Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, caused a stir last week when he said, “I’m about to cancel all my Zoom meetings. I’m done with it.”
More interesting to travel and expense watchers was what he also said at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. The bank’s clients told him that his team lost business because “bankers from the other guys visited, and ours didn’t.” His takeaway? “Well, that’s a lesson.”
For a year now, as the pandemic has raged around the world, we have heard the masses declare the end of business travel. But, in many industries, sales productivity was affected not at all. Famed venture capitalist, Thomas Tunguz, last month found that sales efficiency persisted throughout the last year. So does this mean there will be no reason to head back out on the road when and where vaccinations rise and infection rates fall?
Dimon’s comments provide a very telling clue. When revenue is on the line, he, and surely most business leaders, will not risk losing the leverage an in-person meeting can provide. In fact, Tunguz wrote another post more recently, asking a new question: Will selling in person reprise its role as a competitive advantage?
While he doesn’t answer the question (he’s waiting for the data), I’m confident in predicting that the answer is an emphatic yes.
The biggest factor will be FOMO (fear of missing out). As Dimon found out the hard way, when your competition is out in the real world, selling and making connections in person, while your own team is still making business calls over Zoom and wearing sweatpants in a closet “office,” you lose. As the world opens back up and it is safe and responsible to do so, I expect the road warrior to make a huge comeback. People have been missing — and craving — personal interactions for so long that going the extra mile (or miles, literally) will become not only a sales advantage, but also one of recruitment, as Tunguz suggests.
And when that happens, if you’re a finance leader, you have to ask yourself several, pointed questions: Is your finance team in fighting shape for the onslaught of pent-up sales travel? Are you prepared for numerous marketing events, executive offsites, or team outings? Do you really want to have to stop and ask: Is our expense policy ready?
Most importantly, are you ready?
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