The logistics sales arena is crowded as never before. Of course, the last two years favored and still favor logistics service providers. However, this will attract more players to the logistics industry in the long run. Moreover, logistics companies are investing in increasing capacity, and the upcoming recession can mix the cards altogether. Therefore, it’s important not to sleep but oppositely look for ways to stay top of the game, never mind the economic cycle. There is one skill that can put you on top of the game. Sadly, this skill is the hardest one to get, but when you manage acquiring it puts you in the top 1 – 5 %. And I’m talking about business acumen. To be honest, it is a mix of skills and Knowledge. In this article, you will find out why this is becoming super important and what Knowledge you need to get to be a top performer at any logistics sales position. And we will also cover what the “C” level should do to encourage adaptation of this skill in their organizations.
Why is business acumen becoming super important?
The first thing comes into the commons sense box. Because with business acumen, you can better understand ideal customers and craft better-prospecting messages. You can also better understand how to provide value for the shippers and lead them through the buyer’s journey hassle-free.
The other part is related to your customers. Studies show that dealing with unprofessional sales managers is the first thing that bothers shippers the most. If you want to stand out from the crowd then you need to bring value, spray and pray communication doesn’t cut anymore.
And lastly, as many logistics services do not have key differentiators (except those providing value-added services), therefore the only parts where you can differentiate are your sales process and Knowledge that position you as a thought leader in your niche.
What knowledge sets are needed to increase business acumen?
I will touch a few must-have knowledge sets which are critical to becoming a high performer. Of course, there are many other things, which you can focus on, but those are the key ones. The rule of thumb when talking about business acumen is that the more you know, the better prepared you are.
1st Basic supply chain management knowledge
When you have this Knowledge set and understanding of how the supply chain works, what tradeoffs supply chain organizations have to consider, and how they choose and vet vendors, you start seeing a completely different picture. Moreover, you will get more fruitful conversations because you will be on the same level as your prospects.
2nd Pricing knowledge
Market knowledge is critical for any high-performing seller. You need to understand which situations in the market impact price levels. With this Knowledge, you will get better margins and give valuable insights to your prospects and customers. Ideally, you should know everything related to prices, even if you are woken up at night. It would help if you became a lively load board literally.
3rd Knowledge about the competitors
A deep understanding of your competitors’ capabilities, including strong and weak sides, enables many efficiencies within your sale process. As this Knowledge allows a better understanding of who fits your business model best, you become a more efficient seller who deals only with those customers who fit your business model the best. Also, it allows better craft scripts, deal with objections, and negotiate better terms.
4th Marketing knowledge
In today’s highly competitive world, those sales professionals with marketing knowledge and understanding of how to incorporate it into their sales process can get much better results than those without those skills. For example, suppose you align marketing tactics with the sales process. In that case, you will be able to get new high-worth and dream customers faster (as with marketing, you can reach vast auditory), and you will position yourself as a thought leader in your niche (with the help of high-worth content). Such alignment will allow you to have total control of your sales process and you will be able to shorten sales cycles dramatically.
5th Business tendencies
To create a difference in your customer’s life and become a consultant (which is becoming super important today) instead of a salesman, you need to understand all the short and long-term tendencies affecting your prospect’s operations. With this Knowledge, you can advise how your prospects can reach their goals faster, cheaper, or more efficiently using your services. In my opinion, this is the most important Knowledge set, which positions you as a go-to partner for advice and solutions, not basic logistics services. And this serves as a key differentiator, even in a highly commoditized environment like logistics.
How could CEOs stipulate this trait in their organization?
In the first part, we talked from a sales employee’s perspective, but as this skill is super important, we also need to cover CEO or CSO parts.
I think that most “C” level persons reading this article think that an employee either has an inner need to absorb this information or not. I would say that it’s not always so. But, of course, the fastest fix is to be able to screen those open minds right from the beginning of the employment process. But we all know that usually, those processes have flaws. And if you do not have an needed culture, the new cucumber will rotten within a year or so.
So therefore, the second best thing is to create a culture that clearly says to every employee that business acumen is something we expect from each of our employees. Moreover, if you want to learn, we will provide all means needed: Invest in training, provide you with subscriptions to industry news, etc. Finally, as a leader, you should consider creating information-sharing hubs in your organization, where senior employees or members of different kinds of comments share the Knowledge with junior employees.
As Execution is a King, you should set up KPIs to track performance. One of many available metrics can be received from CSO’s. Instruct the CSO to always look for the root causes of why a manager is underperforming (create an SOP for tracking performance). Make sure that everyone understands that they can’t be satisfied with the following answers: the market is bad, or competitors have better services or prices. Usually, the root causes are either in the sales process or lack of business acumen. When they have identified the root cause, they need to find proactive ways to improve the situation and do this fast.
And lastly, do not punish for mistakes. Oppositely, incentivize the mistake-learning culture in your organization.
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