Training Tuesday:Controlling the Sales Call

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

Never concede that your company’s service and offerings are just like your competitors. Once you do, you give away your competitive edge and ability to differentiate your services. Your job is to know how and why your service is different, why that difference is important to the customer, and how to effectively communicate the importance of those differences. You can acknowledge that your competitors do something well, but never say that you do exactly the same thing. Always make sure you can prove that your services are better and will suit the needs of the customer more successfully. Once you’ve added that value, price diminishes in importance.

Of course, a customer will always tell you that they buy based on price, but they don’t. They may believe that they do, but they really buy based on the services and successes you and your company offer them. It is your job to illustrate the differences in the services you offer and why they are important. Any salesperson can offer the customer the lowest price, but it’s your job to convince them they need YOUR services, even if that comes at a higher price.


Training Tuesday:Leads vs. Opportunities vs. Prospects

Keeping your “sales pipeline” full is essential to making sales and meeting your goals. It is always challenging to manage your time – between prospecting, selling, and maintaining existing relationships, it can be a lot to keep straight. One of the most important, and often overlooked, stages of the sales process is prospecting. It doesn’t matter how much you practice your sales presentation and refine your selling skills if you don’t have anyone new to meet with. If you’re not consistently seeking new potential clients, you are doing yourself a disservice.

The “prospecting” stage can be a bit daunting as there are a variety of categories that your contacts can fall into. How do you know if a contact has become a “lead” an “opportunity” or a “prospect” when in the early stages of interactions? This can be even more challenging when the terms are used differently by different companies and business units. Creating a consistent system for defining and categorizing each of the terms with your team (and hopefully your company as a whole) will be extremely helpful for increasing the efficiency of the prospecting process.

The biggest difference between the three is the nature of the interaction and if you have researched and qualified them as a viable client. As such, the following definitions can be helpful in categorizing and planning during the prospecting phase.

A “lead” is contact information for an individual that is related to a sales opportunity. The lead can be the eventual purchaser, an advisor, a friend, or a referral. Typically, a lead is not as fully qualified as a prospect, though this can vary by company or industry. A lead is usually categorized by primarily one-way communication, as in, the lead has contacted the company in some way – by a contact form on a website or some other message.

A “prospect” is typically a lead that has been qualified and is receptive to being sold what you offer. Generally, a prospect would be a “sales receptive” lead and you could convert the contact with a prospect into a sales opportunity. A prospect is generally categorized by two-way communication – that is, you or someone on your team has connected with the prospect and has sent them information as well as receiving an initial query.

A sales “opportunity” is then the time and space to take advantage of the receptive attitude of the prospect and meet with them to give your sales presentation. When you’ve reached the “sales opportunity” phase, that typically means the prospect has engaged with you multiple times and has been receptive to setting up a meeting or has actually scheduled a meeting with you.

It is important to remember that there are different categories in the sales prospecting process and that each level should be treated differently to be sure you have the most successful and efficient interactions.


LTL 101:Clean and Presise BOLs

In addition to being careful of unexpected charges to watch out for when shipping an LTL load, it is important to keep your BOLs clean and precise so that you are not confusing carriers or being charged incorrectly.

When shipping LTL freight, make sure your BOLs are clean and precise prior to sending them to your shippers. Extra language in the special instructions section of BOLs only causes billing issues. Take a look at the below examples where the BOLs are very busy and not easily readable:

Let’s stop putting so much traffic in the special instructions!

  • PU# is fine, but not 3 times
  • PU instructions FCFS is not needed and does not protect you or the customer from charges
    • If the carrier is delayed due to the shipper you will be charged regardless
    • If they can’t get in timely or for another reason they will skip the pick-up
  • “No APT needed for LTL shipments” –  This is unnecessary information because if the consignee states appointment is needed it will be assessed
    • The carrier already assumes appointment is not needed.
    • This includes daily routines between consignee and carrier
      • If a consignee isn’t always open during regular business hours, some LTL carriers will have that particular address flagged for appointments no matter what we have on the BOL
  • Again, “FCFS DELIVERY” is not needed and does not protect you or the customer from charges
  • “1000-1600” – By putting hours on the BOL, some carriers may flag the shipment for an appointment because standard LTL operating hours will always be assumed
    • If the carrier’s cut time from the terminal is 8am and this consignee is close to the terminal then this should be flagged because they would have to wait 2 hours prior to attempting delivery
  • “MUST CALL” – This verbiage may be mistaken for notify or an appointment because some LTL billing clerks may not catch the remaining portion due to the busyness of the BOL
  • “No additional accessorial will be approved without prior authorization” – This wording is irrelevant because the carrier will always charge based on their rules tariff and/or contract with the paying party

Now that you have cleaned up your BOL, you can’t stress enough to your customer:
“Make sure this BOL is handed to the carrier so that no additional charges occur!”


Training Tuesday:Sales and Closing Techniques

It doesn’t matter how good your selling skills are – if you can’t get a “Yes!” at the end of the sales call, you won’t find success as a salesperson. However, it’s no secret that closing a sale can be a challenge. The best “closes” are actually part of larger sales techniques that support the final push at the end of the meeting. With that in mind, below are some closing techniques that are helpful to have in your arsenal.

1. Emotional Appeal

Humans are emotional creatures. If we feel connected to a person, company, or cause, we are more likely to support them. Complementing the “facts and figures” of your sales presentation with some sort of “feeling” element can lead to a better connection, and therefore make a prospect more apt to say “yes” when you ask for their business. The emotional connection can be established through a variety of techniques, which even if they feel forced initially, can have an equally beneficial effect as organic connections. Things like mentioning shared interests or other commonalities, interjecting humor, or thoughtful things like sending an article appealing to their interests. All of these gradual connections can help increase the likeliness of a prospect doing business with you and your company.

2. Alternatives Close – “This or That”

Decision making can be frustrating, challenging, and even a little scary. A prospect that is talking to you is in the “hot seat” to make a decision and could already be feeling the pressure from others to make the right call about who to work with. If you give them some “alternatives” you can make their decision easier, and encourage them towards the decision you want, which is for them to work with you and your company. A “this or that” question can help ease some of the pressure of the seemingly unlimited choices available. These types of closes are best used over the course of an interaction with a prospective client. They are especially useful for setting up appointments and demos. You can offer two dates or times for a future call, visit, or demo of your products, services, or platforms. Simplifying the process can encourage the prospect to make the decision you ultimately want.

3. Similarity Close

If you can demonstrate that you’ve helped a customer in a similar situation and role, then you can inspire confidence in your prospect. Find out as many details about the prospect as possible and then compare their situation to those of your other clients. Then, in your sales meeting, you can showcase the benefits that those other clients got from working with you, and the prospect is better able to visualize how you could help them and their company. This close works well with the emotional appeal to create a connection with the other prospects that you have helped successfully.

You can pick and choose situations in which these closes may be helpful. They may be helpful as full processes, or you may want to apply elements of a variety of techniques to different sales interactions. Successful selling requires applying the right tool for the situation, at the right time.