The Cloud Revolution and the Traveling Salesperson: Back to the Basics

Navigating sales on the road while traveling in today’s digital world comes with its own set of challenges. | Image Attrib.: Blitz Quotidiano

We’ve all heard of the “traveling salesperson,” right? Even though they may not make cold calls door to door any more (well, as often), sales agents still spend a lot of time on the road: travel and sales remain intertwined.

But in the middle of all those distance visits, trade shows, conferences, and on-the-go selling, it’s easy to forget something. Sales on the go is hard. It takes guts, stamina, and a lot of experience. Modern agents on the move face unique difficulties of their own, even in today’s digital world – sometimes because of the digital world.  

“Nathan” and The Difficulties of Traveling While Selling

You may think that sales out of the office and on the road would be easier than ever thanks to our modern conveniences. Not so. In fact, as traveling salespeople gain more capabilities, their jobs grow more difficult.

Connectivity in particular remains a serious challenge. Let’s imagine, for a moment, a sales agent called Nathan. Nathan is a new member of the sales team, but he has a lot of potential and is quickly sent out to meet some distance clients to close a few contracts.

Like 75% of marketing agents[1. “Sales Professionals Need Connectivity to Succeed,”], Nathan feels like his limited access to Wi-Fi on the road is making it difficult for him to deal with clients. Several times he has tried to log onto the sales platform and cannot update data because of poor connections. In person, Nathan has done what he can to present products, update contracts, and negotiate deals, but he’s feeling a little overwhelmed. The last client was particularly trying and obsessed over the minutia of the deal.

Nathan did not know how to answer many of the questions asked, and didn’t have the right numbers for department contacts back at the office. What Nathan did have was a 15% sales growth requirement, set in stone. He is beginning to think that this goal will be very difficult to reach with current contract wording, but he’s afraid to change anything because of legal concerns.

Nathan’s troubles indicate a lack of appropriate guidelines, but also point to a deeper problem: the lack of necessary independence. A sales rep needs the ability to think and act on their own to reach the “yes.” Agents like Nathan should never be forced into a situation where they have to say, “I can’t make this sale because headquarters is being inflexible on price/delivery/other particulars that could, in reality, be changed.”

The result is a world of travel and sales increasingly plagued by frustration and missed opportunity. The good news is that these problems can be dealt with, as long as the base office is prepared to create a robust support plan for its traveling reps.

Businesses Need to Give Their Traveling Salespeople the Right Tools to Succeed in Today’s Environment

For many connectivity issues, the best solution is patience because our communication infrastructures and technology continue to improve. For example, right now less than a third of airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi, but that number is expected to jump up to 2/3 of all airlines in just a few years.[2. “3 Stats That Forecast the Rapid Growth of In-Flight Connectivity,”]

But there’s still a lot that you can do to equip sales teams for travel, here and now. Best practices include:

  • Recommend and provide the right digital tools. Chief on the list are apps and devices that support online communication for sales reps and provide resources even when offline (here’s a list of handy salesperson apps, for example). Map apps, especially those that integrate with other location-based services, can be a godsend to a stressed-out rep. Always remember to provide easy access to the phone numbers of all key contacts within the company for the rep to use.
  • Increase rep confidence and show salespeople how to proceed without needing step-by-step advice when making cold calls or when visiting important clients. First, amp up training beforehand to give sales agents the tools they need to respond intelligently to clients. Second, put company resources and best sales practices online so agents can sneak a quick peek when they need some advice.
  • Give sales reps the ability to make on-the-spot decisions—potentially with confirmation, but also with an “apologize afterward” mindset if necessary (studies have shown this to be the best choice[3. “Bending the Rules for Better Customer Service is Probably a Good Thing,”]). Clients are more willing to buy if sellers can meet their demands and customize deals on the fly to deal with various uncertainties. Does this mean bending standard contracts, tweaking percentages, or throwing in considerations for free? Absolutely. Legal liabilities exempted, be willing to lose money in the short term to encourage a budding sales rep and win the loyalty of a long-term client.

If you have sales reps who travel long distances, encounter new clients on the road, and have to make independent decisions on sales deals, YESCALATE® can give your company the valuable tools of persuasion that will turn your traveling reps into sales powerhouses. Our program can help them GET TO YES FASTER© on points where your company must remain uncompromising while giving them the confidence they need to weigh options and make in-the-moment decisions that serve both the client’s and your organization’s ultimate goals.