TRANSPORTATION SELLING TODAY
Many believe that successful transportation selling is the ability to establish relationships; however, the sale in transportation represents the beginning of the relationship, not the end. The sale or closing establishes an expectation level on the part of the buyer that is often a prescription for failure.
Selling transportation depends upon identifying and then understanding the roles of a relatively large number of “influencers” in the customer organization and a few critical “decision makers.” Each influencer and decision maker has his own dual agenda — one personal and one business-related. The personal will always come first and influence the decision the most.
The professional buyer of logistics and transportation takes a larger personal risk than with the purchase of a tangible product. The service, once purchased, cannot be returned; it cannot be marked down or sold at a reduced price to recoup any loss; it cannot be warehoused for next season or resold. The buyer has put his professional reputation at risk, possibly jeopardizing his or her own manufacturing process or his own “customer,” and perhaps even his job.
Today’s buyer of transportation is a “professional buyer.” He gets paid to be the company’s expert on logistics and transportation and to expect more from the seller than note pads and lunches. He has little time for anyone who does not help him cut costs; eliminate inventory, speed communications and gain access to top management for quick decisions on important issues. This knowledge places a greater burden on the seller to know and understand the customer and the customer’s market, i.e. his company, his people, his agendas, his style, his potential problems and processes.
Over the past five years, we have seen a dynamic change in overall attitudes, expectations and professionalism. The marketplace no longer tolerates professional visitors or professional beggars. Selling today means leading a team of your company’s key people to provide creative solutions and to assist the buyer in achieving his goals. The seller today must have the ability to consult with the buyer in solving problems beyond the seller’s own boundaries and services. This requires planning, organization, and expert interpersonal skills. It is a demanding and complex occupation requiring specialized knowledge in order to present the carrier’s total package of service and capabilities.
In highly competitive markets it is essential that everyone in touch with a customer deliver a powerful and compelling message about your company and speak the same language taken from the same page of the sales and marketing plan.
The carrier’s sales force, although recognized as the forward line in the marketing plan, are only part of the interaction with the customer. In reality, many people in both organizations may need to communicate and interact. Occasionally, some of these individuals may believe that their business objectives are different than sales. However well meaning and candid the dialogue, these discussions could be detrimental to the overall relationship by establishing expectations or erecting barriers that may never be articulated in a sales situation. Often, this lack of awareness on the part of people not though to be part of the plan can send conflicting or erroneous messages to the potential client.
Many would argue that there should be only be one focal point or point of contact to control the process, however, this is next to impossible in this fast paced world of multileveled access and contacts.
The message is clear “Anyone who touches a customer is in sales”
The sales strategy or marketing plan must be widely distributed or known within the carrier’s organization; with key contacts identified in order to save the customer’s time, focus the selling effort and differentiate your company from the rest of the pack.
The negotiations and closing of the sale however, are best left to experts where expectations set, do not lead to disappointment, frustration and a failure to deliver.
The marketing plan must be an integral part of the management structure. The designated customers, along with the sales force must be treated as assets – assets that require constant attention, cultivation and an ongoing investment in new techniques and processes to keep pace with today’s market. In every industry, the best companies are the companies that rely on highly trained and motivated people. Top management must possess the vision and understanding to nurture the assets vital to success. It must control and direct the critical interaction process that creates lasting value with the desired customer.