourself is the only option. You’ll always be under pressure from your accounting department to rent the cheapest car possible. But if you’re going to be doing a lot of driving, this may not always be the most economical choice.
Tommy Fabello, an account executive at SaaS company Linksquares, explains that the right vehicle can exponentially improve your productivity on the road.
“I did some outside sales via car for an entire summer", Fabello says . “I always found renting a minivan was a huge advantage. Ample room in the back if you need to use the computer during your drives. They even had ones with the pop up tables, it was a road office.”
The extra productivity boost is often well worth the few hundred dollars more.
If you’re already taking advantage of an airline’s loyalty program, it definitely pays to investigate their rental car partnerships. Almost all of them have deals that reward frequent use and will help you stretch both your budget and your legs. The more you fly and drive - the cheaper it gets.
The world of rental cars has also changed significantly over the last few years, and you’re no longer confined to the traditional players. Check whether the area you’re traveling in is serviced by an app like Getaround, which offers peer-to-peer car rental at hourly rates. The choice of vehicles is usually much wider than from traditional players and you’re only paying for the time that you use the vehicle, not by the day.
Manage Your Calls on the Go
You’ll quickly learn to take and make sales calls everywhere, whether in the back of a cab or in an airport departure lounge.
Make sure you use the call logging feature of your mobile CRM to track calls, make notes and set up reminders on the spot.
You may have a memory like a steel trap, but even the best of us let little things slip when we’re on our third cross-country flight of the week or exhausted after tossing and turning in a strange hotel bed.
Rule number 1 of efficient use of time on the road:
Log updates and notes into your CRM as soon as you walk out of your meetings.
Don’t rely on your memory and bunch up tasks to attack in bulk when you get home. You’ll pile pressure onto yourself and you’ll start to notice details slipping through the cracks.
Develop a routine that prompts you to update your CRM straight away.
Pipedrive’s mobile app allows you to update and manage your pipeline and activities wherever you are. So take the time to move your deals in your pipeline immediately after meetings, mark activities as done and schedule follow-ups.
And app-savvy salespeople continually point to the value of having Pipedrive’s simple CRM in their pocket whenever and wherever they go to make it easy to update their sales pipeline fast.
The Pipedrive app’s user ratings speak for themselves (and you can use Pipedrive’s app for iOS, Android and Chrome):
This insight from a sales consultant at a payroll SaaS company explains why the Pipedrive app is his favorite helper while he’s traveling on the road.
“Everything in Salesforce requires time, especially the mobile app. With Pipedrive I call businesses on-the-go and it’s logged. I upload business card data without even turning on my laptop. The app is perfect.”
Maintain Your Pipeline and Fall Back on Your Process
The beauty of an activity based sales strategy:
You always know exactly what to do next.
A structured sales process will automatically focus and prioritize your work for you. While you’re busy on the road, you can fall back on your process and your sales CRM to tell you exactly what activity you need to complete at any given time.