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On February 28, 2016, I posted a blog entitled Passion (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/passion ). The objective of the article was to share my thoughts on one of the most important elements of career and personal success, the inner drive to achieve fulfillment and self-actualization. In the blog, I highlighted the importance of having a “passion’ for what you do. I was very pleased to receive some positive feedback on this piece and to learn that it inspired people to rethink their current positions and move to more fulfilling work environments.

I was reminded of this blog after reading, I left my corporate job, and these 8 things became clear (http://www.businessinsider.com/i-left-my-corporate-job-and-these-8-things-became-clear-2017-6 ). The decision to leave the corporate world to go in a different direction is not for everyone. I had the desire to move in a new direction several years before I made the decision to become an entrepreneur. Initially, as I started down the path, I was attracted to a new corporate opportunity and pulled back. Finally, I summoned the courage and “passion” to resist the temptation of a corporate job and launch a freight transportation consulting practice.

I am now in the fourteenth year of running my own business. This is what I can tell you about the experience. Every person has his or her own unique financial situation, level of risk tolerance and self-confidence, and set of skills and competencies. Unless one comes from an affluent background, has backers with deep pockets, or has a war chest to fall back on, almost everyone requires some level of consistent cash flow. If one transitions from the corporate world to academia, or to a small business that has an existing revenue and profit stream, this issue is of less concern. If an individual takes the leap into his or her business, or a start-up venture, with others, this issue must be carefully evaluated.

As we all know, there are few guarantees in life. Many new businesses fail. Some combination of poor business planning, weak execution, inadequate finances, and/or insufficient human resources sink many companies. On the other hand, the rewards of becoming a successful entrepreneur are extremely gratifying. The last 14 years have been among the most enjoyable of my career.

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If your trucking company hasn’t been purchased or doesn’t get purchased by TransForce, will it be in business in five years?  That is the question that came up in a recent discussion with a long time industry colleague.  The response I received was that he didn’t think his company would survive.  I was a bit surprised by the response and asked him for an explanation.  This led to an interesting discussion on what it is going to take to make it in the trucking industry in 2014 and beyond.

We both agreed that while the trucking industry has changed in some ways over the past decade (e.g. more use of technology, better cost controls after the Great Recession, LNG vehicles, greater use of 3PLs as customers), the industry is not that much different from ten years ago.  The slow economic turnaround since 2008 has created a challenging environment and there is little reason to expect a major improvement in the short term.  Rate increases are hard to come by, even with a tight driver situation.  Even more of a concern is the lack of innovation in the industry and the threat that such changes could wreak on so many complacent companies.

The warning signs are there.  As a Canadian, you don’t have to look much further than Nortel and Blackberry to see what can happen to industry leaders that were not able to keep up with changing consumer needs and quality competitors.  At the same time, one can observe what companies such as Amazon and Apple have been able to do to change the paradigm of some long established industries. 

Some of the large trucking industry players are making investments in technology and people.  They are integrating back offices and focusing on achieving economies of scale.  They are thoughtfully expanding their service portfolios and geographic footprints. 

Some of the small players are offering solutions that are very tailored to certain industry verticals and geographic areas.  Companies that are focused on same day delivery, refrigerated intermodal service, pooled LTL service, energy distribution and other emerging capabilities are creating a space for themselves in the industry.

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At the end of each year, I like to take stock of the major freight transportation stories of the past twelve months and look ahead to the trends that will drive the industry in the coming year.  The two blogs that I write are prepared from my perspective as a consultant to shippers and carriers.

This year I would like to hear from you.  Those of you who follow this blog observe trends in your segment of the industry.  Please take a minute to share them with me.  Please post them on this blog or send a private e mail to dan@dantranscon.com

Please feel free to select any major trend or trends that are having or will have a major impact on our industry, whether regulatory, economic, technological, demographic, consumer behavior, environmental, modal shifts or business strategy.

To broaden the range of inputs and perspectives, I will also post this request on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  In the coming weeks I will be preparing my two lists.  The lists will include a blend of my observations and yours.  Look for these two blogs in mid-December.  Thank you to those of you who take the time to share your observations with me.

 

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For the past week I have been reading with great interest the postings on the LinkedIn Sales Management Group.  As of the date of this blog posting, there have been over 40 responses to the question, “What advice would you give a new salesperson”?  The tips offered were so good that I thought I would share a “reader’s digest” version with the followers of this blog. 

As I read these suggestions on a daily basis, I see two sets of users for these tips.  First, new sales reps should study this list and make sure they take action on every item.  Second, sales managers should take this checklist and cross reference it with their current (and future reps) to ensure they maintain a winning team.  Here are my 21 favourite tips for the new rep.

  1. Achieve mastery of the services that you sell.
  2. Achieve mastery in sales skills.
  3. Seek out the top performers on your sales team and learn from them as to how they dress, their work ethic and their communication skills.
  4. Understand how your services compare with those of your competitors.  
  5. Be a great listener so you understand the needs of your prospects.  There is a good reason why we have two ears and one mouth.  Focus on understanding the needs of your customers so you can solve their problems. 
  6. Get to know your prospects before you turn them into customers.
  7. People buy from people, specifically people they like and trust.
  8. Prospect, prospect, prospect.
  9. Learn as much as possible about your customers.  The more due diligence you do up front, the easier it will be to close the sale at the end.
  10. Be persistent and consistent.  Success comes from a strong work ethic.
  11. Be passionate about your company and its services.
  12. Try to sell solutions rather than products or services.  Learn your company’s value proposition and where it fits best.  Sell the value of your solution, not price.
  13. Learn early on to distinguish buyers from non-buyers (i.e. lack of mutual fit/interest/resources, etc.).  This will go a long way towards increasing your income and your employer’s income while reducing customer acquisition costs.
  14. View yourself as a profit centre.  To be successful, time management is critical.  Spend your time, energy and resources on the most viable opportunities in your sales pipeline.
  15. Be ethical in all of your business.  Remember, you are selling your (and your company’s) credibility and integrity.  If you lose your integrity, you have nothing to sell.
  16. Invest in yourself.  Continually upgrade your product and business knowledge and your sales skills.
  17. At the end of the day, when all of the other sales reps have left the office, make one more call to a new prospect.
  18. Acquire a CRM tool and use it faithfully every day.
  19. If you are having difficulty in one or more areas of your sales pipeline, this is telling you that you have a weakness in specific areas (e.g. prospecting, obtaining appointments, asking for the sale). Take action to turn these weaknesses into strengths.
  20. While the sales job can seem very lonely at times, don’t forget sales is a team sport.  Work closely with your manager and the rest of your team (e.g. drivers, dispatchers) to achieve your goals.
  21. Always ask for the sale.  If you don’t ask, you may not get. 

I am sure there are many more tips that can be added to the list.  What advice would you give to new freight transportation sales rep?  I would love to hear from you.

 

This year’s Surface Transportation Summit will take place on October 16, 2013 at the Mississauga Convention Centre.   Please block out this date in your calendar.  We have some great speakers lined up for this year’s event.

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During my early days in the trucking industry, I spent a number of years directly or indirectly managing sales teams.  At the time, the sales process was largely focused on number of personal calls per day and on customer entertainment.  While service was and still is important, there was a heavy emphasis on face time with customers and prospects, through a combination of lunches, traffic club dinners, sports events and golf outings.  One company I worked for had a policy of five customer lunches per week and two entertainments a month.  Representatives were encouraged to be “out in the field” making their designated number of calls per day.

The world of transportation sales is going through drastic changes in 2013.  These changes are being driven by three key factors: economics, technology and customer requirements.  Let’s take a look at each of these changes to understand their impact on the sales process.

Economics

During the Great Recession, every trucking company was forced to carefully scrutinize the productivity of each sales person in order to justify their value to the company.    As part of this process, many companies began to realize that expensive car allowance programs, entertainment allowances and travel expenses, coupled with salaries, perks and bonuses made the value proposition of some street sales people quite unattractive. Poor producers were downsized.  In addition to layoffs, detailed cost analyses showed that inside selling, which keeps sales people off the road, can be as much as ten times cheaper than street sales personnel.  Industry estimates show that each contact made by an inside sales rep may cost $25 to $30 while a face to face sales call can cost $300 to $500. 

Technology

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It’s still all in the Numbers

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Freight rates are on the rise in 2011. These increases are being driven by a broad range of forces including tightening capacity, driver shortages, increasing fuel costs, government regulations, improved carrier costing systems and cost increases.   To mitigate these increases, the onus is on shippers to do everything possible to skilfully manage their freight programs.

In 2006 I wrote an article entitled “It’s all in the Numbers”. In that piece I highlighted the need for shippers to manage their freight data effectively. Detailed, quality shipment data can allow shippers to identify consolidation opportunities, to address chronic operational inefficiencies that result in accessorial costs, to highlight “maverick” spend (e.g. carriers being used that are not listed in routing guide) , to rectify the use of use higher cost modes and to create opportunities to construct round trips and triangles.

Five years later, these issues are still prevalent with many shippers. In fact, the situation has become even more acute. As business volumes increase, smart carriers are focusing on yield management, the process of maximizing profitability on every lane. Shippers that are paying rates below market levels are being targeted for rate increases or risk being “fired” by their carriers. As reported in last week’s blog, manufacturers are also facing increased pressure from large retailers to convert their prepaid programs to collect and let their customers manage the carrier relationships.

Shippers with poor quality shipping data and inaccurate freight cost data place themselves in a vulnerable position. Here are some things to look out for.

Freight Density

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