Selling Logistics Services: Is the Emphasis on “Me” or “You?”

Jim Bierfeldt

Jim Bierfeldt is the founder and chief strategist at Logistics Marketing Advisors, a marketing firm that helps logistics businesses define and communicate their value, and then translate that value into revenue.

What if we showed up at an initial meeting with a company and spent 100% of the time understanding what they care about?  No power point slides.  No stories about the industry award you just won. No selling, period.

the emphasis in selling logistics services must be "you," not "me"Then go away and take everything you learn about that person’s logistics needs and personal motivations and develop targeted ideas that moved him closer to his goal, using those ideas as the foundation of your next meeting.

Isn't that the way it should work?

But logistics sales meetings are too often about “me.” We listen to the prospect’s challenges, but we’re always looking for that opening to bring “me” into the mix.  “Oh, we applied that very same strategy for ACME COMPANY last year and were able to reduce their costs by 10%.”

Here’s a theory on why we do this when selling logistics services.

“Me” we know.  We can cite the features, the benefits, the case studies, the industry accolades. It’s familiar territory.  We’re proud. We like talking about ourselves and our company.

“You,” on the other hand, is complex. It’s a straight-out-of-the-box jigsaw puzzle that make us nervous  because the puzzle pieces don’t neatly match up.  So we steer the discussion to something more familiar.  We want to get back to “me.”

Why?  Perhaps we just don’t know enough about the topic at hand to intelligently probe with insightful questions that peel back multiple layers of the onion to get a clear picture.

That’s a problem. Because having this clear picture is foundational for a solution sales approach.

What buyers think about logistics salespeople

I did a study of buyers of logistics services recently and their biggest complaint about marketing and sales from logistics businesses was that they were uninformed about their business or industry. Read this study.

Here are comments they had about companies involved in selling logistics services:

  • “Bring an understanding of our products and how similar companies benefited from the engagement with your firm.”
  • “Before starting a full conversation, know my business model, customers and needs. Generic sales pitches from rookies are a turn-off.”
  • “You would be amazed at how many 3PLs representatives just walk in the door and brag about what their team can do.”

The power of a good question in selling logistics

Despite all the “how to” books on selling high-value services and the emphasis they place on listening and probing, there are still some in logistics sales who aren’t trained to probe below the first layer of the onion. But if that’s where the solution was lying, wouldn’t the problem be solved already?

Prospects are more impressed by a good question than a good answer.

A good question arises from knowledge of “you,” not “me.”  We just need to learn enough – about the subject matter and the customer’s business – to ask it.


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