You knew they had lots of freight, but it took months just to get in the door. Once inside it was textbook Sales 101. You clinically built a relationship with the decision-maker and learned a lot about their medical distribution business. You were diligent and patient as you pointed out a need for your services while resisting the temptation to take a run at the business. Now, your competitor has dropped the ball — again. Time to close the deal and put some freight on your trucks.
People think the best closers are fast-talkers who get business by flinging rates against the wall. It's the “dung” theory: the more dung you throw, the more will stick. And the stuff that sticks — it stinks. If this sounds like your reps, they should focus on the Monty Halls who need to make a deal on 60 lanes within four minutes of the initial prospecting call. In fact, winning new customers is not a single event, but a progression. Closing a sale should confirm what the traffic manager and you knew would happen all along — once the timing was right. When you ask for the biz, you shouldn't have to be wearing your lucky boxers as you sit on pins and needles waiting for an answer. You should know the answer before you ask.
As you're thinking a close is near, here are a few thoughts that will help turn your hard work into dividends:
Be a mirror
The best salespeople aren't just good listeners, they're great reflectors. Reflecting, i.e., listening and reiterating what was just said, is an under-utilized art when it comes time to close the deal. It's a way to confirm that you understand the decision-maker's perspective while moving comfortably to the next step. It also makes it harder for the customer to turn back.
Put a price on bad service
There's a significant cost to missed pickups, damaged freight, and antiquated bells and whistles. The problem is they're not always found in the transportation ledger. Before you ask for a commitment, get the customer to put a price on his headaches. It's amazing how competitive your rates can be against a price that's too good to be true once you factor in the inevitable problems that go with it. Most people don't understand the math. It's your job to help with the addition.
No commitment, no price
Too many of us give rates hoping the stars will align once we get our shot. Why devote time and resources putting a deal together without first getting a commitment from the customer to use us? Without a commitment, you're just reacting and placing the focus on your price. Close the deal before you ask your pricing manager to jump through hoops.
When's the first pickup?
A customer promises you a new lane. How many times have you spent the next six months awkwardly chasing him down just to find out that he has amnesia? Don't underestimate the work and resistance that goes into changing suppliers. Before you run out the door to celebrate your new conquest, determine exactly when and how the first shipment is going to happen.
I'm not blind to think that price won't be a factor in every deal. Frankly, I often wonder who makes it more of an issue: the customer or us. The fact is, you're not going to close every deal you quote; however, if you look at closing as a process — mini-closes that can lead to a sale — you'll increase the probability of putting better freight on your trucks.
Mike McCarron is managing partner at the MSM Group of Companies, which specializes in transportation and logistics service between Canada and the United States.