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.


LTL 101:Clean BOLs

When shipping LTL freight, you must 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: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: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:Questions for the Sales Call

Knowing the questions you’re going to ask before you arrive at the customer’s desk or get them on the phone is essential to a productive sales call. The information you can collect from the customer through asking targeted questions with increase your chances of putting together a winning proposal after you’ve made your consultative sales call. You won’t have the opportunity to ask all of the questions outlined below, but over time the information you secure will allow you to earn more and more of your customer’s business.

Some of our best questions are below:

What does your company specialize in? Manufacturing? Distribution?

What do you ship? In what quantities? Expedited? Truckload? LTL? Intermodal?

In what lanes do you ship, and how often?

What is the average value of each shipment? Would you be interested in our ability to purchase affordable shipper’s insurance?

What service level is required? To where?

How is your product packaged? Palletized? Shrink wrapped? What is the average weight of each shipment?

What is the normal pick up time? Do you have any unusual pickup requirements?

What is the frequency of your shipments?

What is your average monthly cost for freight transportation?

How do you feel about your current freight transportation service? Pricing? Efficiency?

Would you benefit from adding shipping services that are not available with your current broker, carrier, or 3PL?

What services would you most like to add? What is the benefit?

What is most important to you: service, stability, technology, or something else? Why?

What would cause you to begin using a different carrier or broker?


After asking some of the above questions, be sure to wrap up the appointment by asking for the next appointment and initiating a trial close. The trial close, something like “I’d like to prepare a customized program for your company. Would you be able to commit to giving us a shot to prove that we can offer the kind of service you need?” lets the prospect know that your next call will include more of a sales push. It prepares them to say “yes” when you come back later and ask them to buy.

Good questions lead to profitable answers!


Training Tuesday– Tips for Phone Calls & Voicemail

You can use the same tools when leaving a message as you do when speaking with a live gatekeeper: be aggressive, assume control, sound important, and be confident.

Here are some tips that will help you be an effective communicator on the phone or through voicemail:

  • Be clear and clever. Make sure you sound enthusiastic and authoritative on your business and theirs.
  • Being an effective communicator on the phone or in a voicemail is a skill that takes practice. Be sure to speak slowly and distinctly enough to be clearly understood.
  • Make your message short. Time is valuable. Give the prospect the headlines instead of the entire story, until you’ve grabbed their attention.
  • Smile with your voice. A friendly voice will hold your prospect’s interest. Prospects like to buy from people they’re comfortable with so be sure to project your friendliness over the phone.
  • Be an energetic speaker. This expresses your enthusiasm for your job and your product.
  • Make it clear that you’re not calling to make an immediate sale, rather to make a scheduled time for the call because you understand that their time is valuable. This also implies that you are busy helping other clients, which in turn translates to a perception that you’re successful.
  • Listen attentively. No one appreciates being interrupted. Sometimes the prospect will give you useful information that you can use during a face-to-face appointment, or a follow up phone call. Be sure to take notes.

Connecting with a prospect over the phone or through their voicemail can be frustrating, but it is also a very effective way to start the sales process. With the tips above, you’ll be on your way to being a better phone communicator.


Training Tuesday:Closing Techniques – Part 1

There are as many different closes as there are sales people, but there are some recurring techniques that may come in handy. While you may find that certain closes work better than others, that shouldn’t deter you from using a variety of closes or confirming techniques, depending on different situations. We’ve outlined the first 5 of our top 9 closing or confirming techniques. Learning the closes listed here will increase your chances of getting more sales, more often, from more accounts.

1.“It Costs Too Much” Close

Emphasize the benefits you know the prospect finds irresistible. Uncover the prospect’s hot buttons and emphasize how your solution will actually save them money in the long run.

2.The “What You Really Want” Close

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 us, then this will happen, and that’s what you really want, isn’t it?

3.The “Minor-Major” Close

The minor-major builds a chain of affirmative answers to questions you ask to help lead a prospect into saying yes to the sale. To put the prospect in the habit of saying “yes,” ask questions you’re sure will get an affirmative answer.

4.The “If I Can” Close

This 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 needs and wants, ask them if they’ll buy from you if you can…

5.The “Give Us A Try” Close

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

Next week we’ll address 4 more top closing methods and how adding them to your repertoire of sale confirming techniques can help you up your sales success.




Training Tuesday:10 Tips for Helping Dissatisfied Customers

Even the best company, with the best service, will occasionally make mistakes. What matters most is how you handle the situation when issues arise. We’ve included our top 10 tips to best help a dissatisfied customer.

1.Inform the customer as soon as you can – they’re going to find out one way or another – and no news travels as swiftly as bad news. Contacting them first allows you the opportunity to set the tone and break the bad news in the most productive way possible.

2.Get to the point quickly. Don’t draw out the inevitable.

3.If your customer approaches you with a complaint, don’t interrupt. Don’t become defensive or make judgement until you’ve heard all the facts as the customer sees them.

4.Take complaints seriously, even if they seem trivial to you. Remember that problems exist when a customer perceives they exist.

5.Apologize sincerely.

6.Avoid playing the “blame game,” instead focus on fixing the problem. The customer has already decided to blame you and your company, so take responsibility for the problem and solve it.

7.Let your customer suggest solutions or alternatives. Find out their expectations for a solution and follow that if it is reasonable.

8.Do something extra. Recognize the inconvenience caused by the problem and acknowledge that.

9.Listen to your customer, trust their sincerity, and empathize with them.

10.Follow up. After you’ve done everything you can to remedy the situation, follow up with the customer and make sure they are truly satisfied.



Training Tuesday:Service Calls, part 2

Last week, we addressed eight ways to say thanks and offer service to customers. This week we’re covering more ways to say thanks as well as some tips to increase your sales, gain market share, and ensure your customers get exactly what they deserve – the best service.

1.Surprise a customer with a small gift that relates to a known hobby or special interest of theirs. For example: golf balls, a souvenir from their home state, logo-ed gear of their favorite sports team.

2.Invite your customer to accompany you to seminars, speeches, and other business functions.

3.Return all phone calls immediately.

4.Establish a follow-up schedule. Remember that last month’s “no” may be this month’s “yes.” Try to touch base with prospects regularly, but avoid being intrusive.

5.Vary your modes of contact. Phone calls, emails, packages – all will have a greater impact if they are followed with another form of contact. Show customers that you are persistent in your desire to help them.

6.Collect leads on follow-up calls to established customers. Contact repeat customers frequently to let them know they aren’t taken for granted. If you provide good service to these customers, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for the names of business acquaintances and others in their own company who might benefit from the services you offer.

7.Make buying fun. You don’t have to sacrifice professionalism to make buying an energizing, enjoyable experience that will keep your customers coming back.

8.Make sure internal employees are well-trained in good customer service techniques. Anyone who will have contact with customers should be trained in customer service and should be as excited as you are to provide outstanding service to your customers.

9.Never sell your customer a method of moving their freight that you don’t believe they really need. Know your prospect, know their needs, and sell to those needs.

10.Most importantly, do what you promised, do it when you promised, and do it more often than your competition.

Start today – make service an integral part of your sales strategy!


Training Tuesday:Service Calls

To some sales agents, service is what they do when they don’t feel like selling. Service can be a way to putt off more important activities. Don’t use service calls as a way to pad your call report. Making service calls to your customers is very important, but remember that a service call should have definable objectives.

One problem that many have with service calls is that there’s very little short-term reward for it. There’s a much greater immediate reward for, and attention paid to selling than to servicing.

We define service as anything that builds trust or confidence that in our company and the services we provide to the customer. We’ve put together a list of services that are specific and measurable that you can use to make service a more specific part of our sales planning.

1.Write thank you notes as part of your service system. Carry the cards in your car and fill them out at the end of the call.

2.Conduct a training session for the client and their staff. Something in the sales training or customer service field is usually appreciated and it shows an interest in the customer’s success that goes beyond just the business you want from them today.

3.Schedule a visit of upper management to the client. This is symbolic but also allows your upper management team to gather information and stay connected.

4.Conduct office tours on a regular basis. Allow clients to come to the office to get a grasp of the depth of professionalism and dedication that goes into meeting their needs.

5.Throw a client appreciation party.

6.Bring coffee and donuts to their office. Get stickers that have your company logo and your contact information and put them on the box so you have many opportunities for name recognition.

7.Help clients with long term planning and strategizing efforts.

8.Send a thank you card or small gift to clients after they utilize your service for the first time. It shows you appreciate your customer and that you stay on top of the things happening at your company.