We continue the article sequence underlying the best ways to sell logistics services. In the first article, we talked about how logistics services are different from other services sales and explained the best sales and marketing strategies to use for selling logistics services. You can find the first part here.
In this article, we will talk about typical mistakes that logistics businesses make related to the sales of their services and provide fast fixes. We also will identify new things that happened in the modern sales arena that forces logistics businesses to change their sales processes.
What has changed within sales of logistics services?
Sales of services have changed a lot in the last 10 + years. First, this change happened because the internet and broad connectivity changed how we buy. Earlier sellers had the upper hand because they knew more than buyers, and now, this has changed with the help of the internet. The second major shift is related to the huge amounts of advertisements that your prospects see every day on various channels, and of course, the sales call count they get increased enormously.
So now, your prospects live in an environment of information abundance. Therefore, it’s becoming hard to get their attention with legacy approaches. By legacy approaches, I mean dialing and smiling, identifying pain points, and providing your offering. As a result, modern sales organizations are moving away from the legacy approaches toward the consultative selling model because your prospects are looking for value with each interaction.
And this is not easy to do, as this acquires a lot of business acumen, but this is how logistics businesses can drastically improve results. Moreover, logistics services were previously perceived as transactional, but pandemics have changed this opinion (you can read more here). Therefore, forward-thinking logistics businesses need to create a new value-added sales process. Moreover, this is the best time because many logistics companies still do this in the legacy way. Therefore companies that will be able to implement a value-added sales approach can get better-paying customers.
What do I mean by value-added sales approach? It’s a sales process when at every step you create value for your customer by providing advice on how they can reach their goals faster using your services. With the help of this approach, logistics organizations can create thought leadership which positions the company as a go-to partner not only for logistics services but for advice and insights as well. This can be achieved with a combination of salesmanship and marketing.
Top 15 mistakes that need to be eliminated from the sales process.
#1 Same process for new business developement and account management
The most common thing we see at logistics organizations is that they haven’t separated new business developement from account management. We even see when sales managers do operational parts, arrange bookings, etc. It’s exactly why many logistics businesses usually grow only at an average of 5-15% (during the pandemics, companies grew faster, but this is an exception). On the other hand, companies that grow at 40-1000% pay immense attention to the new customer developement.
What to do: Logistics businesses need to separate new business developement from account management and take away any operational parts from their sales managers. Set up new business developement goals and incentivize this process.
#2 Transactional sales process
Many logistics companies rely on the transactional sales process of trying to reach shippers when they need services. It is not a flawed process when you are just starting within logistics. But later on, companies need to find the right balance between spot and long-term customers. I prefer to value long-term customers, paying attention to flexible contracts.
What to do: Find the right balance between spot and long-term customers. Although every company needs to find its balance, we usually see that the 70/30 ratio works the best. Create a modern sales process for acquiring strategical customers (combination of value-added sales and marketing).
#3 No marketing
Marketing activities are becoming super important, as the touchpoints count has increased drastically until you get a customer. It’s becoming quite hard to generate new business using only sales touches; therefore, winning sales organizations create marketing campaigns to fill the top of the funnel and nurture campaigns at the later stages. Your organization can build brand awareness from zero in six months or faster with quality content. Moreover, organizations can shorten sales cycles up to 4 times when they incorporate marketing touches into their sales process. You can read more on this here.
What to do: Create outbound marketing campaigns that generate interest and create value for your customers. It’s the only way to differentiate from competitors. And forget the legacy approach, talking about your company doesn’t cut anymore. Instead create content on how shippers can reach their goals faster using your services, provide advice, and add needed calls to action.
#4 No alignment between sales and marketing
If your organization starts marketing, posting information, and believing that you will be flooded with new business, you leave much money on the table. On the other hand, organizations that involve sales touches in marketing activities can drastically shorten sales cycles and make most of the marketing budget.
What to do: Map out the marketing and sales process, create a visible process in your CRM, measure engagement and add cold sales touches to the marketing process.
#5 No enablement technologies
Many logistics organizations do not use all available technologies to make their employees more efficient. Organizations that use all of the sales enablement technologies available today can make their sales employees up to 8 times more efficient than manually doing everything.
What to do: Choose the best fitting sales enablement solutions for your organization; consider this solution: Autoresponders, CRM, power dialers, sales enablement software, databases, and other prospecting automation tools.
#7 Sounding like everyone else
Most of the prospecting messages in the logistics industry are super boring, and they haven’t been changed for centuries. As I used to procure logistics services, I’ve heard so many of the same messages that do not answer the main question: Why do I need to talk with you? What’s in it for me?
What to do: Logistics sales organizations need to overlook their prospecting and marketing messages. If your organization hasn’t got any key differentiator, you need to differentiate yourself with the help of a sales process.
#8 Pitching right away
Many sales managers sell logistics services as low-value commodities. They call and ask for a shipment straightforwardly and then receive an excel sheet or invitation to a procurement platform, where they compete with many other service providers. If your organization is looking for higher margins and better-paying customers, it’s the worst thing to do.
What to do: In the prospecting phase, instruct your managers to sell the meeting. It’s the only way to differentiate from the competition and create long-term relationships.
#10 Dealing with the wrong person
Often logistics sales managers looking for long-term contracts deal with the wrong persons. This is because strategic partnerships are usually made on the “C” or “V” levels, whereas spot sales are at the managerial level. Therefore, if you are looking for long-term contracts, it’s important to understand how logistics services are procured.
What to do: Find out the procurement process early in the sales process, and find out if you are dealing with the right person as early as possible. If you can’t get introduced to the decision-maker, look for other ways.
#11 No strategy for objection handling
The success of your sales activities is indirectly linked to the ability to handle objections. And here again, many logistics services sales managers usually do not have a strategy for handling objections. And we see the same problem in later sales process stages.
What to do: Provide your employees with objection handling and negotiation training. Your employees need to understand that objections are a normal thing related to buying psychology, and they do not need to be afraid of handling them.
#12 No multi-touch sales strategy
50 % of sales managers give up after 1st touch point, whereas studies show that you get your prospect’s mind awareness only after the 7th touch point. Sale is a triathlon run, not a sprint; therefore, winning logistics sales organizations create long-term sales strategies to follow up your prospects with quality, using all the channels available today.
What to do: Create a sales process mapping out all touchpoints until a customer is acquired. Have a plan for 14 touch points in the prospecting phase and at least 18 touch points after the discovery call, using all available communication channels.
#13 Not asking the hard questions
Often, sales managers are afraid of asking hard questions when the deals stall in their pipelines. Yet, at the same time, those hard questions can open many doors bringing much new business. And on the other hand, those questions help improve your sales process because your team will get more about what they are doing wrong.
What to do: Train your team to ask hard questions and map this into your CRM so everyone can learn from them. Moreover, coach your sales team that mistakes are welcome, although everyone learning from them is crucially important.
#14 Allowing prospects to control the sales narrative
Selling logistics services is not easy because your managers are dealing with procurement departments that have trained their teams on how to take control of the buying process. However, if your managers do not have a process to take control back, you will easily be drawn into the RFP process. And if your managers will let the control out of their hands in later stages, they will be seen as not trustworthy to get the business.
What to do: Create a sales process that retains the control in your hands. Moreover, train your managers on how to execute this strategy and avoid falling into the pitfalls the procurement organizations have prepared for them.
#15 Standart brochures
I’ve seen many standard brochures of logistics service providers, and it seems like the same person wrote them all. They all have key traits: talking about themselves, services, capabilities, customers you work with, etc. If you want to transform your sales organization, you need to redesign your brochures.
What to do: Do a quick audit of your standard brochures, emphasizing your customers. Then, avoid sending those brochures in the initial stages, do this right after discovery, and align to each prospect individually.
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for more on the #logisticsnewsletter.
If your organization is thinking of creating a killer new business developement system that would drastically reduce sales cycles and position your organization as a thought leader in your industry, let’s talk and screen possible synergies. You can arrange a time with me by pressing here.