Writing an effective travel policy can be a difficult task, but when done correctly, it can save you and your company valuable time and money. Making sure your employees know exactly what they can and cannot do, such as how to book flights and hotels, how much to spend on meals and client entertainment, and when to take leisure time will not only help them to have a better trip, but it will give the company the peace of mind that employees are following procedure. If you are not familiar with how a travel policy works, download our customizable travel policy template and get familiarized.
Business trips are an essential aspect in the working world that encapsulate a wide range of professional roles. Sales employees, particularly, pose issues when it comes to a company’s travel policies. Individuals working in sales may require a much different policy from the average business traveler. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing because adapting your policy for the needs of your sales employees will help them understand their expenses and potentially help you save money.
The sales employee is in another world when compared to the regular business traveler. This does not mean that their travel policy will look like a textbook compared to a paperback, though. The most important thing when setting out to write a travel policy designed specifically for sales employees is to simply know the job and your employee.
A travel policy for the sales employee will mirror that of one for any regular business traveler with some added material and, in some places, looser guidelines. Below, we offer some tips for adapting your travel policies for this category of employees.
Employee Expenses On the Road
Some of the most complicated aspects of travel policies for sales employees include items such as transportation, client entertainment expenses, and phone usage. What normally applies to the occasional business traveler might not fit these road warriors. Here’s what we recommend you consider:
Choosing the Best Transportation On the Ground & In the Air
This section of your travel policies can range from airfare to ground transportation and can include a lot of information on ways to save money. Guidelines include what airlines are off limits and which ones are preferred.
- Air Transportation
Choosing the most affordable flight is always encouraged. Sales employees who primarily work from the road usually want to get to their destinations as fast as possible and then leave them just as quick. After all, time is money. Yet, their flight preferences are not always the most cost effective. Typically, you’ll want to require economy seating, although you could consider letting an employee earn a business or first-class seat after flying for a certain number of miles for the company. Exceptions can be made as well; for instance, if a sales employee is flying with a client, this might warrant an upgrade. For the most part, the seating that is most cost effective should be chosen over luxury, especially if the flight is only a couple of hours long.
One thing to consider is how much time an employee will be out on the road and how long it should, realistically, take them. The travelling salesperson problem may come to mind when thinking of this part of the policy. You might want to offer more flexibility in travel plans when your employee has been on the road for a long time. Think about allowing a non-typical vendor if, for instance, it allows the salesperson to get home more quickly because the airline offers non-stop flights from the departure city.
Considering the frequent travel and changes to plans that plague a sales employee on the road, another possibility to consider would be the possibility of allowing open booking. Letting the employee book their flights, along with hotels and rentals, without having to go through the company planners or travel managers might help the sales employee. This benefit could help to alleviate some stress along with confusion about plans because it allows the employee to book on the fly and in any tricky situations. Check out our 30SecondsToFly article on open booking to give yourself a better understanding. This approach isn’t always recommended but it might work when considering the trials and tribulations of a travelling sales employee.
- Ground Transportation
Since ground transportation is a little less complicated, your choices are going to get easier. Most travel managers have relationships with certain vendors and companies that they set up accounts and recurring deals with. Most car rental companies are nationwide and will be at most, if not all, of the airports your employees fly into.
Make sure to find a good relationship with a vendor of your choice that you feel is reliable. Once you have found a certain brand, or multiple brands, to trust, including in your policies an outline of which rental car companies are covered will give your employees some options while also setting guidelines.
Depending on the type of trip the employee is taking, they probably won’t need an SUV or large size vehicle. In most circumstances, it will be just your employee in the car unless they need to entertain a client. Everything an employee needs to do on the road should be acceptable in a small or mid-size car. Make sure to cover what size of vehicle is accepted. Most things, such as insurance and using the car for other non-work-related activities, can be considered common sense, but it is always a good idea to include such guidelines and instructions to prevent any slip ups or points of confusion.
If renting from a reliable, highly rated rental company, the cars should be in good to great condition. Most small to mid-size vehicles from rental companies will be good for the sales employee who might need to take out clients. While not going over the limit for what cars to get, the employee should try their best to reserve the most affordable and stylish vehicle to exemplify the type of business they will be doing. This will make the employee happy to be driving a nicer car, while ensuring that any possible clients will enjoy the ride and think highly of the company and employee.
Ultimately, for transportation, it’s important to set up a time frame for the employee to book their trips. Would you prefer them to book two weeks in advance, or is on the spot booking accepted? Whatever you decide, make sure it is outlined clearly and is understood by the employee. Two weeks is typically a useful time frame for most employees, but salespeople may need a bit more flexibility due to their constant and quick travel of sales employees. Setting a maximum reimbursement amount for flights and rental cars may also help to encourage the employee to make the most affordable decisions while giving them some freedom to make choices about their travel.
Obtaining Frequent Flyer Miles: Who Do They Belong To?
One crucial travel policy decision, for either side, can be whether or not employees can use their frequent flyer miles for themselves or if the company obtains them. If the employee is paying with a company card, these points might already be checked in under the company name. Employees might be able to use their own cards to obtain points as long as they provide the proper documents for reimbursement after the flight.
In an article for businessdestinations.com, Sandra Kilhof points out that this is a hot topic amongst companies and their employees. With both sides wanting to take the accumulated miles as their own, it is hard to determine who has the right to them. Kilhof quotes a certain anonymous company that says,“the bonus points belong to our employees because whenever they’re sent away on a business trip, it’s time away from their family.” This might be particularly relevant for sales employees because they are often away from home much more frequently than other individuals working in the company.
Keeping your employees happy is always a priority in successful companies. If giving up the right to frequent flyer miles keeps your employees willing to go on more and more trips, it might be for the better to give them the right to claim these miles. Whatever you decide, make sure to acknowledge, in your policies, when and where the employee is able to use their own funds (with reimbursement afterwards) and how to accumulate the points.
Meals: When, Where, and How Much to Eat
A good idea for most travel policies is to use a per diem for food. GSA.gov has a section titled “per diem rates” that could help give you a better idea of how much is reimbursable per state, and many travel managers point employees to this website (and include it in their travel policies) so the employees can understand how much money they will be reimbursed for daily meals. Meal plans that include how much an employee can spend for their whole trip can give them the guidance to choose for themselves when and where to spend their money. This will give the employee a better look at their whole trip and how to budget what they are given while on the road.
While most business travelers need to worry about just themselves, sales employees may encounter times where they are found paying for clients they are courting. This is where the travel policy can become looser for sales employees because the per diem rate might not always give room for covering an employee’s full meal–let alone that of others.
Guidelines can be made about when going over the per diem is acceptable. In some cases, in order to get a sale, the employee may have to go the extra mile. Company preferences do apply, but it is suggested to give the sales employee a little more wiggle room with regard to guidelines. Outlining expenses in bullet form is always a good idea. Giving the employee a straightforward look at what they will be reimbursed for will make everyone’s job a bit easier. Remember, your employees will most likely have the common sense and better judgement to stay within the allotted lines, but everyone is human.
Client Entertainment Expenses
Often on the road, more commonly for sales employees, there will be a time where clients are taken out after normal business hours. Sales employees who are on the road for longer periods of time may have a larger number of clients they are courting. This will put into place a tighter explanation of how much the employee can spend or where it is acceptable for the employee to take potential or current clients.
Most travel policies will outline for the employee to use their judgment to the best of their ability. The deeper details are always up to the company’s preferences. Do entertainment expenses need to be pre-approved or not? Writing this section of the policy will benefit from a knowledge of the particular sales job at hand and what challenges the salesperson may encounter on the road.
The sales world is a large industry with many different outlets. Courting a client can range from going out to dinner or a bar to going to a major sporting event. Some instances may be warranted because of their particular nature that encourages the employee to go above and beyond.
In this case, giving the sales employee looser guidelines may benefit them and their work depending on company culture. On another note, setting up a per diem for entertainment can be a good idea. Much like you would for meals, giving the employee a set number of how much he or she can spend could help. Creating this per diem may be tricky, though. Consider thinking about what a meal for two might cost using the per diem chart previously mentioned. Settling on a number won’t be easy, but try to think realistically about how much an employee could spend and create a number that is comfortable for you and your company. After all, the employee is working and should use their judgment to know what places are acceptable to attend and how much of anything is in excess.
Whatever path is chosen, it is always recommended that the travel manager have a discussion with the employee about any plans beforehand. This will ensure that you are both on the same page and that looser guidelines do not mean anything is acceptable.
Sales employees tend to be on the phone a significant amount of the time. Putting them on the road only increases their phone usage. Designating when and where an employee should use their work and personal phones is key. A number of small things can be reimbursable, for example, any available WiFi hotspot purchases.
Long distance calls may occur while out on the road. Covering all the bases of scenarios will ensure that the employee and company are on the same page as to what is covered and what is not. The employee may need to make long-distance calls from a hotel or a regional branch. Since the sales employee is more likely to make long distance calls, it is wise for the travel manager to articulate the policy on these types of calls and how they will be reimbursed.
The use of a company phone should be kept to business material and interactions. Encouragement to use personal phones during leisure time can cut down data costs and help reinforce the idea that company phones are used for business only. It may get tricky when trying to differentiate before between personal and business calls but this can be fixed by providing a small chart or explanation that covers how a certain percentage of calls will be covered. For sales employees, some companies make the decision that, for example, 50% of all call costs will be covered for the month. Setting up a percentage like so will stop the constant monitoring of what kind of calls are being made.
Spending and Reimbursement
When deciding on the style of reimbursement, it is highly important to remember the current technologies and advancements around us today. Expensable.com’s article 5 Business Travel Mistakes a True Road Warrior Never Makes, reminds us “that gone are the days of relying on the unreliable nature of printed receipts.” Reimbursement of expenses is the biggest part of any business trip that acquires a lot of attention.
A good idea is to inform the employee of other ways of tracking their spending. Many businesses now offer e-mailable receipts. Remind the employee to always keep an eye out for these types of opportunities to make everyone’s lives easier. Simply using one’s camera phone is a great way to archive receipts so that the employee is not carrying around loose pieces of paper prone to smudging and getting lost. Especially when it comes to salespersons, your company will need their receipts because they might be spending more than the average business traveler. At the same time, you want to make their lives easy. Technologies such as Concur’s mobile receipt capture can come in handy in this scenario.
In addition, including an outlined section in your policy that describes how to track spending can make employees’ lives easier.
Make a list of items that are not refundable by the company and add it to the policy like such:
(Taken from our 30SecondsToFly Corporate Travel Policy Template)
- In-flight purchases
- Excess baggage fees
- Pet boarding
- Toiletries or clothing purchased during the trip
- Airline club memberships
- Frivolous purchases at hotels, including movies and minibar drinks
- Laundry and dry cleaning
- Fines from negligent driving (speeding tickets, parking violations, etc.)
- First-class rail transportation
- Airline ticket change fees
Most business trips come to an end around or before the five-day work week duration. For sales employees, this time frame can be much longer and therefore include more options for reimbursement. Most companies don’t cover for dry cleaning or laundry on short trips because it is not a necessity. From a sales employee perspective, they will not be able to effectively pack for a two week trip without having laundry service as a possibility. After all, you want your employees to pack as light as possible so that flying and other travel can be navigated as easy as possible.
In almost all cases of the travel policy, a per diem is the best idea when thinking about costs and reimbursement. Dry cleaning and laundry can be covered for sales employees, but you can set your policy to specify a certain number of times these items will be covered, or, more likely, the numerical amount you will cover. Again, this will help the employee to plan and coordinate their trip making everyone’s job easier. Alternatively, some travel managers elect to simply state that the company will cover expenses such as dry cleaning if a trip spans longer than a certain amount of days. Be aware that this approach can rack up expenses if employees take advantage.
Bleisure and Salesperson Travel Policies
When creating a policy for any kind of employee, one should ask a lot of questions about what could be done while out on the road: Is there a line between personal time and work time? The answer is yes, and it follows with the division of the policy and fine tuning all of its parts.
Becoming one of the bigger aspects of business travel over the past decade, bleisure incorporates leisure time that is added onto either the end or beginning of a business trip. Bleisure is very popular amongst millennials, and when it is taken, it can easily be covered and outlined effectively in your travel policy. Yet, for the sales employee, it seems that leisure time can be a little tricky. Since these road warriors are always out, usually longer than regular business travelers, the designation between work and leisure is key. Choosing when and where an employee can take leisure time will help them to better plan their trips and get work done on time.
If an employee wants to take a couple of days at the end of their trip while they are still, say, in Chicago, that should be outlined in the policy discussing that employees may take time off at the end of their trips as long they are aware that company reimbursement will stop.
As most people who have traveled by air have found out, flying on certain days of the week can be cheaper than others. Encouraging the employee to book flights when they are the cheapest such as flying out on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday or Sunday is a great option. This can be a good way to save the company money and keep the employee happy while giving them some much needed time off.
Final Tips for Travel Managers: Handling Policies for Sales Employees
It is important to remember that sales employees tend to have busier schedules and more complicated travel plans than other business travelers out there. When thinking about the salesperson, one should focus on how these employees need a more precise policy that caters to their amped up work style.
Keep in mind that the goal of the travel policy is to establish a set of rules and regulations to make an employee’s trip more effective and successful. These guidelines are not there to supervise the employee per say, but are there to ensure the company and the employee are both going to be happy once the trip is over. Compromises can be met, and treating the employee like a person rather than an entity that just conducts business will make every part of this easier.
Work with the employee and whenever available, meet with them to discuss any changes to the travel policy. Most of the time, employees won’t check their emails for policy changes. Refreshing your team on the company’s policies before they hit the road will ensure they follow procedure while staying happy about their travel arrangements.
Patrick is a recent graduate of the University of New Haven with a passion for writing and creating thought-provoking content. When he’s not writing he’s either watching too many TV episodes or riding his skateboard.