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A few years ago, I wrote a blog about some of the major changes that were and still are shaping the world of Sales (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/does-your-trucking-company-still-need-an-outside-sales-force ). In that blog, I suggested that economics, technology, and customer requirements were raising questions about the value proposition of an in-house sales team in the freight transportation industry.

A few days ago, I read an article posted by the Business Guru Club (https://businessguruclub.info/outsourced-sales-management-how-does-it-work/ ) that made the argument that Sales is a functional area like Accounting. Companies can benefit by outsourcing their Sales operation as they do their Accounting activities to a for-hire third party.

“For small businesses trying to launch their own sales department can be very difficult, time consuming and above all – risky. If sales don’t start to come in and you have to dismiss staff a lot of time and money has been wasted and this could break the 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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During my early days in the trucking industry, I spent a number of years directly or indirectly managing sales teams.  At the time, the sales process was largely focused on number of personal calls per day and on customer entertainment.  While service was and still is important, there was a heavy emphasis on face time with customers and prospects, through a combination of lunches, traffic club dinners, sports events and golf outings.  One company I worked for had a policy of five customer lunches per week and two entertainments a month.  Representatives were encouraged to be “out in the field” making their designated number of calls per day.

The world of transportation sales is going through drastic changes in 2013.  These changes are being driven by three key factors: economics, technology and customer requirements.  Let’s take a look at each of these changes to understand their impact on the sales process.

Economics

During the Great Recession, every trucking company was forced to carefully scrutinize the productivity of each sales person in order to justify their value to the company.    As part of this process, many companies began to realize that expensive car allowance programs, entertainment allowances and travel expenses, coupled with salaries, perks and bonuses made the value proposition of some street sales people quite unattractive. Poor producers were downsized.  In addition to layoffs, detailed cost analyses showed that inside selling, which keeps sales people off the road, can be as much as ten times cheaper than street sales personnel.  Industry estimates show that each contact made by an inside sales rep may cost $25 to $30 while a face to face sales call can cost $300 to $500. 

Technology

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The economic forecasts for the second half of this year do not look too promising.  While there are a few positive signs in the United States (e.g. auto sales, new home construction), the overall trend line still remains slow or stagnating growth.

The Great Recession of a few years ago taught transportation company leaders the value in running a lean operation, to focus on the most profitable markets, to improve yield management and to hold back on making asset purchases.  A recent Harvard Business Review article (CEOs Need to Get Serious About Sales by Ram Trichur, Maria Valdivieso de Uster, and Jon Vander Ark, July 10, 2012), argues that effective sales management is still overlooked by many CEO’s including trucking company CEO’s.  Here are a few thoughts on how to increase the productivity of a freight sales team.

Direct the team to the most profitable lanes and markets

What can trucking company leaders do to energize their sales efforts in a stagnating economy?  First, they need to make sure their sales efforts are very focused and productive.  This starts with sharing the company’s vision and profitable routes with their sales team and ensuring that the team is directed to generating the type of business the company needs most.  An unfocused sales team is an unproductive sales team. 

Think “Network” rather than “Lanes”

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