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Training Tuesday:Sales Prospecting

Training Tuesday:Sales Prospecting

No matter what you have scheduled for your day there is one part of your job you should do every day – Prospecting. There are no sales without customers and there are no customers without frequent prospecting. You must keep prospects in your pipeline. Set a daily or weekly minimum number of cold calls or prospecting contacts for yourself – your success depends on it.

One of the biggest reasons transportation salespeople are reluctant to approach prospects is because they don’t feel confident about their company’s ability to provide the service the customer needs. A lack of confidence in Sunteck’s ability to do what we promise will stunt your desire to approach new prospects. You may be fearful that they might just buy. You have to believe that Sunteck can help your customer. You must know instinctively the benefit people will derive from working with you and you must believe in your heart that Sunteck’s efforts are in your customer’s best interests. If you’re leaving a trail of angry former customers in your wake – you’re destroying any chances at success with Sunteck. In my career as a transportation sales specialist I have run the gamut, selling for the best, customer driven carriers in the country, and for a period of time I represented a carrier that handled LTL and airfreight that had a lot of problems internally and with customer service. Working for a poor quality carrier can kill a promising career. The only way to salvage a promising career after making a bad career move is to correct it as soon as possible. Your reputation as a straight shooter and knowledgeable resource for your customer is your most valuable asset. Sunteck represents you as well as you represent Sunteck.

Sunteck is a company you can be proud of. Tell everyone you meet who you work for and what you sell. I’m not suggesting you subject everyone you meet to a sales pitch, simply let people know that you’re a salesperson for Sunteck. You’ll be surprised how often someone will say, “Sunteck, huh? You know, we’ve been thinking about trying a new 3PL partner.”

Be proud of being a salesperson. There’s no greater job than yours – we move America! What other professional salesperson can say that?

Okay, now that you represent a company you can be proud of, get busy prospecting.

  1. Talk to and develop relationships with everyone you meet in our industry. I’ve received tons of business over the years from sales reps from other trucking companies whose company could not provide the service the customer needed. Make sure your competitors know you and what you do. Share information. Never give away company secrets, but sometimes you can help each other achieve goals and gain new business you might not have uncovered without the help of others.
  2. Join clubs and organizations. You never know where your next big shipper will come from. Organizations that are good places to start are Traffic Clubs, Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, Civitan, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, and the Optimists.
  3. Subscribe to magazines like “Transport Topics” and “Traffic World”. Read through trade publications that would apply to your largest customers (automotive, plastics, medical suppliers, etc.). Read your local newspaper and one national or business paper daily, paying particular attention to the business sections.
  4. Attend trade shows and seminars. Those that are aimed at trucking and air freight, as well as major tradeshows specific to your biggest customers’ industries. This can be a great opportunity to exchange business cards, and pick up some great leads.
  5. Give speeches every chance you get. Don’t sell from the podium, but make sure everyone gets one of your business cards. This establishes you as an expert in our industry. After just one or two speeches, you’ll be recognized as the most knowledgeable transportation specialist in your local area.
  6. Take the time to write an occasional article and submit to any publication that might print your ideas, even letters to the editor. This is another way for you to be recognized as an expert. It also adds credibility when you present copies of your published articles to new prospects.
  7. Offer help and resources at fundraisers, telethons, and charity drives. Make sure that Sunteck’s name is associated with good deeds that take place in your community. Have an inexpensive sign made so that your agency will receive the good-will generated from such an event.
  8. Develop and practice networking skills – one of the most powerful business tool. Read all the articles you can about networking. Mastering networking could be the difference between a mediocre and magnificent career.
  9. Surround yourself with successful people. It’s the best way to learn how to be successful yourself. It will pay dividends now and in the future. At the same time, avoid negative people who are not striving for success.

There are several things that a salesperson should do before making an actual face-to-face presentation. Obviously, an appointment must be made with the prospect. These appointments will usually be set by telephone. Also, make sure that you’re qualified to make the sales call (qualified means that you have the necessary product knowledge, are properly prepared to answer all industry-related questions, and possess a basic understanding of the customer’s needs). Effective time management is essential to achieve the maximum number of sales presentations each day.

Poor appointment setting habits can be the death of a productive sales week. Appointment scheduling and general office work should not be performed during prime selling time. Broken appointments, however, create an opportunity to set appointments for the following week. Appointment setting, in my opinion, is the second best use of prime selling time, with face-to-face sales presentations being in first place by a wide margin.

When setting appointments, always consider the characteristics of your territory. Divide your territory into industrial parks and city areas that will accommodate your ability to make the most sales presentations in one day. Too much windshield time kills your earning potential. Remember, your goal is more sales presentations and less wasted time and energy.

Before you pick up the telephone you should have in your possession the following information: the decision-makers name, title (purchasing manager, traffic manager, material control manager, warehouse supervisor, etc.), address, phone number, and information on how you obtained the lead. A qualified prospect is anybody who ships or receives freight or makes those decisions for other locations. If you received this lead from a referral, be sure to have your source’s name ready to cite to the prospect. Referred prospects are by far Sunteck’s best leads.

Never call a prospect without knowing his or her name in advance. For example, if I want to speak to the Vice President of Purchasing at EFG Company, but don’t know his name, I make a call a day or so in advance and ask the main switchboard operator or receptionist, “Who is your company’s purchasing VP?” Later, I put in a call to the proper individual. The internet is also a great source for this information.

There are many obstacles you will face in setting your appointments: getting past the gatekeeper, getting your prospect to agree to a face-to-face meeting, and the dreaded voicemail system.

When speaking to an assistant or receptionist, assume control of the conversation quickly. This is an absolute must. If she asks too many questions, there’s a good chance she’ll suggest that she’ll relay your message to the Director of traffic, and “If he’s interested, he’ll call you back.” You have to be the person who speaks to the prospect— not a disinterested, uninformed third party, in this case—the receptionist! You could lose the sale before you’ve even had the opportunity to present Sunteck’s services. Because there are so many sales reps representing so many freight companies, people managing the movement of their company’s freight are besieged by your competitors making cold calls and it is more difficult than ever to get through to a prospect. To compound the problem, cold calls are even more difficult when a transportation salesperson represents a company whose name is unfamiliar to the general public. In some cases, the prestigious reputation of a major company serves as an effective door opener. A call from a sales representative with Sunteck, FedEx, or UPS for example, is more likely to capture the immediate respect of a gatekeeper. There are times though when representing a well-known company can backfire. It’s an immediate tip-off that the caller is selling for a transportation company when the salesperson identifies himself as being with Sunteck, which often is followed with a, “We’re not interested, we’re happy with our current carrier,” response.

Your only objective for using the telephone on a cold call is to schedule an appointment. Never attempt to sell at this stage. Your only objective is to set up a time for the prospect to hear your presentation.

As little as necessary should be said to the gatekeeper. Assume that the call will be put through. Sound important and confident, but not pushy. I simply say, “Hello, this is Dave Dallas. Is Mr. Johnson in?” Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

However, when I’m calling a referral and I’m asked, “Does Mr. Johnson know you?” I say, “Carl Walker recommended that I call Mr. Johnson. Is Mr. Johnson in?”

If it’s not a referral, I say, “I’ve been assisting people in the plastics industry (or whatever business they happen to be in), and I’d like to share some important information with Mr. Johnson.” Once again, assertively ask, “Is Mr. Johnson in?”

If asked, “What are you selling?” I reply, “I’m with Sunteck. I help companies increase profits, while improving customer service.” I pause, and then ask, “Is Mr. Johnson in?”

Because I speak with conviction, I’m rarely asked additional questions and my call is put through.

This approach works for three reasons:

  1. I’m persistent, but polite.
  2. I’m well prepared with answers. I don’t stutter and stumble for an answer when questioned by the gatekeeper; and
  3. I’m aggressive and I control the conversation by not pausing in my responses long enough to give the gatekeeper an opening to ask more questions.

It’s a matter of how you see and carry yourself. You must always keep in mind that your objective is not to leave the decision in the hands of a third party screening the prospects’ calls. The assistant or receptionist should not be permitted to be the one who determines whether the prospect is interested in learning more about Sunteck. The decisions your prospects make on who they will trust to ship the products they manufacture is one of the most important decisions they make. Be persistent. Make sure they get the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that only you can sell them.