What we’ve learned growing a business in logistics through outbound and inbound sales
Written By The Sales Team At FreightPath And Edited By Terrence Wang
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Cold calling is one of the most important ways of growing your customer base, and hence your business. However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy - it can be nerve-wracking, embarrassing, and frustrating to say the least. However, with the right skills, plenty of practice, and perseverance - cold calling can help your trucking company grow incredibly fast.
The thing is, you’re probably already used to many of the skills and techniques you’re going to use while cold calling - we do it all the time in day-to-day life! Whether you’re talking to someone new at the bar, or introducing yourself to a new acquaintance, you probably already have a great sense of how to navigate these situations. Just remember - the phone isn’t an excuse to act different! Treat phone calls with the same respect you would give a face-to-face conversation with your friends.
For example - what’s the quickest way to get rejected on a cold call? You probably already know - it’s to go for the close on the first call. Would you ever ask a woman to marry you on the first date? Exactly. Cold calling should be a process of guiding the customer to the next sequential step. Your objectives are to get them interested in your services.
Remember, on a cold call - don’t sell, don’t close, and don’t discuss pricing.
What should you be doing then?
Your first objective should be to get their email - this lets you market to them with info sheets, case studies, and other helpful information. The second is to get them to agree to a discovery call - a second call where you can qualify them for budget, authority, need, and timeline (or “BANT”).
One last reminder - the best salespeople do 30% of the talking - the rest is done by the customer. Pick your time to talk wisely. Only respond after you’ve heard your customers out thoroughly. Now, let’s get to the actual pitch.
Your pitch should be simple, friendly, and to-the-point. It doesn’t have to be hard either - we’ve written out a short example out for you, from the perspective of Anthony from Anthony’s Trucking Company.
Hi, How are you? My name is Anthony from Anthony’s Trucking Company. We’ve been working with some companies in your area like ACME distribution and Appleseed Farms.
This first piece is crucial to the cold calling process since it humanizes you and introduces you warmly to the customer. Nobody wants to be talking to an anonymous face from nowhere - people want to talk to people!
- How do you currently move your shipments?
- Have you thought about how much you are paying for freight transport services?
- Have you ever thought about partnering with a carrier to provide lower cost and higher quality transportation for your products?
- Are you tired of the customer service that you’re getting right now?
This next group of questions answers is probably the most important part of any sales call - it establishes the needs and current situation of our potential customers. There’s no way we can sell to somebody who’s 100% satisfied with their current service, but nobody is! There’s always issues we can find - frustration with pricing, speed, customer service, convenience, etc. All we need to do is find it.
We’ve helped our customers overcome profitability, productivity and customer service challenges just like yours. The shippers we help see an increase of over X% in gross margin by:
- Purchasing transportation services directly from us without a middleman brokerage
- Accessing on-call customer service and tracking to reduce risk
- Instant quoting with our online customer portal
We’ve helped companies just like yours scale their operations and grow exponentially. Does this sound like something you want to have a conversation about?
The last part of the cold call here is the future scenario that we’re presenting to our prospective customers. We’ve already established what their present transportation situation looks like - now we have to paint a picture of what it could be with your trucking company (or in this case, Anthony’s trucking company).
Make sure to identify key improvements that you can make versus the established competition, and present it in an easy to understand format (i.e. KISS: keep it simple, stupid). And finally, remember to ask whether or not they’re interested! If you don’t gauge their interest on a consistent basis, you’ll have no clue where to take the call. Keep control of the reins, and keep in mind what we discussed in the intro - don’t push the sale, don’t try to sell, and don’t discuss pricing!
After this initial bit of customer discovery, we should begin to see a response from the customer - good or bad. There’s a number of ways this can go:
The “No we use a competitor” Response
This might sound bad - they’re using a competitor! That’s not a problem though. By asking the right questions, we can learn more about what they value in a transportation service, and how we can achieve that better than the incumbent.
I completely understand, many of the companies I’ve called in the past we’re just like you. They got by with the other trucking companies. But they never really grew their company,
Many of these guys, no offense, don’t really partner with you, they just get you onboard and treat you like a number. With us you’ll get:
- Consistent on-call customer service through our customer portal
- Lower rates by means of operating without a middleman brokerage
- Instant quoting to reduce ordering time and effort
What we’ve found works in this situation is not to immediately shame the customer for picking another trucking company - nobody wants to be shamed. Instead, we have to be understanding. It’s okay that they picked another company, especially since they can switch to yours now! This is a prime situation to again reiterate what benefits you provide to them that the competitors don’t.
The “Not Interested” Response
This is a pretty common response - more common than you probably think. It’s not the end of the world though, as long as we put ourselves in our prospect’s shoes and explain our situation from their perspective.
I understand, I called you out of the blue, Other companies who use our services felt the same way - but if we could upgrade your transportation, add value to your customers, reduce your monthly freight costs, and grow your business wouldn’t that make sense to talk?
I’m not asking you to commit to anything - just to look and see what’s out there on the market place today.
This part of the call is to again try to see if there’s any interest. Again, confirm that you understand their situation and avoid the temptation to sound salesy or pushy. Nobody wants to be on those kinds of calls!
Instead, find a way to lower their barrier to entry, and make it sound like a no-brainer to at least engage in another call or some marketing emails. Here, we’re reiterating that we’re not asking them to commit to anything - instead, we’re invested in their success, and want them to look on the market and see if there really is no better alternative.
The “Still Not Interested” Response
Of course, plenty of the folks you call will still tell you they aren’t interested. This is just the fact of the matter - they’ve told you twice that they’re not interested and asking them again will be seen as you provoking them. Hence, switch to the second objective and ask to send them some marketing material
I totally get it - I’ll send over some material to you and you can make the call for yourself.
This sounds pointless, but we can assure you it’s not. We’ve converted many prospects after cold calls where they told us they weren’t interested, and just wanted some info in an email. Turns out they read the email, and were so interested, that they actually called us and asked for another call! The lesson here is to give yourself as many opportunities for success as possible within the sales cycle.
What if you don’t have marketing material? We actually have some great professionally-designed info sheet templates that you can download for free and customize on our resources page of our website.
The “Some Interest” Response
On the other hand, if the prospects do show some positive interest, it’s important at this stage to schedule a second call (you can call it a “consultation”) to go over a deep discovery and truly understand their exact situation and buying ability.
Some Added Tips
Throughout the entire call, you should have a specific goal in mind - to know your clients better than they know themselves.
Remember - the sale is won at the beginning, not the end. The number of questions you ask early in the sales cycle is instrumental in increasing your chance of making the deal.
This is the case because people make decisions by comparing their present with the future. As salespeople we are understanding the pains of the prospect at a deep level, then we are selling a desired future state using our industry expertise, and painting a vision of a better tomorrow with your company’s services.
The Different Types of Questions To Ask In a Discovery
These are open-ended questions that press for specific details
- “Tell me a little bit about…”
- “Help me understand…”
- “Please describe…”
- “Walk me through…”
These are open-ended questions that ask how they accomplish certain tasks
- “How does your company accomplish...”
These are open-ended questions that gently push customers to consider their current state from a new perspective. Provoking questions aren’t just meant to challenge the buyer, but rather get them to think about their problems in new ways. Some provoking questions you could try:
- “What happens when you …”
- “Has there ever been a time when …”
These aren’t open-ended questions! Instead, these simply allow you to repeat information you gather back to your customer to make sure you’ve correctly understood everything they’ve told you. Validation is a common communication strategy promoted by psychologists to strengthen personal relationships. A validating question might be something like:
- “What I hear you saying is …”
- “Am I understanding you correctly?”
- “Did I get this right?”
With these discovery questions, you should have an excellent idea of whether or not your prospective customer is ready or not to purchase from you, and whether they’re a fit for your organization or not. Remember - selling to the wrong customers can kill your business too!
We hope that these lessons we’ve learned from cold calling in the transportation industry will help you in your own journey growing and scaling your business. Remember - the hardest part of cold calling is having the courage and perseverance to begin!
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