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At the 2013 Summit, Jacquie Meyers, President of Meyers Transportation Services, made shipper-carrier collaboration a “hot topic” with an impassioned plea to both sides to take a more enlightened approach to working together. Her argument was that this is the best way to reduce freight costs. Since this plea resonated so well with the attendees, Jackie was invited to come back and participate in a panel discussion on this topic with another carrier and two prominent shippers.

This year Jacquie was joined by Elias Demangos, President & CEO, Fortigo Transportation Management Group, Anna Petrova, Associate Director, Supply Chain, Ferrero Canada Ltd., and Susan Promane, Director, Supply Chain, Whirlpool Canada. To lead off the track, Jacquie was asked to provide a definition of a successful shipper-carrier partnership. She expressed the view that true shipper-carrier collaboration is the opposite of a poorly-run freight RFQ that goes to 105 transport companies with the lowest price carriers being awarded the freight. Jacquie stated that a true shipper-carrier partnership is based on honest communication, trust, commitment and investment. A 2, 3 or 5 year commitment allows her company to invest in equipment and develop special customer service solutions. While there is room for “good” RFQ’s, working together will achieve greater efficiencies and cost savings.

The two shippers on the panel presented their views on what it takes to make this happen. Anna Petrova suggested that they key is “alignment on strategy. The carriers we hire are an extension of our brand.” Since retail customers can “fire us” or “punish us” for poor performance (e.g. poor case fill rate, poor on-time service), the shipper and carrier must perform in these areas. On-time service is a carrier KPI and it is up to her carriers to provide the service.

Susan Promane reinforced this point by highlighting the importance of “execution.” She stated that very few carriers operate as true partners. Susan mentioned that she shares her annual goals with her carriers and monitors their performance on a monthly and annual basis. While she agrees with the concept of a multi-year commitment, to her that means 2 years since the world changes too much in that time frame to lock in for a longer period.

Anna suggested that there is value in “formalizing SLAs” (service level agreements) so as to clarify expectations with respect to trailer drops, dedicated CSRs, service reports etc. Providing a carrier partner, particularly a new partner, with this information helps build trust and creates accountability. When a carrier meets their service expectations, they aren’t just talking the talk; they are “walking the talk.” Susan also emphasized the importance of tracking safety, EDI compliance and billing accuracy.

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In my 2012 year-end blog on Trends in Transportation, I identified a number of areas where I expected to see some changes in 2013.  One area I highlighted was the expectation that we would begin to see more Innovation in Transportation.   In my view, Freight Transportation has lagged other industry sectors in the Innovation space.  I also questioned the shelf life of the current transactional model of Freight Brokerage.    Many freight brokers still rely on faxes, phone calls and e mail to run their operations.  In this era of tablet computers, social media and smart phones, this industry would appear ripe for modernization.

When you look at the consumer travel agency business, an industry somewhat analogous to freight brokerage, one can see the transformative power of innovation and technology over the past ten to fifteen years.  It looks like some of these changes are finally coming to the freight brokerage industry. Here is a peak at two companies that are likely going to transform this sector of the freight business.

 

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For the past week I have been reading with great interest the postings on the LinkedIn Sales Management Group.  As of the date of this blog posting, there have been over 40 responses to the question, “What advice would you give a new salesperson”?  The tips offered were so good that I thought I would share a “reader’s digest” version with the followers of this blog. 

As I read these suggestions on a daily basis, I see two sets of users for these tips.  First, new sales reps should study this list and make sure they take action on every item.  Second, sales managers should take this checklist and cross reference it with their current (and future reps) to ensure they maintain a winning team.  Here are my 21 favourite tips for the new rep.

  1. Achieve mastery of the services that you sell.
  2. Achieve mastery in sales skills.
  3. Seek out the top performers on your sales team and learn from them as to how they dress, their work ethic and their communication skills.
  4. Understand how your services compare with those of your competitors.  
  5. Be a great listener so you understand the needs of your prospects.  There is a good reason why we have two ears and one mouth.  Focus on understanding the needs of your customers so you can solve their problems. 
  6. Get to know your prospects before you turn them into customers.
  7. People buy from people, specifically people they like and trust.
  8. Prospect, prospect, prospect.
  9. Learn as much as possible about your customers.  The more due diligence you do up front, the easier it will be to close the sale at the end.
  10. Be persistent and consistent.  Success comes from a strong work ethic.
  11. Be passionate about your company and its services.
  12. Try to sell solutions rather than products or services.  Learn your company’s value proposition and where it fits best.  Sell the value of your solution, not price.
  13. Learn early on to distinguish buyers from non-buyers (i.e. lack of mutual fit/interest/resources, etc.).  This will go a long way towards increasing your income and your employer’s income while reducing customer acquisition costs.
  14. View yourself as a profit centre.  To be successful, time management is critical.  Spend your time, energy and resources on the most viable opportunities in your sales pipeline.
  15. Be ethical in all of your business.  Remember, you are selling your (and your company’s) credibility and integrity.  If you lose your integrity, you have nothing to sell.
  16. Invest in yourself.  Continually upgrade your product and business knowledge and your sales skills.
  17. At the end of the day, when all of the other sales reps have left the office, make one more call to a new prospect.
  18. Acquire a CRM tool and use it faithfully every day.
  19. If you are having difficulty in one or more areas of your sales pipeline, this is telling you that you have a weakness in specific areas (e.g. prospecting, obtaining appointments, asking for the sale). Take action to turn these weaknesses into strengths.
  20. While the sales job can seem very lonely at times, don’t forget sales is a team sport.  Work closely with your manager and the rest of your team (e.g. drivers, dispatchers) to achieve your goals.
  21. Always ask for the sale.  If you don’t ask, you may not get. 

I am sure there are many more tips that can be added to the list.  What advice would you give to new freight transportation sales rep?  I would love to hear from you.

 

This year’s Surface Transportation Summit will take place on October 16, 2013 at the Mississauga Convention Centre.   Please block out this date in your calendar.  We have some great speakers lined up for this year’s event.

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For Carriers, it is all about Service and Solutions

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Last Thursday night, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a Shipper-Carrier Roundtable along with a number of old friends and colleagues.  The event was organized by CITT, sponsored by Shaw Tracking and moderated by Lou Smyrlis, editorial director of Business Information Group, publishers of Canadian Transportation & Logistics and MotorTruck Fleet Executive.

As I was driving home, I tried to reflect on some of the most important messages I heard from my fellow panelists that night.  There were two that stood out.

First there was a comment from Doug Munro, president of Maritime-Ontario Freightways, about the importance of delivering good service.  While this may seem so obvious that it is not worth mentioning, it was the passion with which Doug delivered this message that stood out for me.  Doug made reference to the airline industry and noted that there is no acceptable norm other than 100% arrival of its planes.  Nothing less can be tolerated.  While it is fine for a surface transportation freight carrier to report a 98 or 99% on time service ratio, these statistics acknowledge that the company is failing 1 or 2 times out of every hundred deliveries.

Doug mentioned that one of the keys to his company’s success is to provide excellent service.  He highlighted that Maritime-Ontario Freightways is able to gain market share either through the service failures of his competitors or poorly executed acquisitions. He emphasized how he and his management team which he highlighted was the best he ever had, were all focused on instilling this message in their employees.

This message repeats itself in almost every shipper project that my company gets involved in.  During a carrier procurement exercise, shippers focus as much on service as they do on price.  A carrier that submits competitive pricing, but has not been able deliver consistent service will often find itself replaced during a freight RFP process.

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