You likely have your own horror stories of a traveling seller, but you can use technology to streamline your process and free your time for sales.
Kristen Estrada is a regional sales executive with SAP Concur covering the South Florida area. She has spent 20 years selling everything from consumables to skincare, legal services, and now cloud-based software.
During Kristen’s work with a beauty company, she traveled to Dubai with a great team of male sellers who spoke Arabic. She struggled to feel welcome in the foreign culture but she tried to make the best of it. While she was there, she got sick and lost her voice, but she still had to work.
The last day of the trade show, she broke down the booth with her colleagues and then headed to the airport but she had gotten her departure dates mixed up. Her flight didn’t leave until the next day, and though she tried to negotiate an earlier departure, the airlines wanted to charge her $1,500 to change her ticket.
Kristen knew her employer wouldn’t pay that, so she headed back to her hotel, which was already full. She didn’t speak Arabic and the hotel wasn’t being helpful. Out of desperation, she asked her colleague if she could stay in his room for the night.
Perhaps because he knew that would be uncomfortable, he made a phone call to the front desk and got her room back. She eventually made it home the next day, but it wasn’t a great experience for her. In fact, she feels bad when people ask about the trip because she’s certain that others have great experiences there.
From a professional standpoint, she was able to make some connections at the trade show and even sell some products right off the floor. Unfortunately, the lack of support during her stay left her feeling lost and overwhelmed.
During another trip to Miami, Kristen was working for a small business with a very tight cash flow. Because she was close to the owner, she did her best to protect the bottom line by staying in two-star hotels. She loved the job and the products and the company, so she was willing to do whatever was necessary to help.
She and a female colleague were sharing a room near the convention center in what she calls a “dumpy hotel.” They dropped their stuff off after check-in and rushed over to a trade show. When they returned, there was a “boot” on the hotel door, like the ones you find on your car when you’ve parked illegally.
They inquired at the front desk where the clerk told them that their credit card had been declined. It was odd because the room couldn’t have been worth much more than about $59 a night, but they paid the bill with a personal card, stayed the night, and left the next day to find another hotel.
Every traveler wants to stay in a safe environment, but for females traveling alone, this is especially true. Following these experiences, Kristen approached the company leadership seeking the freedom to book her own travel moving forward. She was willing to stay within a certain dollar amount; she simply wanted to book safer accommodations.
As she has continued in her professional journey, she finds that she still cares where she stays when she travels for business. She considers herself lucky to work for a company that values her safety and knows where she is at all times because of apps and technology. If there’s an emergency, they know exactly where to find her. They can quickly get her out of a sketchy situation if necessary.
SAP Concur is a mobile app that allows users to book business trips. It services 40 million customers worldwide, many through the app called TripIt. TripIt is a free app that organizes your trips and notifies you of changes to your itinerary. It also provides safety scores by neighborhood so travelers can book properties where they feel safe.
Companies of all sizes can benefit from Concur. It’s especially affordable for startups because it provides the ability to book travel and create expense reports.
Kristen usually works with accounting departments or leadership teams who inquire about the small business package. It offers a bundled discount and services an entire sales team.
Once you sign up for the service, you download the app and then connect your corporate card. If you’re using personal money for reimbursement, you submit photos of receipts and the app captures those and sends them to an approver within your finance team who can quickly get you reimbursed.
Kristen’s experience traveling abroad often required her to create spreadsheets for her expenses where she made copies of receipts, provided conversions from euros to dollars, and then waited weeks to get her money back. As a seller, she wasn’t getting paid to create spreadsheets, and she recognized the struggle of keeping track of receipts.
“Horror Stories of a Traveling Seller” episode resources
You can email her at Kristen.Estrada@sap.com or find her on LinkedIn.
If you haven’t already, connect with me at email@example.com.
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