29 Weeks and Counting

business-travel-covidThat’s how long my national “traveling” sales job has incurred ZERO travel.

Obviously the world changed drastically in the first weeks of March 2020. I had a New Jersey trip planned for the second week of March that I heedfully postponed. At the time, I thought I was being overly cautious because several of my national sales brethren were still on the road and traveling normally. But early reports of spiking virus numbers in New York and New Jersey piqued my concern and I decided to err on the side of caution. Besides, my next eight weeks were booked solid with trips scheduled to all corners of the United States.

My Delta Skymiles and Marriott Bonvoy points were headed for a spring windfall, so postponing one trip should barely make the radar. But then Tom Hanks tested positive, spring training got suspended and the NCAA basketball tournament got canceled. Travel advisories and restrictions were starting to come into effect. Borders were closing, and that’s when I knew I could shred my 2020 travel schedule. When the NCAA literally threw a $1 BILLION check into the garbage, I knew my busy travel schedule was caput.

So, what have we learned about business travel in the past 29 weeks?

Non-essential travel is truly non-essential.

This seems obvious now, but as a business traveler who spends more than 50% of working hours on the road, determining which trips were non-essential was not always an obvious choice. When you spend most of your time traveling to see customers, it is very easy to compartmentalize ALL customer trips as essential.

I believe that will change in the post-COVID future. Business travel will definitely be prioritized and divided into essential and non-essential. The old 80/20 rule will be re-employed and partially loyal customers, non-populous territories, and new product hunches will all be getting a Zoom call.

Handshakes and hugs are reservation only.

We all miss normal human contact, and as a business traveler locked in an office for 29 weeks, I really miss shaking people’s hands. I have always enjoyed a firm handshake and eye contact to start a relationship with a new customer or salesperson. But with reports increasingly pushing handwashing and limiting contact with others, this trend is definitely on a downward slope for now and the near future. Public health officials everywhere have called for the minimization of touched surfaces that are shared, and encourage everyone to “wash your hands” for everyone’s health and safety.

But what are we losing from this change? It is proven that a simple handshake helps to create human bonds. A 2008 study from the University of Iowa found that the gesture helped release oxytocin in the brain, in turn, building trust between strangers and helping to sustain cooperation—the cornerstones of all good business relationships.

COVID-19 practices of non-contact and social distancing have all but eliminated the handshake. Even fist bumps are frowned upon in some circles. Unfortunately, handshakes and hugs will be reserved for close relationships and good friends you haven’t seen in a long time. I will have my pocket-sized sanitizer at the ready for anyone willing to make the gesture.

I miss my reps.

Our sales team consists of manufacturers’ representatives who manage their territories and sell our products on a daily basis. They cultivate and maintain the relationships with the distributors, engineers, contractors and municipalities that keep the purchase orders rolling in. When I travel to their territory for a presentation or job-site visit, most of my interaction with customers is brief and direct. My true road relationships are with my reps, who I’ve logged many miles and hours of windshield time with over the years. Traveling with my sales team is the joy and verve of this job and I look forward to getting back out there with them as soon as it is safely possible.

It’s important to know that Safe-T-Cover is still open and here for your enclosure needs. Despite travel restrictions, we are still able to meet virtually.

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