Small motor carrier owners wear many hats. But at some point in the growth process, every owner has to make the decision that it’s time to delegate some (or at least one) of the tasks he or she has done from the onset. Which task(s)? Dispatcher, safety director, or salesperson? All are vital concerns of any trucking operation, and they must be performed with competency and due diligence for the carrier to continue to grow.
However, one of the most difficult things for any entrepreneur to do is to delegate responsibility for a vital area of his/her operation. The thinking is that no one can do the important jobs better than the one with the most ‘skin in the game,’ the company owner. But if this were true, every successful company would never grow beyond the capacity and skills of its owner(s).
What is the one position in a trucking operation that is hardest to find the right person for the job? When I’ve asked this of a small-business owner, it’s sales.
The most difficult person to sell nearly anything is a trucker. Next in line would be a trucking company owner, especially one who was a trucker. So who would be the best judge of the style and quality of a salesperson? That’s correct. You. If a sales candidate can walk in the door and sell you, the skeptical trucker, that he or she is as represented and will bring in the needed customers, then you’ve completed the second step in finding your initial sales representative. No, that’s not the first step. First, you must find the best candidates you feel hold promise in accomplishing the sales goals you’ve set.
You most likely come in contact with salespeople daily. When looking to fill a sales position, the best place to begin is with those who are currently selling something. If they’re good at what they do, and you’ll know as your wallet becomes lighter, begin by complimenting them on a job well done.
Next, hand them a business card and let them know you’re in the market for a great salesperson like them. Then ask them to pass the word around to other great salespeople they know so anyone interested can call you.
This accomplishes three goals: Since everyone loves a compliment, especially a salesperson, this gives you a positive rapport. Giving them your business card moves it to the next level. It doesn’t put them on the defensive, telling you they aren’t interested, but leaves the door open if they want to pursue it. And salespeople are like the rest of us, they run in herds. So the likelihood is that if they aren’t interested, they have a colleague who is.
Next, communicate through your network of business contacts that you need a qualified logistics salesperson. A great salesperson may be burned out on a current product and needs a new challenge. Having been a salesman, I can attest to this one. But using the word-of-mouth network is another excellent means of finding the person to put through your hiring process.
Social networks like freight sales professionals, agents, and consultants networking on LinkedIn are also a great resource. You can post what attributes you’re looking for in a sales rep. But more than that, cruise the different logistics-related groups and look for individuals whose profiles and resumes fit your needs. This is far better than want ads, as you can actually screen potential applicants before you’ve made direct contact with them.
Salespeople, not unlike truckers, are a special breed of employee or contractor. They need to be self-starters, self-motivators, outgoing and confident. They need to be detail-oriented, while at the same time, personable and interested in providing the best service at the best price for both the customer and the trucking company they represent.
That’s a very tall order. Finding the best person for the job takes effort and know-how in evaluating a person without getting caught up in the details. You need to know if the person you’re interviewing has the skills and personality needed to represent your company in a manner that complements you, the owner.
It all comes down to three questions and how they are answered by the job applicants. According to an article published in Inc. Magazine, before hiring salespeople, ask each potential applicant these top three interview questions:
What do you know about this company and the trucking industry?
If they haven’t done the research to know a thoughtful, quality answer to this question, they most likely won’t research your potential shipping customers to the degree necessary to land them.
What do you want to accomplish at this company?
The answers the applicants provide to this question will tell you how ambitious while at the same time how grounded in reality they are. Those who set unrealistic goals—either too far-reaching or beyond their true skills—aren’t needed in a sales position. You need someone grounded in reality, with goals that reach high and yet are attainable with effort; someone who sees and understands the scope of the challenge placed before him or her.
What have you done to prepare for the job?
You don’t want someone who’s been standing on the corner watching all the trucks go by. You want someone who’s looked into the available market share of the segment of the industry your carrier services and who can present you with a list of potential customers that fit the demographic of your company’s needs. This is someone truly driven to work in both the best interest of your carrier and the shipping customers you serve.
At the same time, in order to grow, you need qualified shippers who are able and willing to pay your rates. Without the customer base, you can have the best dispatcher, the most diligent safety director, managing the best drivers all sitting around waiting for the next load. This is why your first critical position hire needs to be a salesperson. This person is going to represent your trucking company to the world. The more thorough you are during the interviewing process, the better salesperson you’ll hire—the one keeping your trucks rolling with profitable freight.