Growing Through A Crisis

Growing Through A Crisis

In September of last year Concept made the big decision to bring me on to completely revamp our sales approaches and build on our product offering. We got right to work implementing our new CRM, PipeDrive, along with other sales tools like Zoom. Five months later, Concept is rolling out our new TMS to clients offering our new LTL solution as well as more access and visibility than ever before. With these added offerings and new approaches, Concept has been able to land and onboard nine new clients over the past eight weeks of this crisis. Let me walk you through how we are executing.

I was aware of the previous sales model before joining Concept, as it was one that I had some success with selling Truckload services early in my career. However, I have found that selling LTL that way doesn’t set us up to win. The old way was not conducive to our new vision of becoming a Single Source Partner to our clients—we had to change it up. The old Truckload sales model was aimed at getting the customer to “give us a shot”, often without knowing half of what we should know prior to quoting anyone’s freight, much less moving it. I tell my team not to let spot market prospects put them in the “crab bucket”, as we should be having a different, deeper discussion with our clients and prospects.

We’ve been training for the last six months on a consultative approach aimed at getting our clients and prospects onto Discovery Calls so we can properly vet the opportunity and find out where else we can add value, or if it is even a good fit. These Discovery Calls have been illuminating to our Sales Team and veteran Shipper Reps, as it has also shown where the gaps are with our current clients. My team has been executing on bringing me and my partners on to at least eight Discovery Calls every week. Although this is a longer sales approach, we started landing new customers at the end of February that view us as partners and are joining us for the long haul.

Then COVID-19 hit and the government began mandating shutdowns and distancing restrictions in early March with some businesses and workers being labeled “non-essential”. I believe we will look back at how we have reacted as a Country to this whole crisis and learn a lot. As the VP of Sales, I started getting questions from my team and partners: Will Sales be working from home now? Do you still want us prospecting? How are we supposed to close deals if businesses aren’t open? All potentially valid questions that most logical people would answer that “now isn’t the time to sell” or “we shouldn’t be selling right now people aren’t ready for that”. One of my mentors shared this adage with me “Sales is the transference of belief”, which is very broad and mentions nothing about closing. Something else that struck me: If our mission was to help and transfer belief, who are we to ASSUME our customers and prospects don’t still need our help? We were surprised to find that many of our customers need us now more than ever, but we were still curious about the prospects. How do we approach prospects that we’ve only just started talking to in the last couple weeks? More importantly, without daily prospecting our pipepline will dry up. How do we approach new prospects?

As Leif Babin and Jocko Willink say in Extreme Ownership, “Relax, look around, make a call”.  Once we circled back to our core belief in ourselves and our desire to help, our WHY, we began to focus on the solution rather than the obstacle.  The fact is that many companies may be furloughing people and forced to do more with less, therefore our services should be in high demand.  How do we start that conversation without sounding like a stereotypical sales rep?  I say by addressing the elephant in the room and pointing out that “we understand that we risk looking like typical sales rep looking to make a sale in a crisis”. Then by pointing out the fact that many of our current customers need our single-source solution more now than ever. “Is now a bad time talk?” This approach helps us disarm the prospect to see if they connect with needing help more now than they did before.  Our team prepped for poor responses, but they rarely came as people really need our help!

Once we realized we can actually sell through this crisis by genuinely helping prospects and customers, we faced another challenge: onboarding through a crisis.  The first few customers we launched after the COVID-19 lockdown didn’t go quite as smooth as we would have hoped. This was partially due to our customers asked us to expedite the process but mostly because we acquiesced their request.  The same way a customer needs us to be the expert about their logistics, they also need us to tell them “no” when we feel we aren’t being set up to succeed by cutting corners or rushing the launch.  We are actually anchoring our customer’s expectations, telling them to expect a couple challenges but reminding them to focus on helping us land on the right solutions.  How we respond and step up to challenges is what differentiates us.

Once we closed our first couple customers post-lockdown and saw how our sales process and onboarding process are exactly what many clients need, our belief went through the roof.  It is a very gratifying experience to be able to announce to our teams that we have new customers coming on board who need our support, especially in the middle of this crisis where so many people are uncertain about what their future holds.  With a process aimed at helping others, and proof that people and companies need our help more than ever, Concept is poised to continue growing through this crisis.

— Justin Smith, VP of Sales