You’re at a good friend’s house party. It’s Friday night and you want to relax and unwind after a long, hard work week.The host introduces you to someone and walks away.  You share a laugh and some small talk with your new acquaintance during a casual five-minute discussion. Then the person says: “Hey, it seems we have a lot in common.  Will you be my friend?”

the hard sell salespersonHow do you feel?  Uncomfortable?  A little creeped out?

You probably feel the way a lot of shippers feel during an initial discussion with some logistics industry salespeople. Shippers want to talk to suppliers about their challenges, but hard sell salespeople look for the first opportunity to spot a problem and offer up a revenue-generating solution.

“Oh, you’ve got a spare parts distribution problem? Our X-ship service can take care of that for you.”

New customer relationships, like new friendships, grow over time. Ideally, customer and supplier, like friends, will choose each other. We need to learn how to let that happen.

Moving from the hard sell to the sales guide approach

People hate being sold, but they love to buy. Use that to your advantage.

When selling high-value logistics products and services, think of yourself as a guide, not a salesperson.  It’s all selling, of course, it’s just how you get there. The hard sell salesperson looks for an opening to close the deal as soon as possible. The guide patiently helps prospects navigate a difficult challenge, sharing insights along the way. During this process, confidence and trust is built.

The sales guide builds trust by listening, developing a solid understanding of the prospect’s business and challenge, and offering up insightful suggestions. The hard sell salesperson erodes trust by focusing on his product early and often and not demonstrating the patience required to truly understand the nuances of the prospect’s situation.

Learn the prospect’s business

The sales guide approach can actually differentiate you from your competitors. We recently conducted research with buyers of logistics services and the number one piece of advice they offered to logistics companies trying to sell to them was “know my business.”  One shipper commented: “You would be amazed at how many 3PL representatives just walk in the door and brag about what their team can do.”

Who would have thought, not selling can actually earn you points.

Dating and the hard sell

Sales is a lot like dating. If you come across as desperate, you’ll scare people away.

Park the PowerPoint slides and the hard sell approach and focus simply on helping. Look for opportunities – on social sites, in sales discussions, through networking – to share your company’s expertise and your personal knowledge. Build a broad base of relationships based on this expertise and your authentic desire to help others succeed.

You’ll be surprised at how many friends (and sales) you make along the way.