There are quite a few aspects of an applicant that we look at when reviewing membership applications and one of the most important functions we look into is the applicant's sales cooperation track record. This might sound obvious to most logistics professionals but it actually goes a bit deeper than one might think. What do we mean by "sales cooperation" and what are we actually looking for? Let me explain in a few points.
First of all, we are looking for companies who are transparent in their sales activities. By this I mean that we want people and companies who stick by their quotes and are honest with their quotes. I really hate to get quotes and work under the assumption that I am working at one cost only to have hidden fees or "creative costing" when I get my invoice. We don't like that. And it really is unacceptable if you are trying to build a partnership with your agent. Another big no no is when you have net / net agreements but then adding a cushion in for yourself and not giving true net / net. At the risk of sounding cliché, to be quite honest this practice is quite dishonest. I can remember loads of times when I would discuss this matter with forwarders who would say that they do this because they know that the agents on the other side of the business are doing it when they are quoting to the end client. I don't believe this to be the case because I used to be involved in these trades and I tried my best to keep my company clean and I know that I am not the only one. If you want to be in our group, you need to be transparent in your sales activities with your network partners - period!
Secondly, we are looking for companies who are professional on both ends of sales leads. When you are sending sales leads do you make sure they are qualified? I know sometimes it is very hard to have lots of good information. What you have seen might only be basic and it is better to go with this than nothing at all. I'll give salesmen that. At the same time, however, I cannot count the times that all I have been sent with a sales lead is a company name and address - very often without any phone, name, etc. As a salesman you need to dig a bit to help your partner. This has to be a two way street. You need to have a reason for the contact. You need to know something about the cargo, the routing, etc. And you need to sugar coat it with how your services and rates (yes, provide your partner some rates to go in with) can help the prospect. Conversely, if you are the partner who has received a sales lead you need to assess the lead and let the agent know if there is any further information that you could use that would really help and you need to let them know your game plan and follow up at the earliest convenient time for yourself and the prospect. And remember, if there are any conflicts of interest with this cargo or customer, such as your having worked with this prospect with a different agent or you have already quoted this prospect for someone else, make it known immediately to your partner. Once contact has been made you need to feedback to the sales partner who brought you the lead as well. Keep them in the loop for any major follow ups on this client. And absolutely do not commit the deadly sin of winning the business and sending it to an agent other than the one who sent you the lead! (Wanna die? This is the express way to Hell...)
And this bit of advice works with both points above. Be quick and proactive. Responding quickly, contacting quickly, offering up good information or ideas that will help win your partner agent business will endear you to their hearts. It will win you return business and make everyone in the network happy with you. Believe me, if you follow the advice in this post everyone will make profit on the business you do together and when you attend the network meetings your partner agents will see glorious rays of light and hear angels singing when you walk into the room. It's the closest you might ever come to being a rock star. Unless, of course, you really were a rock star before you got into logistics.
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), Perishable Logistics Specialists Network (PLSN) and AONrelocations (AONr). 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.
Gary Dale welcomes all sorts of interactions. If you have questions or comments about anything Gary Dale has written here you may contact him directly by e-mail.