Training Tuesday:Preparation Before the Sales Call

How many times have you been confronted by a salesperson that knows nothing about you or your business? Did they launch into a barrage of “situation” questions and expect you to answer all of them? Or, worse yet, the salesperson didn’t ask any questions, but instead jumped right into their presentation about something that you have no interest in. Unfortunately, that kind of sales technique is the norm, not the exception. Preparation before the sales call is critical.

Knowledge is power. You should know as much as you can about your service, your industry, your competitors, and your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. You should also learn as much as possible about your prospective client before you make contact with them.

Below are four basic elements of successful sales preparation:

  1. Know the industry. Technology and trends are rapidly changing and new services are being offered continuously. Read industry specific publications, websites, or periodicals. Extensive and up-to-date knowledge of the industry provides your customers with greater confidence in your recommendations and abilities.
  2. Know your company. Having a clear, thorough understanding of what we do, and how we do it, will allow you to field customer questions and objections more easily. Know what areas need improvement and what is unique and adds value to what we offer. Seek to learn as much as possible about the company history and path for the future. This will allow you to offer an honest and realistic picture of what you and your company bring to the table.
  3. Know your competition. Know the competition’s strengths and weaknesses, and ask your customers what they like and dislike about your competitors. Compare your services, features, equipment, billing process, service levels, dispatching methods, and then use that to determine differentiating factors you can feature in your sales presentation.
  4. Know your customer. Complete knowledge of your customer’s company will show interest, will always impress them, and will represent an important first step in earning a customer’s confidence and business. An understanding of the potential customer’s industry, requirements for service, and general information about the customer’s company and business speeds the vital relationship building process.

You must be mentally prepared before you make a sales call. The degree to which a salesperson can create rapport and build trust is in direct relationship to the amount of preparation that has taken place before the sales call is made. The result of every sales call reflects the amount of time the salesperson invested in getting ready for the meeting.


LTL 101:BOL Basics

This week revisits educating our shippers in order to ensure our BOL is set up correctly and to avoid possible disputes with the carrier regarding our invoice.

Did you know LTL carriers employ “weight & inspection coordinators” whose sole responsibility is to catch the “bad guys” who list an inaccurate weight or class on their BOL?

  • They keep an eye out for any shipments whose description on the BOL doesn’t seem to match up with its appearance.
  • They will physically examine your freight, and if they deem it necessary to inspect the contents or check the weight, they’ll issue an inspection certificate.
  • You will foot the bill for the additional inspection.

It is for this reason we need to make sure our shippers understand the follow:

  • It is imperative to make sure the weight and class on the BOL are accurate.
  • Don’t just guess, and don’t try to be sneaky, either! You can’t classify furniture as lumber, even though it was once lumber… (Yes, believe it or not, people actually do this!)
  • Include the weight of your pallets in the total weight calculation of your shipment.
  • If you forget multiple pallets, they could add up to an additional 500 pounds or more; that’s not just a few pounds off.
  • Most LTL carriers have scales installed right on their forklifts that double-check the weight listed on the BOL automatically.
  • Make sure you are measuring the freight with extreme accuracy (to the nearest inch)
  • Some LTL carriers make it mandatory for drivers to carry a tape measure and measure the freight at the time of pick up.
  • A couple of inches can add up to hundreds of dollars when classifying freight.
  • Shippers who misrepresent freight need to understand carriers are not taking any more chances and the time to do the right thing is now!

Training Tuesday:Building to the Sale

A good initial approach to a prospective customer is a crucial part of the sales presentation. All the selling skills in the world won’t matter if you don’t get your foot in the door.

A lot of salespeople tend to beat around the bush, differentiate yourself by stating your name, the company you represent, and the particular transportation services you’re there to sell, right away. Capitalize on this introduction by beginning concept selling. Tell the prospect “I’d like to share an idea with you. I’m in the transportation business. I’m assuming you’re always looking for ideas that will make your company’s shipping and receiving processes more efficient and profitable.”

This statement opens the door to your sell and informs the customer that you’re there to add value. It creates interest and you have to substantiate the statement in your presentation.

Early in your initial meeting be sure to mention the names of several satisfied customers, to establish credibility. It lets the prospect know that your shipping solutions have benefited other leading logistics decision makers, and that they can trust you and your ideas. It’s best to mention your other customers that are working in similar environments in their industry. When you can speak about familiar customers that have found solutions to similar shipping problems, you’ll get the prospect’s immediate attention. Using a prospect’s competition as an example piques their interest, because you can bet the prospect is interested in all solutions that are available to their competition.

Breaking the ice, gaining credibility and earning trust are essential to ensuring the prospective client will listen to the benefits of doing business with you. These are the cornerstones to building a long-term, profitable relationship with a new customer.


Training Tuesday:Mentors and Joint Sales

Mentors are an important part of becoming a successful salesperson. A mentor or helper could be a co-worker, manager, or someone in a similar field. Find a mentor who can offer advice, tips, experience and suggestions for improving your sales skills.

Here’s a short list of our tips for getting the most from a relationship with a mentor:

Brainstorm. Sometimes you get so immersed in a sale that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Some of the best ideas and proven sales techniques come from a simple conversation. Open the conversation with a simple comment like, “Tell me about your best sales call,” or, “What do you say on a sales call that always seems to work?”

Have a game plan. Based on your personal styles, or the nature of a particular sale, determine in advance the roles that you and your partner will play in each sales call you make together, whether in person or not. You can have your mentor/helper make a follow-up phone call to your customer and ask how you did, if you asked the right questions, and if you provided a real solution. Team selling is one of the most effective ways to approach customers and a great way to close more sales.

Learn. When you go on a sales call with a proven sales professional, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open. Study their selling techniques. Pick out things they say that fit your style, and then use them on your next sales call.

Be selective. Use your sales mentor to your best advantage on difficult sales calls or for negotiations where you are at a stalemate. For some reason, you may not click with a particular customer, but your mentor may be the key you need.

Try making a joint sales call with your mentor today!


LTL 101:Reconsignment

Reconsignment – Here’s a shipping term that you might be familiar with if you’ve ever had a change of plans with your freight. A reconsignment happens when freight that is already in transit is re-directed from one delivery location to another. The charges associated with this can vary based on how far apart the delivery locations are. For instance, if the new location is just down the street, the charge will probably be minimal. However, if freight was heading to California and is being reconsigned to Florida, you will be in for a hefty reconsignment fee.

We get a lot of groans when we have to quote people for the cost of a reconsignment so we wanted to highlight the process so you can educate your customers as well:

1.We have to send written authorization to make the change to the carrier. A Bill of Lading is a legal contract, so any changes made must be in writing. Authorization must always be made by the shipper or paying party.

2.The carrier will enter the information into their online system and image your authorization.

3.A rating analyst reviews the request, verifies that we have authorization to make the change, and completes the request.

4. Notification is sent to the terminal who currently has, or if it is in transit, will have the freight.

5.New labels have to be generated and put on the freight.

Typically, your charges end up being broken down into the cost from origin to reconsignment point, and reconsignment point to new destination, and fees for marking and tagging of the freight. If your freight has to backtrack, you will pay for every mile it has traveled.

GREAT EXAMPLE: If it was originally to go from NY to CA, but then once it reached Chicago you turned it back around to PA, you are paying NY to Chicago and Chicago to PA, not just NY to PA.

Important points to note as well:

  • If you are not the shipper or paying party, you cannot use your authorization to make changes to the BOL.
  • If your name doesn’t appear anywhere on the BOL, see #1 above.
  • If the driver arrives and you say that it needs to go to a different address across town, this constitutes both reconsignment AND redelivery. And it can’t be done without authorization, as above.

This process actually represents a significant amount of labor time and fuel. Even a local reconsignment (change in address within a local terminal service area) requires these steps.

All carriers want to make money on this deal. Nothing is done at cost. But time is money, and the cheapest option is to always do it right the first time.