Hard Client Conversations: When Business Travel Isn’t An Option

It’s unfortunate when you can’t travel to work with clients, but it’s also a common problem that shouldn’t be a source of regular conflict.

Challenging situations arise every day in business settings. Often, they’re routine – conflict among people in an office, a client whose requests you’re struggling to meet, or management level issues that are trickling down to impact your team’s daily productivity.

When professional challenges arise, leaders need to confront the situation and address it head-on with their team to maintain trust and transparency. But what happens when the complex situation involves your clients?

It’s not uncommon for professionals who work in different parts of the country, or even the world, to travel to meet in person (either to work on a particular project, network and build rapport). In today’s geopolitical climate, however, business travel isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes it isn’t possible to meet with your clients. Depending on the reason for your travel limitations, if left unaddressed over time, it could overshadow your working relationship.


Visa issues

Visa issues are a major reason why professionals might have trouble traveling. We’ve seen many accounts of this recently. For example, artificial intelligence experts from South America and Africa were denied visas to attend a Canadian conference. At least one of these experts shared how the Canadian embassy was “not satisfied” that she would leave Canada, based on her immigration status and travel history, an issue likely to plague other nonnative professionals.


Prior legal problems

Traveling with a criminal record — no matter how small the infraction or far in the past — can be a problem for business owners. It’s not a subject one wants to bring up with a client on a conference call.

Photo: C. Cagnin, Pexels
Photo: C. Cagnin, YFS Magazine

This can be true for those traveling between countries that don’t require visas (e.g., traveling between the United States and Canada). When applying for an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada (a common and convenient option for international travelers), those with a criminal record may be screened out. Providing proper documentation can help travelers get approved, but it can slow down the process.

It’s always best to complete any necessary authorizations before booking business travel. If you haven’t reserved travel, you won’t need to cancel if something goes awry with your visa or additional authorizations.


Country-wide regulations

Depending on where clients are located, your social media use – even if you consider your presence to be that of a private individual – could be scrutinized and be held against you, so watch what you say online.

For example, China has been especially punitive towards dissidents lately. While most of the individuals targeted by Chinese exit bans are relatives of resident activists, as the trade war between China and the US heats up, US-based professionals could be targeted for travel restrictions. Meanwhile China’s recent efforts to block travel for ‘social credit’ offenses under a system the Communist Party says will improve public behavior can have far reaching implications for your business.


Focus on business travel basics

Perhaps the best way to manage business travel and to prevent uncomfortable interactions with clients is to focus on the basic determinants that make travel successful and those that regularly hold businesses and individuals back.

Do you have the contact information of your local embassy while abroad? Who is your point of contact if you experience an emergency while abroad, for example? What risks could you face? According to research by the Global Business Travel Association, 22% of professionals don’t know who to contact in the event of an emergency while traveling. That’s a problem, and you can’t safely travel unless you’re prepared for a crisis.

Lack of support or additional staff can also make it hard for small business owners to travel internationally to meet with clients. In this case, ensure to create business continuity plans when you’re out of the office and across the world. Meanwhile, before grappling with big international problems that could limit your business travel opportunities, pay attention to what’s happening close to home.

It’s unfortunate when you can’t travel to work with clients, but it’s also a common problem that shouldn’t be a source of regular conflict. The good news is that there are so many other ways to connect with clients, whether through real-time messaging, video conferencing, or even the use of VR when appropriate. As long as you’re finding ways to build connections and collaborate with clients, it doesn’t matter where you land.


Craig Lebrau is the CMO of Media Insider, a Wyoming-based PR company that aims to disrupt the way companies communicate their brand in the digital era.


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