Why Your Sales Training Failed

Why Your Sales Training Failed

At TranStrategy Partners, we do a lot of sales training and we have a high success rate. We know sales training can significantly improve sales in an organization.

However, not all sales training works. This article is about why your sales training didn’t work.

The Feel Good Intervention

Sales training is the feel good intervention. When a sales manager sends one of his salesmen to sales training everybody feels good. The salesman is happy that his boss has decided to invest in his sales education. Perhaps the sales training will provide a process, messaging and approach that he never got from his company.

The sales manager gets to feel like an enlightened manager and hopefully get a nice ROI on her training investment. If she suspects she made a bad hire, maybe the sales training will redeem her low performing salesman.

With a little luck, the sales guy will get some silver bullets at class that will enable him to make some monster sales once the training is done.

Five Reasons Your Sales Training Didn’t Work

1. Lack of Management Support

Sales training, like every other corporate initiative, works best when there is management support. A company’s management must do more than pay for the sales training. Trainees need to know that their management values the training and expects their full attention. Ideally, management should participate in the training by introducing the trainer or attending the wrap-up session.

2. Poor Follow-up

To be effective, the attitudes, skills and knowledge gained in the sales training need to be turned into actions. Without implementation, there are no results and the training was a waste. At the end of the training, keep the trainees focused on the agreed upon changes and revise sales processes if required. Reinforcing the training will help the sales team to internalize the lessons from the sales training. Consider bringing the sales training reinforcement into the regular sales meetings.

3. No Competitive Advantage

The freight brokerage business is very competitive and it is important that companies develop a niche where they have a competitive advantage. There are a lot of freight brokers and 3PLs who sell a commoditized service, which makes sales much harder. The positive impacts of sales training can sometimes be limited by a lack of good market strategy.

4. Bad Company Culture

In our experience, sometimes a company’s culture can undermine sales. Training sales people won’t help grow a company’s revenues if the company culture is negative. Company culture is nothing more than the shared values and practices of the company’s employees. Company culture can be tricky and fragile. Even good leaders can find themselves stuck with a bad culture. To get the most out of sales training, first fix the culture.

5. Sales Process Not Aligned to Buying Process

To be successful, a company’s selling process must be aligned to the customer’s buying process. This means a company needs to understand their customers and how they buy freight brokerage services. For instance, if your company is looking for strategic customers, then your sales team should not use a transactional sales process. Your company’s lead generation, messaging and sales channels should also align to the buying process. Obviously, a company won’t be ready for sales training until they align their sales processes.

No Silver Bullet

Sales training is a great way to develop your people and grow your sales, but it is not a silver bullet. To grow your sales, develop a niche, put the right people and processes in place, and get a deep understanding of your customer’s problems and buying behaviors. Then, your company will benefit from a good sales training program.

Revenue is Vanity – Margin is Sanity

Revenue is Vanity – Margin is Sanity

As an executive coach, I hear from my clients on a host of issues they experience. Sometimes those issues are external, while others are internal within the company. For example, one of my clients, a 3PL owner, found it difficult to get his employees to care about the company’s profitability. They pay their people well and have a nice, friendly company culture. However, he struggled to get the employees to care more about the bottom line.

It is smart to focus on profitability, rather than just revenue. At TSP, our philosophy is “revenue is vanity and margin is sanity.” After all, it’s not what you make, it’s what goes to the bottom line.
Focusing on revenue AND MARGIN is smart, but getting your employees aligned to your profitability goals is even smarter.

As the owner, your job is to set the goals (financial and others) and get the right people and resources necessary to reach the goal. In my experience, the owners of 3PLs and freight brokerage businesses try to do all the work themselves, which leads to burnout and frustration. Learn to delegate and hold your team responsible for meeting business goals including profitability.

You have created a nice place to work, which is very important. Now, you want to add ownership of business results to the culture.

To reach your profitability goal, you will need to enlist the help of your team. The following four-step plan will help you and your team set and reach your profitability goals:

1. Share your profitability goals. Once you have set your profitability goals, meet with your team to communicate your goals. As the leader, you must make it clear where you want to take the company. Be very specific and use SMART goals so there is no ambiguity about your profitability targets. Your people can’t reach the profitability goal if they don’t know what it is.

2. Communicate your expectations. Once you have set your profitability goals, communicate exactly what you need each team member to do to reach the goal. Be very specific about each team member’s roles and responsibilities in regards to the goal. The sales manager is tasked with getting higher margin business, the operations manager is going after cost savings opportunities, while the head of finance investigates refinancing equipment and provides progress reports to the team. By documenting your expectations for each employee, you are communicating that the profitability goal is important to you.

3. Measure progress. If you have set a significant goal, you will not reach it overnight, therefore it is important to measure progress to the goal. Provide your people with regular updates. Also, help your team develop plans and strategies that will enable the company to reach the profitability goal. As the boss, encourage, teach, but avoid taking responsibility for the work. When you do the work instead of the employee, you send a mixed message.

4. Reward and recognize. As your team meets your expectations on the profitability goal, you should acknowledge and encourage them for exhibiting the desired behavior and getting positive results. At TSP, we recommend the following three levels of acknowledgement: 1.) Review (lowest level) is non-formal, verbal praise for delivering on expectations. 2.) Recognize (second highest) is a formal recognition for meeting expectations. The praise could be part of a meeting or recognition presentation. 3.) Reward (highest level) is praise reinforced with a gift, bonus or a plaque. Be careful and consistent in your use of review, recognition and rewards for meeting expectations. Going overboard or being stingy with your praise can lead to negative consequences.

More Sales – Less Cold Calling

More Sales – Less Cold Calling

At TranStrategy Partners, we have worked with hundreds of transportation and logistics companies over the years. Sales, or more precisely, a lack of sales, is why many of these companies come to us for assistance.

Sales for 3PLs and freight brokerage companies don’t come easily. The market is crowded; the competition is intense and most companies haven’t differentiated themselves in their prospect’s eyes.

Many 3PLs use cold calling as their main prospecting tool. Smiling and dialing is not efficient or fun, but it is a necessary evil. The equation is simple, grow your sales by hiring more salespeople and pushing them to make lots of phone calls.

There really isn’t any viable alternative – or is there?

“93% of B2B buyers begin their buying process using Internet search.” According to research conducted by Marketo

There is a better way!

Yep, this crazy internet thing might really be here to stay.

93% seems like a huge number, but it passes the sniff test. Think about your last big purchase (home, car, vacation, college, etc.). I bet you began your research online, well before reaching out to an actual person.

Apparently, your potential customer is doing the same thing. They are conducting online research, getting the expert take and then reaching out to the person or company who can best solve their problem.

What a great way to sell, unless of course you aren’t online.

Selling Online Requires a Different Mindset

Once, you have decided to go after the online sales, you quickly realize that it requires a completely different mindset and different skills.

To be successful online, do the following:

  1. Specialize. You must decide on a niche or specialization. Getting some love from Google and Bing is even harder than cold calling. To be found by the search engines, companies must specialize – be known for something. Being found for your specialty will be much easier than being found for something generic like “freight broker” or “truckload.”
  2. Get a great website. Your 10-year old website designed by your niece isn’t going to cut it anymore. To get web traffic, your company is going to need a professional website with good original content. If you are starting from scratch, shoot for at least 30 pages with 300 plus words per page. From there, continue to add pages every month. Size does matter in this case. Google and Bing reward great (big) websites and ignore the rest.
  3. Content marketing. Content marketing like webinars, email marketing, articles, blog posts, white papers, and case studies puts your expertise on display and drives traffic to your website. Remember, people are searching online for experts – not salespeople. Share great content and develop an online following.

The internet offers a great new way to connect with prospective customers and showcase your company’s expertise – embrace it.

Let Us Help You Build the Company You Want

At TranStrategy Partners, we help business owners build the companies they want. Our proven approach helps freight brokerage and 3PL business owners develop their competitive advantage, hone their message and grow their sales.

Why Does Your Customer Buy from You?

Why Does Your Customer Buy from You?

Every business depends on their customers choosing them over the competition. This concept is so simple and obvious, that we forget about it sometimes.

We take it for granted that the customers we have will continue to work with us. A quick review of your customer list from last year, will most likely demonstrate that customers leave.

At TranStrategy Partners, when we ask our coaching clients why their customers buy from them, they often give superficial answers. Frequently, we hear “my customers buy from us because we provide great customer service” or “low pricing,” or “our integrity.” Customers may also buy because you have a specialty geared toward their business or because you make it easy to work together. Customers definitely consider all these factors when choosing a freight brokerage, but there is so much more that is missing.  

Irrational Buyers

There is significant research that suggests buyers make irrational buying decisions. Perhaps, your company was never the best option, but they chose you anyway. As a business owner, you need to know why your customers buy from you, even if the reason is a little out of the ordinary or off your radar.

Regardless of the reasons, your customer chose your company. Your company was considered the best option at the time, but…

Times Are Changing

There is new and different competition facing freight brokers. There are full-service 3PLs that offer a suite of services usually not offered by brokers. Carriers, who traditionally didn’t broker freight have opened freight brokerages. Lastly, there are new web-based freight marketplaces that will enable shippers to connect directly with carriers.

Shippers, including your customers, will consider these options. With the internet, it is easier than ever to research options. It is also easier than ever for your competition to find and connect with your customer.

Your freight brokerage might have been the clear winner when your customer compared your company to other freight brokerages, but how does your brokerage measure up against the new competitors?

The Questions are Easy, but the Answers are Hard

At TSP, we only work with freight brokers and transportation companies. We help our customers understand their customers and why they buy.

As part of our engagement, we do a complete competitive assessment of your company to determine how your company stacks up. If there are holes in your service offering, it is better that you discover them before your customer.

With the permission of our client, we interview their customers to understand why they buy and what they like about your service and where you can improve. We keep the interaction with your customers very positive and constructive. These exercises result with our clients having a much deeper understanding of their customers. This understanding almost always drives service and sales messaging enhancements.

If you want help getting the hard answers, like why do my customers buy from us, please contact TSP.

About the Author – Mike Temple

Mike Temple is a Senior Partner at TranStrategy Partners and the Director of the Xcelerator Leadership Program, which is designed to be a catalyst for accelerated growth for 3PL and freight brokerage businesses. The Xcelerator Leadership Program is a yearlong program that utilizes a unique process that maximizes business results with minimum disruption to day to day operations. Does My Freight Brokerage Business Serve Me or Vice Versa?

Ask the Coach: How Do We Grow Up?

Ask the Coach: How Do We Grow Up?

The “Ask the Coach” program is produced by TranStrategy Partners, the recognized leader in freight brokerage / 3PL coaching. Since 2004, TSP has helped hundreds of freight brokerage owners and top executives build the companies they want.  

Question: I read your recent article, “The Freight Business Grows Up” and as the owner of a freight brokerage, I agree with your assessment, but I am wondering where do we start? What would be a good first step to growing up? Tom in PA

Mike Temple:
Tom, thanks for the question. There is more than one way for your company to grow up, but to keep it simple, I will suggest that you find a way to add more value for your customers.

Before I elaborate on “adding more value” let’s examine the competitive environment as it has been over the past thirty years and where it is heading…

Freight brokers have traditionally competed against other freight brokers who have a similar value proposition and similar pricing. In the absence of a clear competitive advantage, freight brokers depended on personal relationships with customers.

In that market, a sterling reputation, a dependable carrier network, fair pricing, great customer service along with personal relationships was enough to be very competitive. The best freight brokers differentiated themselves by excelling at the day to day blocking and tackling.

Of course, every shipper has their own expectations. While some shippers value a strategic relationship that includes a high degree of integration, trust and customer service, other shippers are content with a transactional relationship. The transactional shippers may work with multiple brokers and value a lower price over relationships and customer service.

The Evolving Freight Market
Today, freight brokers must compete against companies that have very different business models, service offerings and value propositions. Shippers have more options than ever before. In fact, it is hard to list all the new types of business models and companies that have sprung up in recent years. A few of the new options are discussed below.

Shippers who move freight in multiple modes may decide to consolidate all their business with a full service 3PL that can manage their ocean freight, drayage, warehousing, LTL and truckload needs.

The transactional shippers (who don’t value relationships) may be lured to some of the online freight marketplacesthat enables them to save by cutting out the middleman. Many people in their twenties and thirties grew up with the internet and may be more comfortable with a well-known website than a broker relationship. For proof, look at what Amazon did to the brick and mortar retailing vertical.

Over the last decade, many 3PLs and brokers bought asset based companies and vice versa. These hybrid or asset light carriers offer the best of both worlds – assets and full service brokerage. When there is a shortage of trucks for a given lane, these companies become a very attractive option for shippers because they can use their own trucks or broker the loads.

Compete by Adding More Value
To compete and win in this new market, companies must find ways to add more value for their customer. Provide such a superior service, that the customer never considers the alternative.

Understand the Customer – Solve More Problems.
To add more value, solve more of your customer problems. Rather than define your customer’s needs as a low price and good service, go deeper to understand the problems facing them and their industry.

Develop a Specialty
Rather than just moving freight for retailers, develop a full-service retail logistics specialty. Do some research on trends and challenges, attend retail logistics events, create reports, case studies and best practices that position your company as the retail logistics experts. 

Provide Insights and Recommendations
With all the transportation management systems, sensors, GPS and other information created, your company can gain new insights into your customer’s business. Use these tools to gather the right information on problems and challenges facing your customer. Providing raw data isn’t always that helpful. The value is when you identify trends and opportunities from the data created.

Expand Your Services Offering
Many brokers and 3PLs are partnering with other transportation providers to expand their service offerings. For instance, if you specialize in retail logistics, it might make sense to align your company with a home delivery / final mile carrier so you can serve the rapidly growing retail home delivery market.

About the Coach Mike Temple is a Senior Partner at TranStrategy Partners and the Director of the Xcelerator Leadership Program, which is designed to be a catalyst for accelerated growth for 3PL and freight brokerage businesses. The Xcelerator Leadership Program is a yearlong program that utilizes a unique process that maximizes business results with minimum disruption to day to day operations. Check out our white paper: Does Your Freight Brokerage Business Serve You or Vice Versa?