For many decades the B2B sales role has essentially been the same job across all industries. Presentations, meetings, body language, asking questions, adapting to the customer, the right amount of small talk, persuasion, persistence and finally the deal closing skills have been focused at the face to face selling process. That of course has changed considerably in the last year although many sales people especially in logistics, hope to get back at the table with every potential customer. Chances that that will happen have actually become smaller although it will not completely dissapear of course. The logistics industry typically has been behind in adoption of new technologies but it is thanks to the acceleration of digitization that many venture capital companies are pouring money into new start-ups. The transportation industry is now in a transformation mode. But for very long, sales has been a low tech job and relied more on salesmanship than anything else so there is not a big focus yet at digitization of sales yet in logistics. There is however a big opportunity now to advance digital sales and to move away from the traditional sales methods. Especially in logistics. Let me explain why.
Logistics services are considered to be a commodity service by many. I believe that it is a fundamental mistake. Logistics services can be extremely diverse, depend on different routes, need different equipment types and add-on services and depend on capacity and transition times. In general it is rather complex. Next to that the market is not transparent and finding the right partner is difficult. This means that traditional face to face meetings can only be so effective and there can only be so many. To cover this, many small carriers have to work with other larger carriers who subcontract to them or join brokerages to get business.
In a digital world algorithms carry out search tasks and can automate the search task for shippers and allow niche carriers to be found based on their specific and unique profile. That opens up a completely new avenue that goes far beyond what Linkedin or Google have to offer.
Logistics service providers and their sales managers will need to establish their presence on a multitude of platforms that exist today or that will be launched in the future as platforms are becoming more common in the logistics industry. This presence needs to be made as specific as possible to move away from the assumption of commodity and would need to emphasis the unique geographies, services and equipment types, etc, the carrier could offer to shippers.
In the future making connections will not come via browsing of websites or via google searches but via very detailed and transport specific searches on platforms specifically made for the logistics industry. Whether or not they will be AI driven, semi -automated, fully automated or manually fact is that logistics sales and relationship-building can benefit enormously from what digitization has to offer and will therefore change fast. This will benefit small carriers in the same way as large carriers as digitization does not only drive online collaboration and transparency, it also levels the playing field among the different logistics providers.
The question remains, how fast are sales people willing to ditch their mindset around personal selling in return for digital matchmaking?