TORONTO, Ont. — In 20 years of serving the trucking industry as founder and president of Trailcon Leasing, Al Boughton has learned a few things about sales and its evolving dynamics.
Boughton has experienced the sales cycle from both sides of the negotiating table, this year alone spending nearly $50 million on new trailers.
Boughton shared some sales tips at the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention this week, as part of a panel discussion on How The Sales Game Has Changed.
Treat every customer like they’re your largest
Boughton said some of his largest customers, such as the late John Cyopeck, former CEO of Canpar, made their first introductions and formed their first impression of him and his business when they were truck drivers.
“Those people who are truck drivers today are going to be presidents and CEOs tomorrow,” Boughton said. “If I hear anybody talk back to a customer at our place, that’s the end of the employee.”
Make every employee a salesperson
At Trailcon, all 40-plus mechanics have their name on the door of their mobile service truck and on their uniform. The company also continues to employ a receptionist and everyone is reminded they represent the company at all times.
“Today, everyone better be selling,” Boughton said. “I wear a Trailcon sweatshirt on the weekend if I go out, but not if it’s Sunday and I haven’t shaved. I think that today, everybody has to understand how important sales is on every level.”
Know your friends from your enemies
Loyalty no longer exists, Boughton said.
“The toughest thing we find is separating our friends from our enemies. The supplier you had yesterday is in quoting against you today. That’s really problematic for us today.”
Reallocate marketing dollars to reflect changing dynamics
Trailcon used to allocate 1.5% of its revenue, about $900,000, to sales and marketing, including travel and entertainment. Now, in a world where corporate ethics policies in many cases don’t allow the company to wine and dine customers, Boughton said companies should consider reallocating those funds.
“I think that we have to quit selling like yesterday, because you simply can’t buy them a game of golf or take them out to dinner,” he said. “I’d say, take the money you have from sales and marketing and put it into systems and invest in your people.”
Reduce staff turnover
“Stop turning over staff,” Boughton stressed. “When you turn over staff, you are ultimately turning over your customers.”
Develop user-friendly technology systems
“If you’re going to buy or write systems, make sure it has great flexibility that allows customers to be satisfied,” Boughton suggested. “If they can’t read it and it’s useless information, you may wake up one day and not be their vendor of choice.”
Stop recycling industry’s “garbage”
“For way too many years, this was an industry that recycled its garbage,” Boughton said of lousy sales reps who would make the rounds, working for various suppliers within the industry. “Bad sales reps would work at one company, went from one company to another and never left the industry. They were bad wherever they went. I think as an industry, we have to stop recycling our garbage.”
Boughton said he began hiring sales reps from outside the industry.
Thoroughly train new sales reps
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to hire a sales rep, give them a business card and a car and turn them loose. Now, says Boughton, it’s necessary to first educate them in detail on the industry, equipment, your own company and your customers.
“I think today, we owe it to the customer…if a rep comes in from my company and knows nothing about Walmart or Home Depot and nothing about Trailcon or the industry, and they are in there trying to sell to you, that is pretty embarrassing and there’s a really good chance they’re not going to get that business,” Boughton said. “We need to be better at our training. If we don’t put the right people on the street, they’re never going to bring home the groceries at the end of the day.”
Be a ‘target marketer’
Identify the business you want and then go after it, Boughton suggested.
“It’s okay to say no” to business opportunities, he added. “Target the business where your customer fits where you are today.”
Adapt or move on
Finally, Boughton left OTA deleates with this thought: “If you’re selling like you were yesterday, you may need another career.”
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