Update your fleet’s sales process in 2021

Mike McCarron

As Covid-19 rages, the trucking industry continues to do an amazing job pivoting to new ways of doing business and keeping drivers safe.

One area where carriers have been slow to adapt is in sales. That’s perfectly logical considering that many fleets are busier than ever and few expected the virus to wreak havoc for so long.

Since it may take the better part of 2021 to get the vaccine into the arm of every willing Canadian, I’m not sure when the old ways of networking and face-to-face selling will return.

What can you do to keep your sales playbook current and the funnel flowing with prospects? Here are some ideas.

sales funnel
(Illustration: istock)

Soft sell

These challenging times require more empathy and for us to be more personal than ever. People’s attention is divided so they may not be as receptive to your pitch as they once were.

Now is not the time to blast out mass emails and praying for paydirt in your inbox. It’s also not the time to pitch to a prospect the second they agree to connect on LinkedIn. When this happens to me, I go ballistic and lose all respect for the offender.

The most important lesson I’ve learned during the pandemic is that people are distracted but they are also reflective.

I’m spending more time checking in with people versus selling to them. The traditional five-minute business call is now a long personal chat with nary a mention of trucking.

Selling is important. But nurturing deeper relationships has its own rewards.

Inform yourself

People are busy and out of routine. No one’s going to return your unsolicited email or phone call. They’re not interested in educating you on how you might be able to help them.

That approach is a waste of time and harmful to your brand.

Today we spend an inordinate amount of effort researching companies and their decision makers before deciding the best way to make our initial contact. The tools are out there and many are free: Google Alerts, LinkedIn, and Twitter are simple ways to follow what’s happening with a prospect.

On the personal front one of the biggest surprises has been Facebook and Instagram, which I had limited interest in prior to the lockdown. Used strategically, they provide a window in people’s personal lives and passions.

Every buyer has a passion outside of work that immediately connects you to them once you know what it is.

Our foray into proactive research has evolved into some outside-the-box relationship tactics. With great success we ran several charity sports pools (Masters, NHL playoffs) and are starting to send catered dinners to customer homes. Making the family dinner table is good for business!

Audit the brand

Younger buyers rely on online research. If they don’t like what they see, they’ll vanish into thin air like Casper the Ghost. Today’s buyer trusts their iPhone more than you.

Audit your online presence. Google your business and note the results. Take a deep dive into your website, social media accounts and customer reviews. See how you look and respond to the millennial buyers who want shipping solutions and ask one question: “Would I do business with myself?”

Digital marketing

Effective digital marketing can attract prospects for a fraction of the cost of an outside sales force.

Prior to Covid we spent we a lot of time toying with our strategy. Today we’ve amped things up and taken action. The biggest challenge was not understanding the tools and platforms (Hootsuite, Google Ads, etc.) but connecting them together.

Ultimately we decided to hire professional help. Digital marketing firms are swamped so plan ahead as finding qualified experts is a challenge.

Make sure your strategy includes training. These times require continual adjustments and old dogs like me are no different. Prior to the pandemic I had never been on a video conference call in my life and the first step in the sales process was pints after work. Some things will never change!

Stay safe and vigilant, my friends.

Mike McCarron

Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that creates total enterprise value for supply chain companies and their shareholders. He can be reached at mike@leftlaneassociates.ca, 416-551-6651, or @AceMcC on Twitter.

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