Three Elements in Relationship Selling

Three Elements in Relationship Selling

Relationship selling is all about establishing long-term connections with your customers in order to generate repeat business for your company. It also minimizes the need to constantly market your services to potential new customers.

Three basic elements are essential to building and maintaining relationships with your customers: intimacy, passion and commitment. If your business is going to succeed, these elements need to be integral parts of your business culture.

Intimacy in business? You are probably wondering, “What does that mean?” In your personal life, intimacy is all about getting to know someone at a deeper than usual level. It’s the same in business. Building intimacy involves getting to know all about a potential customer — its goals, who the business serves, the conditions within which it operates, and so on. It also involves developing a deep understanding of the needs of the shipper.

Building intimacy is not a passive process; it doesn’t just happen. That’s because most businesses are not going to call you up to say, “I want to tell you all about me and my needs.” Instead, you’ll have to ask lots of questions to find this out. When you do, you will not only get the information you need to determine if your business can help satisfy a shipper’s needs, but you’ll also demonstrate that you care about the shipper. In turn, this will make it more likely it will want to listen to what you say and that you’ll be able to distinguish yourself from your competitors in its eyes. So don’t be shy about asking shippers lots of questions when you are going after their business, and remember that you can ask the questions in a light-hearted way. In fact, if you are super serious, you may scare the shipper off.

Tip: Although building intimacy is something your salespeople should be doing, it’s also something that everyone in your company should do. They need to stay attuned to the needs of your customers and by doing whatever they can to meet those needs.

Your passion or enthusiasm will help demonstrate to your existing customers that you want to keep their business and to potential customers that you really want their business. It can make the difference between cementing your relationship with a customer and losing it to a competitor and between getting and not getting a new customer.

Commitment demonstrates that you will do what it takes to meet a customer’s needs and that you will do what you promise. For example, if you tell a customer that you will provide a quote in 5 minutes or that you will deliver a load within a day, you do. Your commitment to a customer will demonstrate that you are sincere and can be trusted – two qualities that will make your relationship with one another last.

Cultivating Partnerships

Cultivating Partnerships

From a growth perspective, whether personally or for your business, each of us needs to have others to help drive us forward. It could be something as simple as being given permission – to try, to succeed or, even, to fail. It might be the person who tells us, “Yes….if….”, “Have you thought about…..?” or “No!”.

These different voices and perspectives act to provide reference, experience and support as we make decisions every day. While having confidence in your own abilities as a leader and a decision maker can streamline the process, the connections created through asking questions and requesting input can be far more beneficial to the success that you seek.

Where do you look for advice? Does it come from family, friends, business associates? Do you have a network of mentors or a group of industry colleagues where you can bounce ideas and truth without fear of judgement or solicitation? It has been said that ‘…we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with…’. Are those five people the ones who make you the best person and leader you can be?

Look at your network of colleagues and others to find folks who can fit your best version of yourself. Look for someone who can provide insight and support to you – and who can benefit from you. Remember, it is not just about making you better, it is about making everyone stronger in how they engage, lead and support.

Communities of people have historically been the drivers of both change and support. Innovation comes from the need to improve and grow and compassion comes from the need for succor and solace. Building a community of similarly focused people, not just like-minded, but those who share a common destination, can create amazing results.

Build your community to stretch yourself, challenge yourself and to serve a common goal – empathetic improvement and growth tethered by humanity.

Your Marketing Strategy Sucks (or How I stopped Fearing and Learned to Love my Brand)

Your Marketing Strategy Sucks (or How I stopped Fearing and Learned to Love my Brand)

Within the transportation industry, there are few folks who are defined as Marketers. If they do exist, the marketing program is often tucked into a much larger Sales department and exists to write copy or create shiny collateral for the team. However, as new technology, platforms and channels finally reach the transportation industry, the need for marketers and strategic marketing looms large. The communication of your unique position and selling proposition in such a crowded landscape can no longer be accomplished by the sales force alone. The depth and breadth of the market is too great to be reached through a static website or loadboard advertisement. The principles of marketing, as message driver and sales partner, must be deployed to maintain your company as a competitive force in the intermediary marketplace.

Your brand is not simply your logo, your mission statement and your color scheme, it is the expression of who you are and your service: to your customers, to your carriers, to your employees and to the community where you exist. Your brand is an aggregation of your past successes (and failures) in communication, operation, administration and organization. Your brand is the promise of solution driven service, relationship development, timely payables and competitive compensation.

Creating the brand is a process built on the truths and integrity that exist within your company. It is borne from the very essence of your mission, your vision and the leadership that you provide to your company. Your position in the marketplace (whether as price leader, as unique, differentiated service provider, or as a market-centric trusted advisor) plays a key role in your ability to compete. Properly communicating this value to your target customers is essential so they can see you and believe that you are a viable option to help them succeed.

As the profiles of shipper decision makers continue to change and morph, their needs and sensibilities change as well. The buying experience continues to shift to a more digital and social one. You must be able to communicate on these new platforms with valuable content and targeted messaging. You must be able to lead the buyers along the path so that your relationship/solution selling salesforce can take the baton and convert the prospects into customers, who are then amazed by the end to end service provided by your operations staff.

As you build your strategy for 2018, operations and sales are always a priority, but do not forget to focus resources on your brand, your message, and the communication methodologies designed to best serve your customers and your own organization.

Join us on October 26th for the BrokerXcel round table focus on Marketing Strategy. We will be addressing frameworks, best practices and tactics to improve your marketing program. Click here for the event specifics or contact TranStrategy Partners for more information.

Components of Strategy: An Exercise in Execution

Components of Strategy: An Exercise in Execution

Strategy is only successful if you have the process, the people and the execution to deliver the results that you plan to achieve. The process, its people and the execution all derive from the culture of your organization and are the engines that drive success.

Strategy exists as the overarching framework of what you want to achieve and how you expect to reach your goals. Its achievement is dependent on the context of Why, Who, When and How – the cultural aspects of your business.

Why?

This is the purpose behind (and in front of) your company and your strategy. It is the lens through which all vision is focused and all decisions are based. Whether you exist to provide the best customer service, or you want to make a lasting impact on your community or you are more financially driven, the purpose is the soul of your organization – its ethical and moral calculus.

Who?

The people who inhabit your company are expressions of the purpose and culture of the company. By their hiring, they have been given a mandate to fulfill the promise that is inherent in the mission and vision of the organization. They become the service and development machines of the company and need to be provided regular maintenance in alignment to the goals and calibrated with the purpose.

When?

Success is often measured by the time in which it is achieved. Set deadlines and manage scope to limit undue extensions and delays in execution.

How?

The processes, execution expectations and accountability serve as the blueprint and maintenance schedule to this project called Organizational Strategy. Clarity of expectations, proper training and metrics are necessary to successful achievement of the strategy. Keep them simple, visible and timely to review and to allow for adjustment and re-alignment.

Developing the Strategy:

In developing your strategy, you need the tools and framework to ensure the greatest probability of achievement. Any strategy, regardless of its scope and perceived possibility, has a certain probability of success. Improving that probability is the role of leadership and can be supported by a defined methodology within the planning process. Having a clear and accurate understanding of the current model will allow you to see what resources are available and how they can be deployed. Having, again, clarity of the achievement goal (vision, plan, etc.) will allow you to see what gaps exist between the current state and the desired state.

Your role as a leader is to properly fill those gaps to achieve the success. What resources are missing? What technological or operational needs are not being met? How does the message and brand need to be adjusted? Your strategy becomes the manner in which you fill these gaps – the accountability method to closing the gaps. What are the steps needed to get from point A to point B? It can be helpful to start at Point B to visualize what this truly looks like from a people, process and revenue perspective and work your way backwards. The steps and decisions will begin to materialize, becoming more corporeal, tightening focus and building belief in the possibility and the probability.

The Myth of the Perfect Employee

The Myth of the Perfect Employee

Perfection is an ideal. It is the goal that we aspire to attain. However, it is not truly attainable – only a construct – like, infinity. We must be clear in defining what this ideal should be and how it should express the behaviors, habits and attitudes that we desire in alignment to the company culture.

Defining the ‘perfect’ employee candidate, just like building a targeted customer persona, is a great way to see how multiple candidates stack up against each other and against the fit of the company culture. But we should not sacrifice the ‘really good’ or ‘excellent’ in the pursuit for the ‘perfect’.

Try to understand what success looks like in your company. Look beyond just financial performance to define success. How people interact, how they lead and how they influence others are key attributes to a successful employee. Who are some of the leaders you admire – in business and in life – and why? Who do you NOT admire – and why? These folks can be a barometer to measure the candidates you review.

Who you place in (or remove from) your organization are true measures of your ability to do what is best for your organization – your leadership.

Hiring and Firing are among the more stressful aspects of leadership within an organization. But the personalities, minds and collective energies become the power of your organization and fuel the success (or failure) of the business. Keep focused on the ideal and strive for the perfect, but use your wisdom to know when the good and great can be even better.

Incremental over Disruption: Innovation in your Daily Enterprise

Incremental over Disruption: Innovation in your Daily Enterprise

In a world of emerging technologies and breakthrough performance, we are often overwhelmed with the magnitude of extreme success and left feeling either jealous (that we didn’t think of that great idea) or impotent (that we are unable to make such significant impact). However, every day presents a new canvas of opportunity to make a difference. The difference doesn’t have to be monumental, but it can be important, valuable and can lead to something amazing.

Success requires change – change in behaviors, attitudes and habits – to achieve this new image of your future. It requires a firm and focused belief in where you want to go that will allow you to make the necessary decisions about resource allocation, money, time and energy that will need to be managed. Each of these resources needs to be invested in the achievement of the goal. They are not expenses, but tools to fulfill the realization of the vision.

Help your team to see, understand and believe in the vision. Their internal acceptance of the goal will improve their decision making and keep them working towards accomplishment in a consistent and collaborative way.

The road to sustainable success is often a circuitous one, but the belief in that success is a key component to achievement. Having a focused and clear vision of your success allows you to recalibrate when you are forced off the original path. Lack of clarity and disciplined approach to the goal can keep you off the pathway and struggling to find the correct decisions to realign. Keeping your actions and behaviors consistent with the goal(s) leads you to proper decision making that moves you forward.

Nothing of value comes easily. There are, at times, difficult decisions to be made that affect the people around you. However, those decisions become clear within the context of the goal. If you (and the people within your enterprise) are truly committed to the goal, the decisions do become easier to make.

Diligence to the process and the goal require (and support) daily affirmation of the vision – one more phone call to the customer to provide visibility and peace of mind – one more capacity option for a new client’s pressing need – one more contact to the A/P department to reconcile that old invoice. Each additional effort ties success to the person making the effort and increases their ownership of the results, the vision and the goal(s).

Each new action, effort or idea is the embryo for an amazing innovative approach to your business success. Foster the energy, talent and mindshare of each team member to express growth in themselves and in their work to build an accretive, sustainable outcome of accomplishment.

Selling Selflessly

Selling Selflessly

As a sales professional (and we are all in sales), each interaction is an opportunity to influence the decision of another. Whether you are trying to close an enterprise deal, enlisting the support of colleagues for a project or, even, getting your child to eat their vegetables. It’s not just about what you want or the outcome that you desire, but a mutually significant and beneficial outcome for everyone involved. It will involve some time, some energy, some negotiation and a lot of listening.

Ultimately, it’s not about you, it’s about them. You are looking to satisfy their needs in conjunction with your own. If you focus on providing the best solutions and outcomes for them, you create deeper relationship equity and positioning for the satisfaction for your needs as well.

Understand your audience and spend time to learn more. Ask questions and listen. The only way to know what they want is to understand their position – from a market perspective to a pain alleviation perspective to a short and long term goals perspective. Clarify their agenda and be empathetic to their struggles to achieve.

Contribute, then sell. The old adage of ‘it is far better to give than to receive’ fits into this methodology. You have much value (in knowledge, expertise and information) that you can share with others to create more value for them. By sharing, you create a deeper step in the relationship that will allow you (both) to find the best solutions.

Get feedback. By learning from the process and eliciting information from the experience, you can improve your approaches in the future – whether with the same person or with others.

Perspective is key to finding success in sale and influence. If you focus only on your own, you will lose out on many opportunities.

The Epiphany of a Business Leader

The Epiphany of a Business Leader

As you build your company from the initial cocktail napkin idea to the thriving business that impacts hundreds and thousands of people throughout your community and the industry, there are moments of hesitation and reflection.

There are moments of doubt and uncertainty that creep into your psyche and keep you awake at night: Do I have the right people? Am I making the right decision? Are we moving in the right direction?
These moments, while challenging and difficult, are a natural progression in the development of your company. They are the moments that mark the bellwether of change for your business – the transformation from WHAT IS into WHAT CAN BE.

While possible, rarely do businesses reach the level of intended success without significant help along the way. Having the right partnerships is critical to emerging from these moments properly prepared for the opportunities. Both internal and external resources can provide you with insight and pragmatic approaches to managing the changes to come. Be sure that you have a strong network of folks that understand and are capable of the honest feedback necessary to navigate through the uncertainty.

TranStrategy Partners provides the experience of hundreds of brokerage company transformations. This contextual and experiential approach to business strategy and cultural development allows business leaders to draw on a wealth of successful best practices to overcome the obstacles of today and accelerate their organizational growth performance for tomorrow.

Contact us to learn more about our programs to help you build the company you envision.

Treat Your People Well

Treat Your People Well

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” -Richard Branson

“Treat your people well….feed them on your dreams…” -Crosby, Stills and Welch (Jack)

How you treat your employees has a profound impact on the success of your company. Historically, pensions and benefits kept employees at a company for years (in spite of poor leadership), but the economies of today’s small business do not allow for these long-term carrots to balance the sticks of poor leadership. As such, employee turnover can be a harsh reality for businesses that do not have an open and developmental culture.

In the dynamics of logistics, daily deal flow and load movements are essential to cover expenses, but, too often, the urgency of each load (or each load more) overshadows the cultural toxicity of an overly competitive work environment. There needs to be a balance of alignment between the company goals and the individual employee goals.

Be clear, from day one of employment, in the company vision, in the business objectives, in the behaviors that you expect from your company and its employees. Communicate this information and focus regularly. Stay consistent to the message and the belief of what you are doing and what they should be doing. Employees need to feel a part of the vision and a part of reach the goals. Provide them the tools and the environment to be successful and to grow.

Learn and understand what drives your employees and provide them a platform to express these motivations within the context of your business. The energy of these pursuits builds goodwill within the organization and builds brand equity with your clients, suppliers, community and with prospective employees.

A company that meets the needs of its employees (personal and professional, financial and developmental) reduces attrition and creates a consistent approach for customers and carriers that deepens relationships and strengthens the sustainability of the organization.

At TranStrategy Partners, we are a resource to help transportation organizations transform into the companies they envision through experiential and consultative strategy and coaching services.

Why Use TranStrategy?

At TranStrategy Partners, our logistics and freight brokerage clients are very successful people, typically the owners and senior leadership of their businesses. So, why do they choose to work with TranStrategy Partners?