Training Tuesday:Problem Solving

Being able to solve problems for your customers is one of the most important skills you can have as a sales person. Solving problems will require time, thought, and individual attention, but once you have a set of skills in place, you can begin to handle problems quickly, easily, and consistently.

The first step should always be to actively listen to what they’re saying. If you don’t understand the question the customer is asking, how can you expect to provide a helpful solution or answer? You should make every effort to clarify their question, problem, or objection before you even start to formulate a solution. In the clarification process, hopefully your prospect or customer will give you additional details that can help you solve their problem.

After you have defined the problem, you can begin to brainstorm solutions and identify options. Once you have a list of options, you’re better equipped to determine what will actually work for a particular customer and situation.

After you’ve come up with a viable solution, you should answer the question head on, honestly, simply, and succinctly. Present the solution and then, if accepted, implement it efficiently.

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LTL 101:Educating Consignees

It is very important to educate your consignee BEFORE the freight is delivered about what the process will be like. Will they need a liftgate? Will the driver be helping unload the freight in any form or manner? By asking these questions in advance, and by making sure that the consignee and you are on the same page, you can minimize additional charges on your invoice.

On the delivery receipt/proof of delivery (POD), issues should be notated if you suspect that the value of the product has been compromised. Make sure to notate any damage to the packaging, and/or missing product. Having these notes on the POD makes it easier to file a freight claim with the carrier. Claims can take quite a long time so anything that you can do upfront saves time down the road.

Another tactic you can take is to refuse the shipment upon delivery if damage is present. Refusing a shipment means that the consignee does not accept the freight in the condition presented – meaning you will eventually file a damage claim. This will alert the carrier that something is wrong with the shipment and that they should get in touch with the appropriate party. Make sure you use this tactic responsibly, because if a shipment is not damaged the carrier can actually tack on a redelivery fee. Yikes!  

Five of the most common additional services on a POD include:

  1. Lift Gate – Hydraulic lift on the rear of a truck used to assist in the unloading of freight.
  2. Inside Delivery – The driver is only responsible for moving the freight off the truck. If the driver helps move the freight more than a few feet away from the truck, even if it’s not “inside,” then an Inside Delivery fee may apply. Be very careful with this one because the terminology can be misleading and it varies by carrier.
  3. Limited Access (Residential) – This is up to the carrier’s discretion, however, there are locations that will always be deemed limited access. If a business is run from a home, or is in a residential area, carriers may charge this fee.
  4. Sort/Segregate – Certain locations may require a carrier to sort and segregate a shipment. This is additional handling beyond the normal duties of a driver that will incur additional fee(s). This charge is especially prevalent in grocery stores or distribution centers.
  5. Detention – With most LTL carriers, the first 30 minutes from when the driver arrives are free. Any additional time is subject to an additional detention fee. Again, the length of this “free time” as well as the charge for it varies by carrier.

So the next time you sign a POD when receiving your shipment, be sure to review it and see if any additional services listed are being used. If a service is pre-printed on the POD, then the need for this service was most likely known in advance. However, if the driver marks that an additional service was performed, then there will be an additional charge. In some cases, it may be good practice to have your consignee obtain a copy of the POD themselves.

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Training Tuesday:Motivational Questions

It can be challenging to maintain momentum in sales without being thoughtful about maintaining your motivation.

There are some questions that can make you (and your team) more successful salespeople. These questions can help you create more productive thoughts, habits, and attitudes.

  • If I try, can I be successful?
  • If I am successful, will there be a payoff?
  • Is the payoff worth it to me?

Beyond those questions, here are some other questions to ask yourself to increase your success:

  • What is your purpose for selling?
    • Who are you targeting and why?
    • What are you going to tell them or ask them? Why?
  • Are you selling what your customer needs? How can you convince them that you are?
  • What goals do you have for each sales situation or visit? For more on goals, check out our earlier blog post of setting SMART goals.

Taking time to focus on what motivates you, and on how to increase that motivation, is important to improving your success overall as a salesperson.

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LTL 101:Confirming BOLs and Avoiding Disputes

Please remember 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!
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Training Tuesday:Setting SMART Goals

Setting goals for each sales call is a crucial part of the sales process. A goal helps you prepare for the sales visit and gives structure to your entire presentation, but it is important to set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. In order for a goal to be a useful tool in preparing for a sales call, it should follow the “S.M.A.R.T.” method.

This means that a goal should be:

Specific: The goal should not be too broad, but rather, it should be focused in on something. In sales, for example, it should be “I want the prospect to agree to another meeting” or “I want the prospect to agree to use our services for 3 months” rather than just “I want to earn this client’s business.”

Measurable: Similar to a goal being specific, it must be able to be measured in some quantitative or concrete sense. This goes hand in hand with the next component, which is achievability of the goal.

Achievable: It is important to make sure that your goal is realistically achievable in the parameters you set for it. If you goal is to make a specific number of sales to this client (thus making it both specific and measurable) you should also make sure that it is a reasonable, achievable goal, and not something like 1000 sales in 2 weeks. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up to fail, and that can be very disheartening.

Relevant: A goal is relevant if it is worthwhile to a larger plan and to your own personal job duties and planning. Additionally, it should be something that makes sense for you to be working towards. If you are supposed to work in an accounting capacity, then a goal for a number of sales calls will be less relevant to you. You should also consider if the timing is good for this particular goal in your overall business plan as well as in the current economic, social, and business climates.

Time-Bound: If you do not have a set of parameters in which your goal should be completed, you don’t really have a planned goal. It is easy to say “I want to be a successful sales person one day” but unless you start adding timelines, like 6 months, or 1 year, or even 5 years, you won’t actually have any frame to work towards achieving that goal. The time component of a goal is essential to finding the proper motivation to achieve it and also to keeping it in line with the other components of smart goals.

Setting goals according to the “S.M.A.R.T.” method can help you to achieve more, make real progress towards success, and reduce stress.

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LTL 101:Reconsignment and Fees

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. This charge 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 be made by the shipper or paying party always.
  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, who 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.

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Training Tuesday:Structuring the Sales Call

Without structure to the sales call, a salesperson is just a tourist. In order to have a successful sales call, you must stay organized and on-track. That means planning and structuring your visit to a prospect so that you can get the most out of each call. Below are our top things to keep in mind when planning a sales call:

  • The pre-call objective/setting an objective for every call. You should set an objective or goal for every call. This gives you direction for the actual sales tactics that will be most effective.
  • Make your goal specific. It is important to remember to set specific and reasonable goals so that you can accomplish them without being overwhelmed.
  • Be focused AND flexible. Yes, this really is possible! It’s important to not allow your focus to cloud your ability to flex and adjust the sales presentation to the reactions and needs of the prospect.
  • Ask the customer for feedback. You can ask specific questions here, like “Did I cover everything sufficiently?” or “Would you like more details on anything we’ve discussed?”
  • Ask for the business. You will reach a point in the sales call where it is not only reasonable, but expected, to ask the prospect for their business. You cannot avoid this step and consider it a successful call. You must ask for the business you want.

Remember it is just as important to set goals and plan your sales visit to a previously visited a prospect as it is to plan for a first impression. Every visit to a prospect or customer makes a lasting impression about you and the company you are representing. Plan, set goals, and succeed!

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LTL 101:Drop Trailers Overview

From time to time you may run into a drop trailer with one of your LTL shipments.

A drop trailer is a trailer that is left at a location for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s “dropped,” and picked up later. Most of the time, a drop trailer is used at locations that ship or receive often enough to fill up or unload a full trailer in a week or even a day, depending on production. The location doesn’t matter as much as the amount of freight that is moving in or out of the specified location and the agreement in place with each LTL carrier.

Think about it like this: Let’s say you have a shipment going to a warehouse that multiple manufactures ship to as well. This warehouse has pre-established relationships with a handful of LTL carriers. In order to save time and money they will consolidate and reduce traffic flow to their receiving docks by collaborating with LTL carriers and advise them to only “drop” a trailer at their location when the LTL carrier has a full trailer. This could potentially delay your expected delivery date.

There are numerous ways in which the LTL carriers can handle a drop trailer situation, but the main thing to keep in mind is that your shipment may not deliver on time due to it being a drop trailer which may also change the way in which the PODs are received from the consignee. Due to the nature of drop trailers, PODs are usually handled differently and will almost always take longer to receive considering the consignee is unloading a full trailer of shipments from multiple shippers.

Though the use of drop trailers isn’t exactly common, it’s not something to be afraid of when it comes to your LTL shipments. A little understanding goes a long way. Here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with drop trailers:

Drop trailers can sometimes lead to delays. Before you panic about delays, remember that the manufacturer is often very aware a drop trailer is being used, and so should the buyer. Don’t be afraid to ask if the shipper or consignee have any drop trailer processes in place so you can educate your customer as well. Most drop trailer situations do not revolve around freight that is time-sensitive. If your freight is on a tight schedule, make sure to use a different carrier.

Not all carriers do drop trailers. Just because one carrier uses a drop trailer at a certain location doesn’t mean that EVERY carrier uses a drop trailer there. Trailers belong to carriers, so if you can’t afford to have a drop trailer on a shipment, simply look at using a different carrier. It may not be the cheapest of the bunch, but there will always be options available.

Stay away from perishables. For obvious reasons, if you’re shipping perishable items, make sure you’re not dealing with drop trailers.

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Training Tuesday:Sales Pitching and Silence

Often the most important part of your sales pitch is when you are completely silent. We often rush through all the great benefits of why a customer would buy, without really listening to them tell us what they need and why they might buy from us.

Most people hate mimes. Why do they exist? Are they evil? If a tree falls on a mime does he make a sound? But, silence is the one important sales attribute that mimes demonstrate in abundance. So, on your next sales call, be a mime, at least for part of the call. Silence just may turn out to be the most important piece of the sales puzzle.

Why is it that so many salespeople think they must tell everything they know before allowing the prospect to talk? Why is it that some think the sales process involves a lot of talking when, in reality, the most successful salespeople do more listening than talking? It’s a fact that the more we listen, the more we can learn about our prospects and the easier we can find their “hot buttons.”  It’s not what we say that makes the sale, it’s what we can get the prospect to say.

Begin With Questions

Think about how many times you launch right into your presentation thinking you know what the prospect wants. Sometime later, often too much later, you find you’re on the wrong track. The prospect has an entirely different need – one you might have uncovered by asking open-ended questions that required more than a yes or no response. Then you could have focused on what the customer wanted instead of what you had to sell. Stop thinking so much about what you are going to say and concentrate on what the prospect is telling you.

It’s a paradox: the more we try to tell the prospect up front, the more barriers we create to the purchase. However, the more we listen to why he or she wants to buy, the more we can tailor our delivery to providing very specific information concerning how our product or service fits his or her needs.

Ask More Questions

The opening question is merely the first in a series of questions that guide the dialogue. It’s an approach as old as the art of miming. If we want to involve someone – the first step in convincing that person – every comment we make should end with a question that solicits more information. The person asking questions is the person controlling the direction of the dialogue. The one who is talking is providing information that helps the other adjust the direction.

After you ask a question, however, don’t be too anxious to fill the silence. Let the silence work in your favor. Too often we answer the question for the prospect by jumping in and providing him with an objection:

“Perhaps you don’t like the price,” or, “Maybe you don’t like the resources it would involve.”

Beware of the very real temptation to fill in the silence with a product weakness – the one we are most worried about.

Don’t Rush In With Answers

Salespeople have a terrible tendency to try to get their point in as soon as the customer stops talking. Think about how often you find yourself stepping on your prospect’s last words, rushing in right after the prospect has finished making a point.

Salespeople can break themselves of this self-defeating habit by training themselves to wait several seconds after the customer has stopped talking before they begin. That gives you ample time to think about your response and answer in a way that reflects the customer’s concerns.

Get in the habit of paraphrasing what the prospect has said. This will accomplish two things. One, it reduces the likelihood of misunderstanding what was said, and two, it boosts the prospect’s ego. People like to hear their thoughts repeated – it makes them feel like what they said was important.

Learn to Listen

Don’t listen with just with your ears. Listen with your eyes and your entire body. Use body language that shows you are paying more attention, and your listening habits will automatically improve. Lean forward intently, look the prospect in the eye, and focus on the valuable information you are hearing.

And finally, listen for buying signals. You’ll never notice a buying signal from the customer when you’re doing the talking. Sure, we want to talk so the prospect will learn how smart we are. But the prospect only really knows how smart we are when we’ve “listened” to the information he or she wants to share.

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Training Tuesday:Dress Rehearsals

Practice is essential to increasing success on sales calls, and one excellent way to practice is to have a “dress rehearsal” with a coworker or trusted peer. There are certain things you can do to make the role-playing situation the most helpful preparation for the sales call.

  • Set a clear objective. Setting a defined objective for what you want to get out of the practice call, what skills you’d like to improve, and what you’ll have as a goal in a similar real call.
  • If you’re role-playing with a mentor, have them model the skills you’d like to work on in that session. You can also try to model the individual skills you’d like to work on, and then practice putting them all together in a full simulated situation.
  • Remove the fear of failure. Role-playing helps remove the fear of failure in the real-life situation by creating a space to practice various techniques. If a method doesn’t work, you can then use the role-play situation to workshop what went wrong and how to change it. This allows you to fail and learn from it without jeopardizing a sale or relationship with a customer.
  • Role playing can also be helpful in the role of observer or customer, because you are able to see how various techniques play out and what it’s like to be on the other side of the sale. It can help you to identify what you’d like change about your current sales presentation – either by offering new techniques to incorporate or showing you what doesn’t work and should be removed.
  • You can also provide and receive open, objective, and constructive feedback from your partner in the role-play exercise. This feedback is an essential part of the process, and a huge benefit of role-playing and “dress rehearsals”
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