Shifting your business travel analysis from cost to value

Catherine Nottage
Catherine Nottage

October 14 ∙ 8 minutes read

We’re so used to hearing it now, but the Coronavirus pandemic has been catastrophic for the travel industry. There are daily stories on airlines seeking bailout deals, once popular routes being cancelled, rock bottom passenger confidence and more. And when you come to consider how much airlines rely on the expensive business travel tickets to reach minimum capacities on planes, combined with the working from home norm that Covid-19 has forced, it’s hard to see what the future will look like. Things will, of course, bounce back, but to what extent and exactly when, remains categorically unclear.

A few years ago ACTE researched the reasons why people travel for business. It’ll come as no surprise that the three most common reasons were: maintaining customer relationships (42%), internal meetings (22%), and developing new business (20%). Though these days we are all used to doing virtual meetings, virtual simply isn’t the same as in-person, and this is especially true when trying to develop and acquire new business.

In fact, Great Business Schools estimates that over a quarter of current business would be lost without face-to-face meetings, also suggesting that they generate a 40% prospect conversion rate. For business leaders and sales teams, a return to the road is crucial for business growth. But there is almost certainly going to be a different approach to business travel.

Measuring value vs cost

Last month, Business Travel News (BTN) published an article on “Shifting From Analyzing Trip Cost to Meeting Value”. With the help of a number of senior travel executives from large firms, it explored current views on the future of travel, post-Covid. A common theme across each individual’s view: the need for future travel to deliver maximum value to a business.

Eric Bailey, global travel director at Microsoft explained: “In the past, if I flew to New York, I would line up maybe three meetings. That won’t be good enough anymore. That will have to be eight or ten meetings now.” The reason? To justify not only cost, but also time away from “the office” and carbon emissions.

At his previous company, our CEO, Manoj Ganapathy, found business travel exasperating – because he was unable to assess the value of his team’s travel. “Some months we’d be spending 100k on travel, the next we’d spend 150k. I had no clue what the reasons were for that. Were we meeting more customers? Had airfares increased? Were we booking flights too late?”

It was these frustrations that led him to found SalesTrip, with the vision to make business travel and expense management outcome- or value-driven – thereby making it easier for people to work outside the office or home, so their organisations can thrive in return.

Think about booking travel and claiming expenses directly against a sales opportunity, a marketing campaign, a client project. Not only could it save mounds of time for employees because all the data you need for a trip or expense claim is already there, it could also help business leaders prove that their team’s expenses bill is delivering direct value for the company.

How to calculate the value of business travel

Think of the different scenarios in which your people would likely incur expenses. A salesperson taking a prospective customer out for dinner, a marketing team travelling to participate in a trade show, a consultant visiting a client onsite to fulfil project obligations or a CEO travelling to another office for the company’s annual kick off.

It could be argued that each of these scenarios directly or indirectly generates revenue for the company. But without tying the flight booking or dinner expense to a data record that captures the revenue outcome, how can you calculate the value?

Typically, these kinds of data records are held in a company’s Customer Relationship management (CRM) system and so if you submitted an expense against a sales opportunity or booked a flight against a marketing campaign, you’d start to accrue all travel expenses against the business outcome – no matter who incurred the expense.

That’s why SalesTrip is built on Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM system.

Let us show you.

We’re going to look at an opportunity owned by Steve Salesman, a sales account manager.

Steve’s opportunity with Rose Associates Inc.

Steve is working a large opportunity (worth £250,000). His company has decided that salespeople should have the flexibility to travel to win business, provided they don’t exceed a certain amount of travel expenses budget allocated to the opportunity.

In this example, Steve’s company has given him 10% of the opportunity value as his expenses budget. But that could be set at any level that a company is comfortable with.

Knowing his travel budget up front helps both Steve and his finance team. Steve knows that he has prior approval to travel to his customer, so long as he doesn’t exceed this budget. Finance can forecast the maximum travel expenses bill for this opportunity.

Steve needs to visit some key stakeholders at this prospect

Steve has been asked by the prospective client to attend a face to face meeting in San Francisco to meet with his main contact at Rose Associates (the project owner), the CFO and other key influencers.

Because Steve is already in Salesforce where all the prospect’s key information is logged including their office location, Steve’s trip search is immediate.

Searching and booking a flight

From the opportunity, Steve can double check what remaining travel and expense budget he has for this opportunity to make sure there’s available budget for this new trip.

He can see his own spending and that of his colleagues who have been helping him on this opportunity.

Steve initiates a search for his flight to San Francisco using the trip search option. As his user profile has his home address, the system already knows that Steve’s departing airport is London Heathrow. It also knows that the prospect’s office is in San Francisco so that’s pre-populated too. All Steve has to do is enter the dates for travel.

The flight results are presented in seconds for Steve to browse. He is then able to instantly book right from within Salesforce.

Of course, Steve could also have done everything above from his mobile phone.

The flight booking then automatically creates an expense claim so Steve doesn’t have to.

Now his flight is booked Steve can add accommodation to his trip. He can search for hotels in SalesTrip.

He can book his hotel too.

Again, once the hotel booking has been made, it’s added as an expense to be checked and submitted.

As he’s now booked his trip to San Francisco, Steve returns to the opportunity’s expense budget summary and can see the updated spending instantly.

Now back to understanding the value of business travel.

Steve has just won the opportunity. Because he and his colleagues booked all their travel and claimed any expenses against the Rose Associates opportunity, he can see how much they spent in order to close the deal. He’s pleased as it came in under budget and increased the profitability of the deal. He can easily justify the need for business travel to his manager and the finance team.

In fact, these business leaders can see how much was incurred at each stage of the opportunity, helping with future travel expense budgeting.

Additional benefits of using a single platform mean you have the flexibility to tie business travel expenses to any object from other Salesforce apps.. For example, let’s say you’re using FinancialForce or Kimble for Professional Services Automation, you can align all travel costs to an existing project, clearly demonstrating what is and isn’t billable. In turn, you’re able to see how profitable the project is as all costs – expenses and resource costs – are captured against the project record. If you’re using XCD for HR, you could align travel expenses to an employee’s salary to work out their specific cost to travel.

Ultimately, you’re able to capture spend against any object and shift your organisation’s focus from cost to value for your business – and truly understand the influence of business travel on revenue growth.

If you’d like to see how SalesTrip can help you derive the value from your business trips, book a demo with us.

Catherine Nottage

Catherine Nottage

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