Business travel is often a necessity whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or own a small home based business. Only so much business can be conducted by telephone, e-mail, computer and fax. There will come a day when you need to travel for business and how you conduct yourself will make all the difference in determining your success in getting that new client or sealing the deal.
Always remember that you are representing your company during your entire journey, starting and ending with your trip to and from the airport. Be considerate to airline personnel, hotel porters, restaurant employees and anyone else you meet on your trip. You never know when someone you meet may be related to the CEO of your client company or when someone you treat badly makes a formal complaint to your employer. Stay on your best behavior when you are traveling and you will build relationships that can impact the bottom line. As a bonus you will enjoy your trip a lot more when you treat others with courtesy and kindness.
After your travel reservations are made do some research. Start by studying the customs and culture of your destination if you are visiting a foreign country or by reading an online newspaper from the US city where you will be staying. Use the internet to select a restaurant for wining and dining your client, and make reservations ahead of time. Refresh your memory on the basics of introductions, table manners and gift giving before you leave home.
If you are traveling with someone else, ask that you be seated next to your business associates on the airplane. Sitting together will ensure you keep your conversations confidential and other passengers will appreciate not having to listen to you talk across an aisle or over the seat. Avoid alcohol on the airplane and during your entire trip. Traveling is not an excuse to indulge in alcoholic beverages and your boss will not appreciate being billed for your overindulgence or hearing about your wild antics on the plane.
Prior to traveling familiarize yourself with the gift giving etiquette of the company you are visiting. Be aware that many corporations and government offices have strict rules about accepting gifts. Call the company receptionist or the secretary of the person you will meet with on your trip to inquire about the company guidelines and ask for suggestions if a gift is appropriate.
Use technology sparingly in order to show respect for those around you. Make use of earphones with your laptop or hand held gadgets. Turn your cell phone off while flying and when attending a meeting. If you do have to take a call, let others know ahead of time and leave the meeting when the call comes in.
Be punctual for all of your meetings and dress professionally. Leave your casual clothes for evenings and weekends when you won't be spending time with your client. Plan on keeping yourself occupied on off hours and do not expect your client to entertain you. If you are invited to a casual meal or other activity on off hours, feel free to accept but pay attention to your attire. Even if your host suggests that you dress casually, keep in mind that you are still doing business and make sure you keep the "business" in "business casual."
Refrain from discussing inappropriate issues while traveling such as religion, politics and your latest surgery. Respond respectfully when asked your opinion on sticky subjects then move on quickly to another topic. If anyone, including a client, begins to bash Americans, do not take offense. Tell them you understand how they might feel that way and change the subject. Client meetings are no place to advance your personal causes or opinions.
When you return to your office, send a handwritten thank you note immediately. Let your client know how much you appreciate their hospitality and how much you enjoyed your trip. A handwritten note is much more personal than a hastily sent e-mail.
Paying careful attention to your business etiquette while traveling may help you achieve that promotion you have wanted, seal that deal you have been working on for months or enhance the otherwise lukewarm client relationship. You may not have control over your travel schedule, where your luggage ends up or the clients you need to meet, but you do have total control of your own behavior and your personal attitude By minding your business manners your trip will be pleasant, productive and profitable.
(c) 2007, Lydia Ramsey. All rights reserved. Reprint rights granted so long as article and by-line are published intact and with all links made live.