There’s light on the horizon
Times aren’t getting easier for sales people, especially in the freight forwarding industry. Not only because of the brutal, cut throat competition which has worsened margins since years but because of this trend: The use of IT pricing platforms and other cognate tools fuel the ever prevailing price war further so it makes it very hard to differentiate yourself from the competition and worse, your customer regards you as “exchangeable”.
So what do you do?
Humans in most cases still actually make the final decision, not IT platforms, algorithms or computers. Oh yes, algorithms may point out who has been the cheapest but it is still a human who calls the final shot.
As long as decision makers at your target company are humans and not machines, you have the chance to influence them and win her for you, long before the bidding process starts.
Building trust is more important than ever!
At the beginning of all relationships there is trust. It is like building a house. Without the foundation you cannot build it. A few years ago, one client complained to me that another sales person, she has been dealing with for a long time, would only visit her when she issues a new RFQ (Request for Quotation). How would you feel being the decision maker? Right, not really been taken care of but “used” to just sell your stuff.
My ambition always has been and still today is this: Before I even quote, I want to understand my client`s business better than my own business.
In order to achieve that, I need to spend time with my prospective client. Buyers are very sensitive to transactional sales people. Why? Because people still connect a sales person with a needy used car sales person (no offence to any reader of this industry) who just wants to make a deal, ideally today. So make a difference, especially in today`s digitalised world. I dare say that it is more important than ever, to connect with another human.
An example: One cannot shortcut trust, it takes time to develop. In practice: Make sure you develop a relationship long before the bidding process starts, i.e. if the decision maker tells you the RFQ only starts in 6-9 months, try and visit her several months earlier, in order to really understand her motivation behind issuing the RFQ. By completing rates on a rather anonymous platform you have no chance at all to present value. Now when you visit her, in some instances you may convince her to not even issue an RFQ and the business is awarded to you because you draft a solution tailor made to her needs.
Imagine this: You have beaten competition without a time and nerve wracking often month-long process. Plus, you save the same for your customer. On the other hand, large, stock-listed companies in most cases are forced to run an annual or bi-annual RFQ, because of the shareholder`s interest. Even in this case, you may learn about things when building a relationship you didn’t event ask about, a strong sign of trust.
When I won an RFQ of a large stock listed company, I asked the buyer why she awarded the business to me. The main driver was that I really listened to her needs and uncovered what she was really looking for. Sure, pricing has to be within the ballpark but to get the deal over the line it isn`t the crucial driver. In order to build trust, you need to spend time with the decision maker. It is a sound investment with a dramatic return.