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Love me tender? Not in today’s world. If you’ve got what it takes, tech savvy customers will find you …
This business we call “freight forwarding” has changed. Those that haven’t recognised that are probably people still with a Blockbuster Video membership card pinned expectantly to the fridge.
It’s pretty hard to miss the changes, but freight forwarders can have a nasty habit of hoping that change will bypass them and impact everyone else – while doing their business a massive favour at the same time…..
Let’s talk about how business is won these days. There was a recent article in The Loadstar about how forwarders can stand out in tenders. The article made some excellent points, but it overlooked a couple of fundamental issues shaping our business and how we respond to customer enquiries.
First of all, it assumed that the tender was the be-all-and-end-all for a forwarder, and the ultimate mark of success for winning business. That being asked to participate was the ultimate last holy grail of success before the customer spends millions of dollars with you – and that once you’re part of the tender process, all your problems are solved, and the Bahamas beckons.
We’ve all had the sales person rushing into the office waving a recently emailed tender invitation over their heads like Stannis Baratheon waving a Valyrian steel sword in Game of Thrones, and we all know how that ended for him: not well.
The sad fact is that if you are on the tender and you are not already significantly intimate with the customer, their needs and key drivers for the tender process, chances are that all your effort is as worthwhile as the drive to Blockbuster to pick up your DVD of Toy Story…
We have a piece of software that we create and deliver all our proposal content in. It’s very cool. One of the things that this piece of kit also allows us to do is to gain analytical insight into what our customers actually do with our document once it has been delivered – how long do they stay on each page in seconds and minutes, who do they share the document or page with, and so on.
The sad reality is that on average the customer spends six times longer on the pricing page than on the content pages. Oh, and that is for business we have won and we have lost. Surprised? Well don’t be. The tender process by its very nature is an Excel spreadsheet exercise in like-for-like costs for doing the exact same things the customer already has.
If you are fortunate enough to know and understand the customer, you’ll know that the famed “dance-off on Excel” is purely the entry key to the magic kingdom where the customer knows that those who pass are worthy of further engagement – and, if you have the relationship coupled with the knowledge of what’s behind the tender, you now have a fighting chance. However, without that knowledge and relationship, the sad fact is that the whole process is probably a total waste of time.
The second, and probably the biggest single element to impact the tender process as it used to be, is that the customer’s business is probably changing too, and thus, what they tender and how they tender is bound to look different also.
Here is a good, real-life example of how this business is changing. We are in the middle of a detailed and significant process for a major UK brand which needs a multi-channel warehouse in Asia to manage ecommerce, wholesale and retail distribution, as well as some primary supply chain requirements such as cross-docking and direct-to-store. There was no tender process, no drawn-out meetings and PowerPoint decks, just direct engagement surrounding the subject matter. A process focused on what they need, what their gaps are and how they would like to close them.
This direct and fast-tracked approach was possible simply because the customer found us, not the other way around. No sales reps knocking on their door with a rate card and a Montblanc pen with a logo on it. Their young tech-savvy analysts and supply chain seniors simply knew from our social media and marketing strategy, and from the tactics we deploy on social media with our existing customers in the same market, that we run Asia-based multi-user logistics sites in their vertical market. Can you do for us what you do for them? Yes, we would love to.
I’m not saying this is the norm yet, but this refreshing approach is becoming more and more common, especially among companies in the ecommerce or tech space, which have little time or inclination to run a beauty parade when they know that, in reality, not everyone looks great in a swimsuit.
This is a guest post by David Emerson, who is vice president sales – EMEA region, for SEKO Logistics.