In his wonderful blog post about “being a d#ck to everyone he meets,” Marc Ensign talks about a helpful neighbor, Dick, who eased his family’s transition, after a long-distaLogistics sales is about helpingnce move, into a new neighborhood.

What a marvelous thing to find yourself in a strange place where you know literally no one and, all of a sudden, to have a guide. Someone to recommend a plumber, a babysitter.  Someone, like Dick, who asks for absolutely nothing in return.

How would you feel about that person?  Pretty good, I’d say.

The Human Side of Logistics Sales and Marketing

Logistics outsourcing decisions are made by real PEOPLE who find themselves in similar unfamiliar situations all the time.  Under pressure.  Looking for answers.  And often nowhere near ready to buy.

In the absence of a buying signal, too often we dismiss someone as “unqualified” and move on to the next logistics “sales opportunity.”  In the process we miss an opportunity to simply be generous – with our time and our knowledge.  And to forge a relationship in the process.

If you can’t be a D#ck, well, perhaps you can be a Fred. Fred is a colleague of mine who runs Distribution Design – a consulting practice focused on warehouse design and logistics strategy.  He’s an operational designer but, as a solo professional, he’s also a salesperson.

To my mind, he’s the best kind of salesperson because he’s wired to help. He enjoys sharing his accumulated knowledge about what works and what doesn’t in warehouse design and operations.

But Fred’s also very busy. So does he really have time to educate companies who are not in the market for his services right now?  Well, let’s ask Fred.

“I have had many experiences where my helping someone for no charge has turned into a future revenue project,” says Fred. “It’s not why I do it, but there is a business value.”

“Sometimes when fishing, you get a fish that is just too small. If you treat the fish right by gently removing the hook and placing the fish back in the water, it will grow and be a bigger fish someday. People remember kindness.  When the operation grows, they will call again. If they change companies, they will remember.”

People remember kindness.

Lessons for Logistics Marketing

What’s the lesson in this for logistics marketing professionals?  How can you position your company to be helpful?

Think about creating logistics content that is designed only to help, not to sell.  Blog posts that address frequently asked questions, a video that offers up a solution to a vexing problem, a slide deck posted to Slideshare on “how to (fill in the blank)”

Today, high-value logistics services are bought, not sold. Companies with supply chain problems are out there looking for answers.  The best way to engage with them is to give them a reason to find you. Create helpful content that demonstrates your knowledge, instead of another powerpoint slide listing your awards.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll need plenty of that selling stuff once you engage, but marketing is more about securing the engagement than making the sale. You want that engagement to happen very early in the logistics sales cycle before competitors are involved.  That could be months, perhaps even years, before a deal is done.

If you agree that being like Dick, or Fred, has merit, then perhaps we need to start thinking about the role of a logistics sales or marketing manager more as a guide. Someone whose job it is to help a company reach its goals – in our case its supply chain goals.

Real guides don’t market their services mid-way up the mountain, where only the serious climbers reach. They engage at the base, recognizing that there’s a very long way to go before they plant a flag at the summit.

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