Training Tuesday:Customer Service


Clients expect service, but agents, salespeople, and clients often have trouble defining “service”.

Driving across town to deliver donuts often gets listed as a service call.  Dropping in to see how things are going often appears on weekly call reports as service.  To some sales agents, service is what they do when they don’t feel like selling.  Service can be a way to put off more important activities.  Servicing your customer is very important.  Just be careful.  Don’t use service calls as a way to convince yourself that you’re selling.  A service call should have definable objectives.

One problem with service calls is that there’s very little short-term reward for doing it.  Few agents or sales managers greet returning salespeople at the end of the day with, “Did you provide great service to your clients today?”  Instead, managers ask, “Who did you sell today?  Did you put any freight on Sunteck trucks?”  There’s more financial reward for, and more attention paid to selling than to servicing.

         Let’s define SERVICE as anything that builds trust and confidence in Sunteck and the services we provide to the customer.

Following is a list of services that are specific and measurable.  The purpose of this list is to help you develop an ongoing service system for Sunteck that kicks in when you make the sell.  You can use this checklist to make service a more specific part of your sales planning.  There’s enough lip service paid to it already.

  1. Write thank you notes.  I sometimes write as many as 10 thank you notes per day.  I’ve made sales calls where I’ve seen my handwritten notes on my clients’ desk months later.  Carry cards in your car and fill them out at the end of the call while still in the customer’s parking lot.
  1. Clip an article you saw about the client’s industry and send it to them.  This works best when you send the original article, not a copy.  Your client will appreciate the special attention.
  1. Conduct a training session for the client and their staff.  Perhaps you have sales training or customer service programs that could benefit salespeople and customer service personnel.  Make them available to clients and add value to being a shipper or consignee with Sunteck.  This says you care about the client’s future growth and not just about the business you get from them today.
  1. Schedule a visit of upper management to your client.  This is a symbolic and information gathering visit.  Agents, corporate executives and managers, dispatch supervisors, and customer service managers are ideal for this purpose.  It says to the client that you appreciate their business, and also gives management the opportunity to stay connected.
  1. Conduct agency or corporate office tours on a regular basis.  Clients need to see the agency or corporate office, especially large shippers, so that they can see the depth of the professionalism and dedication that goes into moving their freight.
  1. Hold round table discussions about business trends and opportunities with key clients.  I love the idea of customer councils.  It’s a great way to improve your business and your customer’s business.  Getting successful people from other businesses to talk and help each other is another service Sunteck can provide.  These meetings can help you get good information about how to serve your clients better.
  1. Throw a client appreciation party, cookout, or breakfast.
  1. Bring Sunteck service people to meet your customers. Those people within your organization that actually make the decisions about how the freight moves can be your best sales associates.  They can also solve problems on the spot that you might not be able to handle yourself.
  1. Bring coffee and donuts.  It’s cheaper than buying lunch, and most of the time easier for your client.  Get stickers to put on the box with the Sunteck logo and your agency’s telephone number.  This gives you a dozen chances to register name awareness.  It helps to be known by many people in the organization from the boardroom to the breakroom.
  1. Help clients with long-term planning and strategizing.  Offer to participate on a project planning team.
  1. Send a thank you card to your client when he makes his first shipment with Sunteck. This sends an important message to the customer.  It shows that you appreciate their business, and that you stay abreast of what’s going on at Sunteck.  Be sure to work closely with customer service and your dispatching staff to ensure that they alert you of all first shipments.
  1. Surprise a customer with a little gift that relates to a hobby or special interest that you know they enjoy (i.e. golf balls, a souvenir from their home state, a gift that contains their favorite sports team logo, etc.).
  1. Invite your customer to accompany you to seminars, speeches, and functions.
  1. Return all phone calls immediately.  The simple act of returning a phone call can differentiate you from the competition.
  1. Establish a follow-up schedule.  Remember that last month’s no may be this month’s yes.  Try to touch base with prospects regularly without being intrusive.  Also, group prospects according to when you expect them to buy (within 30 days, within 60 days, etc.).  Consider their unique shipping cycles.  Is their product seasonal?  Do they have a contract expiring soon with another carrier?  When will they accept bids?  The sooner you expect a prospect to buy, the more frequently you should stay in touch.  Design a follow-up contact calendar to help you keep track of your prospects and the contacts you make with them.
  1. Vary your modes of contact.  A call or email will have more impact if it’s reinforced with another form of contact.  Follow phone calls with an email outlining the highlights of your conversation and confirming any action steps your prospect approved.  Call your prospects and current customers within a week after you send an email to confirm receipt and offer to discuss any questions or issues they may have.  Personalize your method of contact and show your customers that you’re persistent in your desire to help them.
  1. Collect leads on follow-up calls to established customers.  Repeat customers need to know they aren’t being taken for granted, so contact them regularly to make sure you’re still meeting their needs and expectations.  If you’ve provided good service to these customers, don’t hesitate to ask for the names of business acquaintances and others in their own company who might benefit from the shipping solutions offered by Sunteck.
  1. Send literature sparingly.  If prospects are interested in Sunteck’s services, you can withhold literature and make additional contacts to provide more information and build rapport.  Withholding literature selectively also keeps your service information (late pick-ups, customized billing, early delivery, etc.) customized for each individual prospect.  Use your customers’ requests for information to gauge their level of interest in your service.
  1. Make buying fun.  Selling doesn’t have to be all serious business.  An upbeat, exciting attitude often makes customers want to join the party.  Lighten up!  The appearance of desperation or extreme seriousness can cause doubt in the customer’s mind.  Relax; show them you’re at ease with what you’re doing.  You’re not worried about Sunteck’s ability to deliver their product on time and without damage, and they shouldn’t be either.  Adopt an energized, off-the-wall approach to show your customers you’re a forward-thinking, innovative go-getter.  You don’t have to sacrifice professionalism to make buying an energizing, enjoyable experience that will keep your customers coming back.
  1. Make sure internal employees are well-trained in good customer service techniques.  Your customer or prospect will probably have lots of contacts with Sunteck’s customer service reps., shift supervisors, operations coordinators, administrative personnel, agents, and Sunteck Drivers. Your co-workers are your best sales assistants.  Treat them like gold, and they’ll do the same for your customers.  It’s up to you.  Make sure they’re as excited as you are to provide outstanding customer service.
  1. Most importantly, do what you promised, do it when you promised, and do it more often than the competition.

Sales professionals in our industry who don’t take care of their clients are shortsighted, and in the long run end up on the short end of the stick.  If you’re worried about showing your face at your customer’s office, then you’ve got a serious problem.

Constant communication is the key to building a lasting relationship with customers and prospects.  You must stay in touch.

Many customers are suspicious of freight salesmen.  They think that we’re there at the time of the sale but not when they need us if something goes wrong.  Many people get buyer’s remorse.  Soon after the sale they think, “Did I make the right decision?  Maybe I should have chosen 3PL or kept using ABC Trucking.”  When they get that follow-up email or phone call, or they experience the other customer service techniques discussed here, it makes them think, “Yes, I made the right decision.”

Outstanding customer service means more money in your pocket.  Research has shown that companies who use service as their primary competitive weapon can charge about 10% more for their product or service compared to their competitors.  With increased customer satisfaction you can increase your income by at least 10% starting today.

So start today— Make service an integral part of your sales strategy.


Training Tuesday:Handling Rejection

Rejection is a daily occurrence in the sales profession. How you handle rejection can be compared to long distance running. In running, you’re going to become tired. The proof to how fit you are is determined by how quickly your body is able to rebound. The same applies to sales rejection. You’re going to be rejected. How quickly and how well you recover will determine how successful your next sales call will be.

When I coached baseball there was one situation you could always bank on. If a player committed an error and reacted by kicking the dirt, throwing his mitt, and letting his chin droop, the next hit was definitely coming his way. Instead of shaking off the first error and being prepared to make the next play, some players would still be beating themselves up when the second hit would shoot right between their legs. Suddenly one error became two. Too often, sales people let this happen with rejections. Instead of missing one sale, a rejection mishandled can lead to several more rejections.

The best Sunteck sales reps get rejected, maybe not as often as some, but it still happens. Learn to accept rejection as an occupational hazard and move on. One of the biggest mistakes a salesperson can make is to get rejected and never go back. Don’t close the door on a client forever after receiving just one rejection. People are more likely to give you their business if they know you really want it. Stay in touch. Let the customer know you really want their business. If they’re a good prospect keep them apprised of developments in the industry and at Sunteck. Send them a quarterly newsletter, etc. Keep in touch and demonstrate your professionalism.

75% of all salespeople quit after the first NO, another 5% quit after the second NO, and only 20% persist until the third NO.
It’s not surprising that 20% of salespeople make 80% of all sales.

Just like Major League ball players, you won’t be remembered for your strike-outs; instead you’ll be remembered for your home runs.


Training Tuesday:Referrals

Referrals are the easiest sales you’ll make.  It’s your job to tell a purchasing manager that Sunteck offers the best service available; that’s what he expects you to say.  But when he hears it from a fellow purchasing manager then that’s something entirely different.

Always ask for referrals!  Asking for referrals is the difference between middle-of-the-pack sales agents and star performers.  And yet sales agents are usually terrified to ask for referrals.  Don’t be timid.  In our business, you have to ask for what you want.  If there’s not a competitive reason for a satisfied customer to object to giving you a referral, then they will about 70% of the time.  Always start by asking for referrals within their own company, on-site and at different locations.  Then, (while on the same visit or in later calls) branch out and ask for referrals to businesses in the area where they might know a decision-maker.

When asking for a referral, try and get this information: company name, contact name, new contact’s title, what they ship, address, telephone number, and how your client is acquainted with the referral.

I always ask the customer if he’d mind calling the referral for me.  Often your customer will decline, so at this point you should ask permission to use their name when making the call yourself.  I’ve only been turned down twice in my career on that request.

Never pass up the opportunity to give referrals to your customers.  When you refer someone, be sure your customer mentions your name as the source of the referral.  Be explicit.  Say, “Give Mark a call, and please tell him that I referred you.”  In many cases, you should even call Mark and let him know that a referral will be calling him.  Remember the next time you speak to Mark to ask if the referred person called and how the situation turned out.

You can use testimonials instead of referrals.  When you call on a prospect who was not a referral, then use testimonials in place of a business associate of his who would have referred you.  Use testimonials to support your claims.  Pick out the testimonials you will use in your presentation prior to each sales call.  Use testimonials that are from companies that have similar transportation needs, ship or receive similar products, and are close to the same geographical location.

After receiving a compliment from a satisfied customer for a job well done, ask right then for a testimonial letter—they’re worth their weight in gold.

Using referrals and testimonials in your presentations and qualifying calls sends and reinforces the message that it’s a good business decision to trust you and Sunteck.  Others have trusted you with good results.

People like working with a winner.  In many ways it makes them feel like a winner too.

When you demonstrate your successes you make the customer more comfortable with their decision to buy from Sunteck.  Send letters and articles to your customers and qualified prospects announcing your successes, like winning an award for outstanding sales results.  The purpose of the letter is not to brag on yourself, but rather to thank your clients for their business and to make it perfectly clear that the only way you achieved this goal was by helping your customers achieve their goals.

Ask every prospect you meet for referrals, and ask every satisfied customer for a testimonial letter.  If they don’t have time, offer to type up their comments and then get their signature.  You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain – ALWAYS ASK!

Repeat business and referrals are the two biggest keys to long-term success in transportation sales.  You can ensure long-term growth by paying more attention to service.

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” – Henry Ford




Training Tuesday:Confirming the Sale

In the trucking industry, a lot of credit is given to a salesperson who is a proven closer. That has always been my reputation – a guy who always asks for the sale and expects the customer to say “YES”. Being known as a “Closer” is a big compliment. The only downside, as far as I’m concerned, is the negative connotation of the word Close. I appreciate being recognized as a Closer, but I think it’s more accurate to call what I do Confirming the Sale. Whatever you decide to call it – there’s no magic to confirming the sale. Right from the initial approach to the very end of your presentation, bit by bit, you should be confirming the sale. It’s when you find out if you did your job properly. I go with my instincts. I close the sale when my customer lets me know it’s time. Closing or confirming the sale is the most natural thing about selling. It’s the only reason for your job. Confirming the sale should be automatic. Don’t hesitate to ask a shipper for his or her business. The only time you shouldn’t be outwardly confirming the sale is when you’re on the fact finding call, and even then there will be a series of opportunities for minor closes that prepare your prospect for your next sales call.

You have to have complete confidence in your ability to close the sale, if not, the prospect becomes consumed with doubt. The prospect can sense when it’s time for you to confirm the sale, and it’s up to you to ask for the order. He knew you were a salesperson when he agreed to see you, and if you lack confidence to ask for his business, he’s going to lack confidence in making a decision. It’s like driving onto a car lot, walking the entire lot looking at each car, and never having a salesperson approach you.

Confirming the sale is simply demonstrating a confidence that you’re ready to provide the prospect with the service that he wants. When the prospect feels comfortable with you in this regard, it’s time to say, “Okay, when are we going to handle your first shipment?”

It’s contagious. When you confidently ask for the prospect’s business, the other person becomes confident too. The prospect should feel like it would be a mistake not to act. It’s only when a salesperson is full of doubt himself that people hesitate and feel as though they’re being put under the gun to make a decision. Hesitation is as contagious as confidence.

Your sales presentation should be smooth. The close should have a rhythmic flow that naturally blends in with your proposal so that the prospect is unaware of a precise moment when he can think, ‘Ah, now he’s putting pressure on me to buy.’ Pressure selling is outdated and counterproductive. People who make decisions on who to trust with their freight are resentful of a sales rep who tries to stuff their transportation offerings down their throats—the buyer will resist such pressure.

“I’m the world’s worst Salesman, therefore, I must make it easy for people to buy.”
– F.W. Woolworth

Ask for the customer’s freight. At the very least ask for a trial shipment. When an attractive transportation solution is properly presented to a prospect, it becomes obvious that the prospect’s problem can be solved. Therefore, there’s a built-in urgency to go ahead and switch to Sunteck as their carrier of choice. It’s a matter of demonstration that your proposal is so cost and service justified from the customer’s point of view that as a prudent business person, he or she readily recognizes the value that Sunteck offers. When you accomplish this, the prospect is ready to sign.

One technique that I use is the minor-major close, a method of selling used by many successful transportation sales specialists. The premise of this close is to avoid asking a prospect to make a major buying decision. Instead, I ask a series of relatively minor questions to which the prospect can easily answer yes. It’s often easier for the customer to make several minor decisions than one major one.

Instead, I ask easy questions that require little thought to answer, such as:

• Would you like me to send a letter and routing guide to your vendors?
• Would you like a monthly detailed report of all inbound and outbound

None of these questions are hard to answer. On the other hand, imagine the difficulty a prospect would have when asked, “Will you give me all your shipments to your biggest customer effective today?” There’s too much anxiety created by that question. Most prospects would have trouble saying yes to a closing question like that.

As previously explained, most people simply don’t like to make major decisions. They don’t want to risk making a mistake, so they tend to procrastinate. However, it’s not difficult to make up one’s mind about things that are relatively insignificant. Sometimes the least threatening question and the most effective is, “How about giving Sunteck a try?” It’s an effective request for business that gives the customer a chance to test your service.

The odds for success are in your favor if you close the sale while the prospect is still hot. Some people simply cool off. The best time for them to make buying decisions is while all of the facts are fresh in their minds, and that’s immediately after you’ve presented an explanation of your service. The more time that expires, the less people’s memories retain what you’ve told them. They can’t remember the reasons why they need Sunteck, and in some cases, how to use our service (dispatch phone number, lanes where we’re strongest, etc.). But they do remember how much it costs. With each day that passes, they remember less and less about your service and its benefits and simultaneously the price seems proportionately higher for the benefits they think they will get. For this reason, you should confirm the sale during the presentation call.

The longer a customer has to think it over, the lower the odds become that you’ll make the sale. I go with the odds and always make a strong attempt to close the sale while eye to eye with the prospect.

I confirm the sale bit by bit throughout the presentation. Relatively early in the presentation I let the prospect know that I expect him or her to make a decision at the close of my presentation.

It’s important to bring up again that you must make sure all decision-makers will be present before you make your sales pitch. When I call to set the appointment for my presentation, I always make it clear that whoever is necessary to make a buying decision should be present. Sometimes it’s the VP of sales, Purchasing manager, Traffic manager, Maintenance supervisor, Comptroller, or maybe even the CEO. Because I’ve prepared them in advance, I’m rarely told at the end of my presentation, “I need to talk it over with….”

Ask for a customer commitment at the appropriate time—after you’ve done a good job of probing, exchanged information about the customer’s needs, and shown how your service can help meet those needs. Then the customer and you are ready to make a decision about how to close the sales call and what steps should be taken next.

One of the best times to confirm is when you get a clear signal of the customer’s readiness to commit. The signals that successful salespeople look for include:

• A smile, nod, or expectant look.
• A clear statement of satisfaction, such as “That sounds like what we’re looking for.”
• A statement that shows the customer wants to close, such as, “What’s the next step?” or “How do we proceed?”
• Questions about hours of dispatch support, costs, etc.

When you get these signals, it’s important to recognize them and not try to discuss other things and miss the moment to ask for a commitment.

Do not oversell! Some salespeople enjoy a successful close so much that they want to hear it again – even if it re-opens the door to a “NO.” When the customer says yes – you should SHUT UP! The sales pitch is now over. You and the customer are now business partners. Do not oversell. Learn to take YES for an answer.

I’ve made sales calls with dozens of successful sales people and every one of them is unique. Each one closes or confirms the sale in their own way, but there are some recurring techniques. While you may have found certain closes work better than others, that shouldn’t deter you from using a variety of closes or confirming techniques, depending on different situations. By learning the ten closes listed here, you’ll stand a better chance of getting more sales, more often, from more accounts.

Emphasize the benefits you know the prospect finds irresistible. In the following script, the sales agent uncovers low freight costs as one of the prospect’s hot buttons and emphasizes that the more expensive transportation solution will actually save him money in the long run:

Prospect: “I like your service, but it costs too much.”
Salesperson: “It costs too much? Most carriers who are cheaper than we are more frequently damage freight, deliver late, and miss pick-ups. Our service is designed to eliminate those headaches for you and your customer. Obviously, that will save you money, and increase future business from your customers who’ll be more satisfied.”

Help the prospect see themselves using your service. Speak to them as though they already use it, and tie in a hot button benefit to its use: “When you use our next day service to Dayton, after only a few shipments you’ll notice that your customers are happier that they’re now receiving their shipments when they were promised. Then you can move on to something else, and quit wasting ten hours a week on trying to fix your Dayton problem, and that’s what you really want isn’t it?”

The Minor-Major close builds a chain of affirmative answers to questions you ask to help lead the prospect into saying yes to the sale. To put the prospect in the habit of saying yes, ask questions you’re sure will get affirmative answers:

Salesperson: Do you believe in giving your customers great service?
Prospect: Yes.
Salesperson: Do you agree that meeting your customers’ shipping deadlines and requirements improves your chances for future sales?
Prospect: Yes.

The “If I can” close uses the prospect’s questions and comments to help you get them to buy if you can provide what they want. Instead of immediately assuring the prospect that you can meet all of their wants and needs, ask them if they’ll buy from you if you can…:

Prospect: I need a carrier who can guarantee deliveries to O’Hare by 3:00PM.
Salesperson: If I can guarantee deliveries to O’Hare by 3:00PM, would you give us a try?

If the prospect is waiting for an invitation to buy, give him one. Make a persuasive argument for choosing Sunteck, including the reasons why the prospect should buy, then invite them to do it. Say, “Why don’t you give us a try?” or “Would you like to get started right away?”

To build credibility and reassure the prospect that he’s making a wise decision, tell him about the success other companies have had with Sunteck. Collect letters or stories and share them with your prospect to settle buying anxiety:

Prospect: I’m not sure this will work with the way we currently handle your traffic needs.
Salesperson: These companies use our service and they’ve had fabulous results. “You will, too.”

To use the “All that” close, simply reiterate the client’s needs and wants, and how your service satisfies them: “From what you’ve told me, you want a carrier who will pick up by 7:00AM in Atlanta and deliver by 6:00PM in Birmingham. Sunteck can do all that. This is a service that we have experience with, and this would fit your needs perfectly. Don’t you agree?”

Since few salespeople can offer prospects the perfect transportation service, it’s often difficult to overcome every one of a buyer’s objections. When an unanswered objection stands between you and a sale, make a list of benefits vs. objections (Just make sure that the benefits far outweigh the objections) and present them to your buyer and say, “As you can see, the reasons for buying outnumber the reasons against.”

The reverse close turns prospect’s reasons why they shouldn’t buy into reasons why they should buy. When your prospect voices an objection, think of a benefit to that objection: “That’s the very reason why you should use Sunteck.”

Prospect: Your price is too high!
Salesperson: That’s the very reason why you should use Sunteck. The slightly higher price buys you a higher quality, faster response time and a safer transportation service that will save you money on damage and shortage, and will result in more repeat business from your current customers.

The more closes you know, the better you’ll be prepared to face that moment of truth at the end of your presentation. With so many effective ways to confirm a sale, odds are you’ll be able to choose the appropriate one to confirm a sell on your very next call.

It’s no secret why you’re making the call in the first place. And, it’s no secret why your prospect is listening. He knows you’re there for the purpose of selling him your transportation services. He’s listening in the hope that you’ll make his job easier and the performance of his job more efficient.

Be a closer (confirmer). Your main objective is to get new business. At the end of the presentation, a real sales professional will confirm with their prospect that they’ve done a good job. That confirmation will come in the form of a sale.

Never give up and never give in.
Go for the Close!


Training Tuesday:Taking Control of Price


Take control of the sales call, especially on the subject of price. If you can change the customers pre-conceived notions in the first five or ten minutes, then you’ve won the biggest sales battle of all. Right up front, I make it clear to the prospect that the sale won’t come down to a wrestling match over price. I quickly and firmly set up an alternative framework for making a deal. If price isn’t going to be the issue, then what is? You must sell value-added. To me, that means selling exceptional service and customer support. Often, I have to close the deal on the strength of my personal commitment to my customers and the quality of service provided by Sunteck.

Never concede that Sunteck’s service is just like our competitors. Once you do, you give away your competitive edge and ability to differentiate your service, and therefore, to receive a higher price. The worst sales pitch I’ve ever heard was a freight rep whose presentation was built around the line, “Our service is just like Best-Competitor Trucking, only we’re cheaper.” The job of all Sunteck sales agents is to know how and why our service is different, why that difference is important to the customer, and how to effectively communicate the importance of those differences. Your customer will pay you a premium price if you’re a better choice for his career and his company’s success. Once you prove your service is better, price diminishes as an issue. Prove to the customer that Sunteck pays greater attention to customer needs, quicker response time when dispatching their pick-ups, hassle free service, less paperwork, accurate billing, few damaged or lost shipments, etc.

Sunteck customers don’t buy based on price. They really don’t. They sometimes believe that they do, and they almost always tell you that they do. We’ve all been guilty of telling little white lies, and your customer is no different.

When the customer tells you that he can get the exact same service to Philadelphia by using a competitor, the first thought you should have is: Can he really get the same service? The answer is “NO” 100% of the time. No two companies operate exactly the same. The service may be similar. But it will never be exactly the same. The slight difference in service may be unimportant on nine out of ten shipments, but the consequences may be disastrous on that one shipment that delivers at 3:00PM instead of noon. In this, and almost all instances, your customer is receiving services that are similar but not identical. Sometimes these slight differences in service levels won’t matter, but often they will. It’s your job to point out why the slight differences matter.

The business highway is littered with out-of-business transportation companies who thought lowering price was a way to increase profits. Refuse to be part of the problem. Anyone can offer the customer the lowest price.

It takes a sales professional to sell a service that’s higher priced than most of his or her competition.
When a prospective customer tells you that Sunteck’s prices are too high, you should say, “Of course we’re higher than those other guys. That’s one of the reasons why I’m proud to work for Sunteck. Let me tell you why we charge what we do.”

And then, tell them with confidence exactly why we’re higher. Your price makes a statement about your service. A cheap price makes the statement that your service is also cheap. A high price sends the message that your service is of high quality. A customer can’t argue with success. Let them know you successfully sell at these prices. Point out that when price can’t be negotiated, each customer is treated equally and fairly. The goal is to help Sunteck devise a fair pricing system, and then uniformly offer that price to customers with similarly classified goods and who ship similar quantities.

One great idea that can differentiate you from your competition, and which also justifies your customer paying a higher price, is partnership selling. Your partner could be almost any of your co-workers, but I suggest that your partner be your sales coordinator, a fellow sales agent, dispatcher, or the customer service agent who handles your customers. I’ve even gone as far as having my sales assistant’s name and telephone number printed on the back of my business cards. I explain to my customers our unique partnership. Because of our partnership, one of us will always be available to take his or her calls, work with the customer on unique shipments, handle service failures, provide overall great service, and of course answer any and all pricing questions. Selling a customer is the easy part. Keeping a customer is more difficult. Partnerships always justify a higher price. Sometimes a partnership situation might be all you need to sell a customer on a higher price.

No matter how skillfully you develop your value-added sale, you may still have to negotiate price in order to close. For some Traffic and Purchasing managers haggling is an important part of their job description or at least a necessary prelude to doing business.

Explain to the prospect why other traffic managers for other companies have bought at your higher rates. Be sure to emphasize how Sunteck’s service will help him, his company, and their customers. Explain the economics of pricing and then go for the larger order. Discounts should only be offered when you receive a large number of shipments to justify the lower price. Be as persistent as your customer. Assert “Far more shipments are needed” to receive that discount.

There’s always the customer who says, “I can do better. Dave’s Trucking gives me a 40% discount.” Never rely on a customer’s word that “Dave’s Trucking” has cut your price. That’s when I ask to see a bill of lading. If the customer is not telling you the truth, he’ll refuse to show you the bill. But, let’s say he does show you the bill of lading, and it does represent a 40% discount off of a comparable tariff or rate. That’s when you tell the customer that Sunteck is better. Period. I tell the prospective customer that Sunteck and its transportation solutions are better and warrant a higher price. Point out your competitive edge, special services we offer that adds value and cost, and any unique selling points. This is a great time to use testimonials. An example of a value add service is our in house cargo claims department.

What if the prospect looks you straight in the eye and firmly says, “I don’t have time to listen to your whole sales pitch. I know all about Sunteck. Just give me my discount.” Some traffic managers use this tactic to unnerve you into giving them a big discount at the onset. The main purpose is to take control of the sales call away from you. I turn around and use the same technique. I say, “Can you make a firm commitment right now?” or “Will you sign a routing letter to go to all of your vendors designating us as your carrier of choice effective today?” Take control and do your job. Don’t let the prospect plow you over.

For most customers, seeing is believing. My point (and my value-added position) is driven home when customers know that I mean business. You gain credibility by making it clear that while you’re eager to win their business. You are offering them a fair price for the service Sunteck provides and you’re not about to cave in at the first sign of price resistance.

Over the years our industry has been inundated with competitors who wielded discounts like deadly weapons, usually injuring their own business most of all. The best way to survive a price-cutting fool in your territory is to keep your cool and wait them out. Keep playing by our rules, don’t play by his.

Never let the cheapest guy in town determine your price!

Remember that you could hurt Sunteck’s ‘image’ if you cut the price of your service. Be prepared to sustain some loss of business. Keep your core customers happy, those who abandon ship for cheaper rates will eventually come back – and maybe you can get a price increase when they do return.

We already have too many salespeople in our industry who’re willing to cut their rates at the drop of a hat. Don’t join that crowd. Treat your customers fairly and expect them to treat you the same way. The price should be a direct reflection of your services worth. Remember, it’s you, not the customer or your competitor, who determines your price.