For me at least, travelling is not a big time-waster in the sense that I can be very productive too (believe it or not) while sitting at the airport lounge with my laptop, or while waiting to catch my next flight, or simply by "being out of the office", as long as there's WiFi connection back to the company's VPN/Mail Server.
Not sure about other colleagues in the industry, but quite a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of my time at the office is spent receiving and fielding telephone calls (even calls that don't have to concern directly to oneself, but since I'm there physically they pass it to me "because maybe I know and can solve"; mainly tech-support related calls with "newbies" questions from end-users) causing constant interruptions.
So, travelling can be seen as a "productive escape from the office" for purposes of reading & gathering information for a prospective customer or planning for a big project, review your numbers and margins on the Excel price list, doing research online and update your obsolete Powerpoint from 3 months ago, posting on IPVM : ) hehe..., etc. things that are sometimes difficult/impossible to do in the office with others constantly interrupting.
How can my boss be sure that I am productive while out travelling ?? .. I make sure to answer all his e-mails within 3 - 4 hours, the same day.
I love this and agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, I've also had plenty of customers who said they had a budget and that yes, they and only they would be making the final decision and they need this ASAP and would like installation in 90 days. Then they get my proposal - inside of thier stated budget - & all of a sudden, this is going to require a committee or superiors decision and/or we didn't get that Grant we were counting on etc.
email is a huge time waster. In recent years I have learned to delete emails more quickly, I have learned to reply to fewer and fewer of them, and I have tried to teach my direct reports to stop using the Cc line as freely. Finally, I encourage my direct reports to pick up the phone and talk to colleaugues, rather than allow a chain of emails to grow beyond 2-3 replies.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go clean up my inbox. Again. ;)
We have have taken to asking the customer for a scope or drawings by email. We assess what it may cost. We then make a call and email the customer the projected budget to determine if they would like to set an appointment. Many times, they will let us know if it is within their budget, or not.
When we do not receive a scope or drawings, we walk the job as normal. Once all of our information is gathered, we formulate a quick budget and again, call and email to determine if it falls within the customers range of budget.
Many times, unless the decision maker is really persistent we can determine if we are a check bid as well.
Mind you, this is not a perfect process. If we have a good feel for the customer's intentions or it is an existing customer we proceed without the procedure above.