Technology and automation are not only helping today’s logistics companies gain momentum in their operations, they are also changing the way freight forwarders and brokers sell their services. Selling successfully in today’s digital world takes a new mindset. Clients want to know just as much about how they’ll access information as they do about how you’ll move their freight.
The logistics industry is going through a generational change. Many of the mid-range operators are family-owned companies, and now the owners’ tech savvy kids are primed to take that business to the next level. Regardless of ownership, all are having to very quickly figure out the best ways to sell their services in this technology-driven world.
Online technologies and modern work practices are changing the sales process. Logistics service providers need to realize that the days of wining and dining their prospects and leaving them with brochures and logo-covered notepads is over.
It should not come as a surprise that many of today’s decision makers are often younger and more educated than their predecessors. What the younger generation might lack in operational experience they more than make up for with their understanding of the power of technology – an understanding that hinges on the expectation that everything can be automated and everything can be available from an app on their phone.
First Impressions Have Gone Digital
Importers and exporters now have a multitude of fast and intuitive ways to learn about the services available to them. A salesperson is no longer their only source of information.
Before you get a foot in the door, or even know the door is there, potential customers can check your website to find out what you do and how you do it. They can read up on your team from online profiles. And the posts your company makes on its social media channels gives these customers an idea of what’s on your mind today and how your followers are responding. Whether you know it or not, these snapshot images are helping people decide whether to contact you or take your call.
Now imagine what they think if you don’t use any of it. Will they even be aware your company is an option for them?
Your investment in these online marketing tools is quite different from the production of the traditional set-and-forget corporate brochure. A digital presence should be constantly updated to show your firm’s understanding of and involvement in industry issues. It’s become a priority and a sign of professionalism that supports sales activities and reflects your operational capabilities.
The Modern Prospect’s Priority List
Nights and weekends no longer seem different from weekdays when you’re expected to be available 24/7 not just for clients, but for company teleconferences around the world. When you add the direct emails that require your action and the indirect, for-your-information ones you’ve been copied on, it’s easy to see why everyone is so busy these days.
Salespeople should not be surprised to learn they’re very low on a prospect’s priority list. Cold calling and spontaneous emails simply don’t cut through anymore. In my experience, sending a text seems to generate the fastest responses.
When the Sale Is More Pull Than Push
Tech savvy prospects who are short on time will appreciate the kind of self-directed support service they can turn to for fast answers that resolve issues. They expect to access an online chat, to drill into a forum, or to read customer testimonials, all at whatever time suits them.
Personal, face-to-face contact – at least in the initial stages of relationship building – is largely gone. Even as sales are converted, the ongoing relationship requirements are being defined more and more by the availability of different forms of information.
Click or Swipe for More Data
Car advertisements assume buyers know the vehicle has an engine and some wheels, so they focus on selling the technology and trim packages that come with the essential parts. Just like they’re buying a car, your prospects assume you can move their freight at the right price. What they really want to know about is your tracking and reporting capabilities. Before they buy, they want to see how flexible you are in putting all that together, in the format they want, when they want it. Clients are demanding quicker and easier access to data now more than ever because their ultimate buying decision will be based on its speed and accuracy.
The way you’re selling is changing, and with the expansion of technology into the provision of customer service, the things you’re selling are also evolving.
Delivering the Promise
The thing that hasn’t changed is fulfilling the promises you made during the sales presentation. Behind the polished website, the full customer experience has to be integrated into back-end systems.
Selling successfully in today’s digital world takes a new mindset. Sell streamlined access to information, not the fact that you move freight. The fact that you can do the fastest customs entry won’t help when your client can’t see it in real time through a customer portal.
The Personal Touch Still Matters
People are surrounded by information, not all of it accurate. There’s a huge list of options that they don’t have time to filter. That’s why the person-to-person element in the sales process is still the ultimate differentiator. Highly professional salespeople with deep product and industry knowledge are a breath of fresh air, and direct customer referrals are often the proof that closes the deal.
Ten years ago everyone said SME freight forwarders would be forced out of business by the big guys. But because they’re selling personalized service and niche expertise, SMEs are doing just fine. A large portion of their success is no doubt due to reorienting their sales approach in this digital world.
Bill Todd is business development manager at WiseTech Global, a creator and developer of cloud-based software solutions headquartered in Sydney, Australia.