February 2003 | How-To | Ten Tips

Working With Transportation Salespeople

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Working with transportation salespeople can be a pleasant or frustrating experience. You have to separate the person who wants to sell you something from the professional who wants to provide the appropriate solution that will meet your needs. To help you get the most bang for your buck and establish a relationship that leaves you feeling fulfilled rather than frustrated, here are 10 tips from Greg Caldwell, Ryder's vice president of sales for transportation services.

1. Don't be a bid gatherer. Share information honestly and clearly. A salesperson cannot offer an effective solution without exact information. The process of selecting a carrier or provider must be brought to a higher level. Give enough detail to guarantee that you will get a proper bid as well as a solution.

2. Beware of the glitz. Many salespeople tout the bells and whistles of their company and what it has to offer. They can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Credibility and respect must come to the negotiating table. Seek out the person who appears credible, has a sense of urgency and a can-do attitude, then start to build a relationship. Ask for referrals.

3. Look for trust and credibility. Obviously, you need to look at the supplier company's strengths and capabilities, but then assess the representative. You must be able to build a relationship with that person and trust him or her to provide solutions for your company.

4. Develop a relationship with those suppliers who have financial staying power to grow and invest in your business even during volatile times.

5. Have a clear understanding of what you expect from a successful relationship with your suppliers. Communicate how you will measure the supplier's success in meeting your needs, then develop "wins" for both sides when you negotiate. Find ways to share gains and risks.

6. Choose salespeople who listen first, and make the effort to understand your needs, then continually offer solutions, even in areas where he/she might have to offer an alternate supplier.

7. Invite the salespeople in. Let salespeople see the kind of freight you are moving, the type of operation you have, and the urgency of the product you are shipping in or out—especially if you are using the carrier on a regular basis for expedited shipping needs. Invite salespeople to view your docks and to understand your information systems. That way, they get a feel for your sense of urgency and can come up with effective solutions.

8. Collaboration is key. Once you are working with the salesperson, establish a communications channel that works for both of you to ensure information flows without obstruction. The more time or advance notice you give salespeople, the more time they have to put together the best solution for your shipping challenges.

9. Give the heads-up as soon as possible when you discover a problem. The faster you can alert your salespeople of a shipping problem, delay, or inefficiency, the faster they can react and get the problem solved for you. Give salespeople a chance to readjust and solve the problem. Make sure there is always a back-up contact for you to call, and a contingency plan in place.

10. Make sure you have access to senior management. Your relationship with your salesperson may be the best, but you want to make sure you have access to the company's top people as well. You want to be able to contact another executive in case you have a problem or there is a change in guard.

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