Joint Sales Calls: Hitting your competition where they aren’t
If you are going on an agency trip I’d recommend going short on the ‘agency’ part of the trip. Work harder, dig into your files and your sales pipeline and bring more than promise with you. Bring opportunity.
I have always recommended and encouraged doing joint sales visits any and every time possible. I also feel that this is an excellent way to spend your travel time on sales trips. Most people make the mistake of seeing agency business as a race or as a collection activity. It’s a race to discover the new agents faster then have a collection of all the agents in the area. If they all know and like you then you’ll win the market and your local competition will be on the lurch. That’s this delusion, not quite the reality. The truth is that you will have to be able to service all those agents and no one can do that well. As I’ve always said, find the partners who fit your business, grow acquainted with them then grow their business while you gown theirs. If you follow this advice then you’ll understand exactly why I believe joint sales visits are key to accomplishing this.
When you do joint sales visits you will get to know both sides of the business very well. I don’t care how good Skype, the telephone and e-mail are nothing beats face-to-face interaction. How many times in your life have you been happy to be able to put a face with a name? How many times especially did you feel comfort in someone’s service because you know you can pick up the phone and call if you have a question or so etching goes wrong? Well. It’s the same with your customers when you are handling their business through a third-party halfway around the world. It’s just human nature. But the face-to-face goes further than that. You will be sitting in the presence of clients and prospects with your partners discussing g in person concerns and issues and working out the kinks.
While all of this is going on there is another dynamic happening. You and your partners agent are learning about one another as well. And that doesn’t matter whether you have just met at the last networking event or whether you have known each other for donkey’s years. You see one another’s strengths and weaknesses first hand. They learn what is important to you. You learn what is important to them. And both sides get better glimpses of the realities of their partner locally.
Even though all sides benefit I think the traveling party learns the most. They will find such trips worth the investment. To get the biggest bang for the buck I’d do the following exercise. Make a list of prospects, on going clients and former clients who might be won back. Have your partner agent do the same. Then figure out mutually which targets have the biggest financial positive impact for both of you and which ones fit you both strategically. Then number your mutual list from one to the end, with one being the most beneficial. Make your appointments from there. Be careful when making this list when it comes to what is often referred to as ‘low hanging fruit’ (easy to catch business). If it is low margin then no matter how tempting it might be it should go lower down the list. And when you are finally in front of the potential clients make sure to play deference to the local partner. In many cases you’ll get plenty of opportunity to speak. The locals should want your presentation and input, but don’t think that because you are the foreigner you run the show or you will risk making a bad impression.
Anyone who takes up the tactic of joint sales with partner agents will quickly see the the benefits, especially when you’ve chosen the right partner. You’ll be closer with both your partners and your clients. You’ll also have strong advantages over your local competitors and you’ll have an arrow on the bullseye on the backs of the large multinationals.
Gary Dale Cearley is the Managing Director of Advanced International Networks Ltd. (AIN), one of the fastest growing and most dynamic business-to-business networking organizations in the world. AIN’s networks include AerOceaNetwork (AON), XLProjects Network (XLP), and AiO Logistics Network. Gary Dale has been in many facets of international freight forwarding for more than two decades from operations to sales to the owner of the first 100% foreign owned freight forwarding company licensed in Vietnam. The companies that he has been involved with have been both generalists and specialists. He has also worked from large European and Asian multinationals (Danzas and Hankyu Express) as well has small start up forwarders. For the past ten years Gary Dale has owned and operated AIN. He has lived in several major cities in four different countries and he is multilingual. Currently Gary Dale runs the AIN operation from Bangkok, Thailand, but travels the world over.