No one likes time wasters; shippers are not an exclusion. But, still working with logistics sales managers globally, I see that many of them do not understand that they need to bring value to the table. Otherwise, you are just another logistics service provider competing on price.
Maybe the first column looks somehow cookie, but it’s not. I made the same mistake earlier in my carrier. I started my sales carrier as a sales clerk for a yellow-page print ad company (they were still prevalent in those days I started), where I sold advertisements in phone books. The job wasn’t sexy, as google was already there, and many companies were able to be on google for free. I made many mistakes there and thought this product was useless, although I did good compared to others. Somehow, I pitched my product to a freight brokerage company; they bought the ad and invited me to join their sales team. It was a life-changing thing for me. I thought now I would start selling something tangible. Time passed, and I again started thinking that the intermediaries do not create any value, and I felt the need to change my profession. Then I moved to the procurement side, where I procured logistics services, which was really good.
As strange as it sounds, I’m back where I started my carrier, selling my services and teaching others how to be the best at this game. With the experience I gained, my game is completely different.
Because when I switched jobs, a strange thing happened. At freight brokerage, I needed to build calling lists (databases were super expensive then, so no one provided us with them), so I needed to screen yellow pages. And suddenly, I noticed that those companies with ads on yellow pages looked more serious than those that haven’t, and the change of choosing to call them increased. In other words, when I was selling ads, I didn’t understand that I needed to sell the dream of becoming a successful company (which every entrepreneur has) instead of brand awareness like I did.
The exact AHA moment happened when I started procuring logistics services. Here I again understood that the outcome approach works better. Long story short, there are only three things that matter to shippers.
1st. Trust. Logistics is a serious business. No one will do business with you if you are not seen as a trustworthy logistics partner.
2nd. Self-Actualization and Fear. Your prospects are moved mainly by two motives fear (fear of damages, overpayment for freight, delays, losses, etc.) and Self-Actualization (looking good, winning the competitive battle, being promoted, etc.).
3rd. Are you smart enough? We all know that sh… in logistics happens often. A logistics partner with a good execution mindset can reduce error rates and solve many problems. Therefore shippers are looking for partners with the needed skills and knowledge.
So what do I mean by wasting shippers’ time?
Talking about things that are not interesting and create no value to your prospects. Usually, logistics services sales managers, during prospecting and sales calls, talk about their services. Managers start mentioning their trucks, warehouses, and capacity. Unfortunately, this is seen as a time waste by shippers. Shippers just want proof and information related to the 3 things mentioned above.
How do we achieve this?
The first thing you need to do is to move away from the transactional sales process toward a consultative sales process. For this to happen, you need to build business acumen ( you can read more about this topic here). Only then will you have the knowledge necessary to build trust, move away from fear from the buying journey and show your prospect that you are one of the most brilliant partners, and they can do business without any worries.
Secondly, when you gain the business acumen needed, start talking about things important to shippers. Few things where you need to put attention to when building messages and conversations: How using your services shipper can be better than their competitors; Advice on how to make their operations more efficient; Trends that will happen in their niche, and which you can help to hedge right away; Pricing information; Advice how they could avoid mistakes and safe funds; Information what their competitors are doing and where they are missing out. Remember, the deal is yours if you teach them something they didn’t know.
Thirdly ask intelligent questions. I do not recommend using popular question methodologies like SPIN or DISCOVERY, they are all excellent, but they are pretty hard adaptable for the logistics industry (maybe except for 3PL/4PL/SaaS providers, where services have many variables parts). Usually, you just need to ask your questions in a way that shows the prospect that you understand its product. Additionally, you need to direct prospects towards your differentiators and their pain points with the help of your questions.
And lastly, value providing doesn’t end with sales managers; marketing touches can also help you out. Because with marketing, you can build thought leadership and professional brand awareness, shorten sales cycles, differentiate from the competition, and stay in your prospect’s minds until they are ready to buy. Marketing is even more crucial for SaaS, 3-4 PLs because usually, the benefits of such companies are not so visible or understandable right away; therefore, learning content and the right mix of content around buyers’ journey is needed.
You can read more about what logistics companies lose by not investing in marketing here.
About the author:
Tomas Ananjevas is a supply chain professional with 15 years of experience purchasing and selling Logistic’s services and building a supply chain from scratch. He founded a consulting, training, and staffing company that works exclusively with the logistics industry. Tomas is helping logistics companies implement the necessary changes to ensure business growth and continuity. You can arrange a time to talk with Thomas about possible synergies by clicking here.