Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) may be dwarfed by some of the larger UK corporations, but that’s not to say they don’t have the same needs. Whatever the size of a business, keeping in regular touch with clients via phone, email and Skype are the most common ways to ensure all needs are being met on both sides.
But what about right at the beginning of a business relationship? When it comes to sealing the deal, you would be hard-pushed to find a better way of going about it than a face-to-face meeting.
When you’ve made the effort to travel, it not only reflects well on you but also gives you the chance to have an in-depth chat and gauge how a prospective client really feels through body language – something which is impossible to do on the phone and tough on Skype where delays might impact on the quality of the conversation.
With limited travel budgets and fewer resources than their larger counterparts, it is vitally important for SMEs to focus on finding competitive deals in the most convenient way. Here are a few tips on securing excellent deals on corporate travel to take your business to the next level.
If your business has only recently been introduced to the world, think whether you can afford to include travel in your budget. Rent, payroll and other essential costs are non-negotiable but you can dispense with business travel – so decide whether it is feasible in the first place.
Sometimes an impromptu meeting leaves you frantically booking a plane for the next day, but more often than not business meetings are planned in advance, giving you plenty of time to get prepared with your trip, book early and get the best prices.
Alternatively, it can work to your advantage to leave it until the very last minute, although this can prove a risky strategy. Since airlines lose money flying empty planes, they go all-out to fill vacant seats by offering tempting last-minute deals, providing they still have inventory to fill.
If you can, try to fly on cheaper days at cheaper times. You may find this doesn’t fit with your schedule but before booking flights take a look at the airline’s availability before and after your preferred departure and return dates to see when the cheapest deals can be found – as often the savings can been substantial.
Budget where possible
You can save on flights by signing up for email alerts and receive notifications when special deals are on offer, another great way to get deals and receive rewards is through joining your preferred airline’s frequent flier programme, these programs often include offers and discounts on hotels, airport transfers, car parking and airport lounges.
Encourage staff to watch their spending habits when they’ve got the company credit card. Vast savings can be made when everyone is doing what they can to keep costs down, so it’s wise to educate staff on the company’s travel policy. If you don’t have one, make one. This document should consist of clear guidelines about the types and amounts of permitted expenses, as well as consequences for violating the policy.
Accommodation can take a sizeable bite out of your travel fund, so it’s imperative to make your money go as far as possible when booking this aspect of corporate travel. Think ahead to the facilities you’ll need such as conference rooms, Wi-Fi and printers and try to find a hotel or apartment that includes these in the room cost.
Get good at negotiating
Sometimes you’ll get a better deal when you negotiate for a better package rather than argue the price down. If you’re not getting anywhere with discounted flights, you could try enquiring about a free upgrade, or rather than pushing for cheaper hotel rooms you could try negotiating for free breakfasts or airport transfers.
Alternatively, a corporate travel agency can negotiate on your behalf to achieve better rates for flights, accommodation, rail and car hire etc.
Business travel agencies
In fact, business travel agencies can be a godsend for small and large businesses alike. Taking charge of your own travel arrangements takes up precious time, especially when trawling through the internet looking for cheap deals.
From the word go, a trusted agency becomes a single point of contact to take care of each and every requirement, from arranging visas and travel insurance, enforcing company travel policies to flight bookings and room rate negotiations.