Training Tuesday:Managing Stress

Training Tuesday: Stress Management to Improve Success

Selling offers more highs and lows than most other professions. Most salespeople suffer through periods of stress that are direct results of their sales jobs, but salespeople who succeed in the long run never let disappointments get the best of them. They know rejection goes with the territory and learn not to take it personally and instead, they view mistakes and failures as lessons that will help them improve. On the other hand, some very promising sales careers have died premature deaths due to stress. Stress sometimes causes sales people to lose confidence and then fill their day with nonessential activities and hide from their customers or prospects. We’re also faced with lots of rejection on our daily search for success. If you dwell on the negatives, they’ll bury you. You have to lighten up and look for ways to lessen the stress caused by your job. The start of the new year is a perfect time to star working on habits that will help you manage stress and increase your success in the coming year.

Below are 10 of our top tips to reduce stress:

1. Focus. Focus on what’s truly stressful to you about a situation and why – the idea being that understanding the stress lessens it and gives you some control over it.

2. Put stressful situations in perspective.

3. Postpone thinking about problems until an appropriate time. Successful people learn how to compartmentalize their thinking.

4. Take a deep breath. Size up stressful situations and decide which are worth worrying about.

5. Take vacations and occasional time off. 

6. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

7. Talk to others about job pressures.

8. Expect the unexpected. Allow time and reserve energy to deal with the inevitable stressful events that occur daily.

9. Do something for yourself.

10. Volunteer or do something in the community that is rewarding to you.


We’ll be addressing some additional tips to manage stress next week!


Training Tuesday:Being a Confirmer

Being a successful salesperson requires a lot of practice, being able to envision making a sales call that results in sales success. Confirming the sale requires a lot of confidence and belief that you can make the sale and help the customer. The confidence you demonstrate when talking with a customer about our ability to deliver the service they need has the effect of transferring that confidence to them.

In the transportation 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 is the negative connotation of being a “closer,” when it is more accurate to call it “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, but by following your instincts and confirming the sale throughout the process then the customer will let you know when it’s time to close the sale.

Closing or confirming the sale should be the most natural thing about selling. It’s the only reason for your job and it should become 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 must 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. They knew you were a salesperson when they agreed to see you, and if you lack confidence to ask for his business, they’re going to lack confidence in making a decision.

Confirming the sale is simply demonstrating a confidence that you’re ready to provide the prospect with the service they want and need. 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?”


Training Tuesday:First Impressions

There are too many freight sales reps in the U.S. today to even come up with an accurate number. It is important for your prospect to know about your qualifications. Tell the prospect about yourself. No grandstanding or patting yourself on the back, just an informative look at your career and the customers you’ve helped. It lets the prospect know that they’re dealing with a professional.

If I know beforehand that the prospect knows little about my company, and nothing about me, I sometimes send over a short bio-sketch and a few magazine or newspaper articles that discuss the company or were written by me. I provide something tangible to the prospect that adds a new dimension to the relationship. Rather than simply sending them a brochure, I personalize it, and at the same time the articles express something about me and my philosophy on transportation.

In the transportation business there are two kinds of sales people: those who add value to the client’s traffic department, and those who seem to mishandle every shipment or transaction their company is involved in. Let the customer know early on that you fall into the first category.

Of course, when the moment of truth arrives, you’ll have to find the best way to make a good first impression. Take into consideration the particular dynamics of your prospect’s age, position, and gender in comparison with your own. Accommodate and welcome the differences.

Every prospect will react differently to what you have to say. Some prospects will give you all the time in the world, while others believe making time for a meeting threatens a crisis. Some are skeptical, while others are freethinkers who pride themselves on being open to new ideas. The point is you can’t win everyone over with a single script designed to handle the first few minutes.

Making a first impression requires a bit of work, but it is an essential part of the sales process and worth the effort.


Training Tuesday:Maximize Joint Sales Calls

If you have sales people in your organization, and you’re not making joint sales calls with them, you’re missing out on one of the best tools to grow your business. Joint sales calls are beneficial in many ways, primarily for the less-experienced salesperson on the call, but they also provide an opportunity for the experienced salesperson to build greater relationships with their team members and customers. If you’re going to take the time to go on a joint sales call, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your joint sales calls are most successful. Ask yourself the questions below before planning a joint sales call to maximize the benefits of the call for yourself, your team, and your customers.

1.What do you want to accomplish on this call?

Determine what you’d like to gain from conducting a joint sales call. Are you trying to improve the skills of a new team member? Improve a relationship with an existing customer? Or, make a sale to a new customer? After you’ve answered these questions, be sure to set concrete goals before the call and create a sales strategy that works towards that goal.

2.What action do you want from the customer at the end of this call?

This should be decided before every call to give you and your sales person a direction when making the sales call. If you want the customer to make a purchase at the end of the call your approach will be different than if the purpose of the call is fact finding. There are many different types of sales calls that will benefit the customer and help you grow the account; fact finding, service calls, bid review, sales presentation, etc. Know exactly what kind of sales call you’re making and prepare accordingly.

3.How will this call reinforce the value of your company?

What value does this joint call offer? Does it allow you to emphasize a strength of the company? How can you best take advantage of the time on the call to create value for your customer and the company? Make sure not to waste the customer’s time. Be mindful to accomplish your goals on the call, but more importantly, ensure that the time spent with the customer has value to them and to their company.

4.What am I teaching my salespeople today to help them achieve their potential?

How does this joint sales call allow you to be the best leader and help your salespeople to become stronger? Is this call part of a larger effort to create an encouraging environment for your team or is it intended mainly for sales purposes? Know what the value of joint sales calls is to your sales people. Sales representatives are uniquely different – make sure that the sales person you ride with will get the maximum benefit of your time, expertise, and coaching.

5.How am I creating a motivational climate for my salespeople?

Is a joint sales call the first step to motivating your employees? What else can you do to create a team that is motivated and empowered to be successful? There are few traits more valuable to a sales person than a positive attitude. Be sure when making joint sales calls that you demonstrate the power of a positive attitude to your sales person and to your customer. A little motivation can go a long way. When joining a member of your sales team on sales calls, make sure you demonstrate a dynamic, positive and upbeat attitude and approach to your sales efforts. Your example and sales coaching could be the key to your employees enjoying a successful sales career.


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.


Training Tuesday:Countering Objections

If it weren’t for objections, everyone would be in sales. While none of us like objections, we must accept them as part of the business and learn how to overcome them.

Your main goal when faced with an objection is to turn the objection around into a reason to purchase our service. If a prospect raises the ever-popular “the price is too high” objection, counter it by saying “Our prices accurately reflect the value of our services. And good value is important to you, isn’t it?”

Occasionally you’ll run into a prospect in the traffic or purchasing department who is sure they’ve seen everything there is to see. Generally, all this person really wants is attention, and to show you how much they know about your industry. Recognize their expertise and give them all the attention they crave. This is always a better way to handle a tough customer than putting them down.

When possible, let prospects answer their own objections. Sometimes you can stop an objection in its tracks by asking, “Could you tell me why you feel that way?” If the prospect can’t answer, then you and the prospect know the objection has little or no validity. If your prospect does not answer with a more specific objection, you have a chance to eliminate it and move one step closer to the close.

When faced with an objection, first restate the question or statement…

Give the prospect the opportunity to confirm your understanding of the objection, and hopefully they’ll give additional details.

Then, clarify the objection…

Remember this is a conversation between two people, not a contest.

After you’ve restated and clarified the objection, answer it. Answer the objection head on, honestly, simply, succinctly. A direct approach to handling objections guarantees greater sales results.

Buying decisions are risky for your prospects, and objections are the only way they have to help make sure that risk will pay off for them. If you can eliminate their objections, you’ll help provide the reassurance they need to say yes.


Intermodal 101:Freight Options

So, what makes good products to ship via intermodal?  The simple answer is that almost anything that can be shipped, can be shipped via intermodal.  Please note we said almost anything.

If you have heavy product, such as beverages, canned goods, paper products or lumber, you can ship those in intermodal service.  But if you are moving these types of goods that usually hit their maximum weight before they use all the cube in a 53’ box, you may want to consider moving them in smaller boxes.  A 40’ box moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, will save you several hundreds of dollars versus shipping in a 53’ container.  The 40’ box supply is predominantly controlled by steamship lines.  They want to get their boxes back to port locations so they can send them back out into international traffic.  They offer reduced rates in lanes that support their goal.

If your product is light, such as potato chips, pillows or footballs, you can still ship via intermodal in the 53’ container or trailer. These products should be packaged in such a way as to avoid shifting. When they move, they still get to take advantage of the economies offered by shipping intermodal, yet they are utilizing equipment that is equivalent to OTR units.

As you can see, almost anything can be shipped via intermodal. What may be more telling is what can’t or shouldn’t be shipped via intermodal. In our next installment, we will discuss products that aren’t particularly well suited for intermodal transportation.


Intermodal 101:Relationship with 3PL

In general, the relationship between a shipper and the 3PL should be based on a “Win/Win” setup.  Achieving this setup will enable each party to capitalize on the offering of the other party.

The 3PL will work with capacity providers to establish consistent equipment availability when and where needed.  They will negotiate the optimum rate that meets the shippers’ requirements.  The 3PL operates at many different levels of service as indicated by the desires and needs of the shippers.

The shipper will provide the needed information to allow the 3PL to put together the most beneficial program. The shipper will provide information concerning both the ship from location and the ship to location, such as contacts, loading/unloading hours, first come first server or by appointments. This information enables the 3PL to more closely coordinate the pickup and delivery as transit will allow. The shipper will provide any shipment scheduling information they can to further enhance the 3PL’s ability to make the scheduled pickup and delivery.

The shipper will also provide the 3PL direction on what they value most: cheap transportation rates, fast transit, schedule delivery guarantee, transit time required per lane, etc.  Knowing more about each of these items will help the 3PL put together the best plan to meet the customers’ needs.

Next time, we will talk about intermodal freight characteristics that you should be looking for to see what makes good intermodal freight.  Hint…everything!


Training Tuesday:Accelerating Sales – Part 1

Almost all companies, from the smallest to those in the Fortune 100, frequently – if not continually – face the challenge of getting sales fast: next month, next week, even “tomorrow.”

Sometimes you should rely on the tried and true methods, but sometimes you should shake things up. Often the well-established selling principles may need to be shelved.

Here are some of our key tips for improving your and your company’s sales results:

1.Set clear sales objective. Determine what sales you are being asked to make in this situation and then set a strategy for getting them. Make a plan and put it in writing, even just a couple sentences will do. Refer to your plan every day and don’t hesitate to make revisions when necessary.

2.Be certain you have pre-call credibility. Proper pre-call credibility will telegraph what benefits the buyer can expect from your sales call and get him to look forward to meeting you, or to at least listen and learn about what you have to offer.

3.Make use of sales support. Use every ounce of sales and marketing ammunition available to you: telemarketing appointments, email, pre-call letters, literature, testimonials, referrals, leads, ads, etc. Test them, then use what works and discard what doesn’t.

4.Skim the “cream” of your customers, prospects, and suspects. Make a list of prospects most ready to buy. Sort them into groups and then target them in priority order.

5.Rehearse. Even if you’ve sold the same product or service for years, one or two mistakes can kill a sale. Practice, record your presentation and review, role-play with your team; practice and perfection will pay.

Check back next week for more of our top tips to quickly improve your sales success rate.


Intermodal 101:Role of a 3PL

As a refresher, a 3PL is a Third-Party Logistics provider. This means that a 3PL essentially acts as an intermediary between the shipper and the carrier to ensure that freight is transported correctly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. The 3PL will work with the shipper to create the optimum shipping plan using several different means.

The 3PL will coordinate with the shipper and determine if there is a need/opportunity to lock in intermodal pricing where it makes sense to do so.  This could be lanes that have the following characteristics:

  • Require equipment commitments from the rail providers
  • Need to move at predictable pricing, so they can budget the transportation costs.
  • Have static transit requirements that must be met

At the same time, the 3PL will look for lanes may have a higher level of flexibility available to them.  The shipper may be more willing to ride the pricing up and down as it changes throughout the year.  To take advantage of this, the freight should:

  • Have more flexibility to the expected delivery date
  • Be a commodity that may be able to tolerate longer transit times
  • Lane should have consistent equipment availability within 48 hours of request

In the next update, we will discuss the advantage of bringing in a 3PL to assist with shipping.