Do Not Tolerate a Passive Approach to Selling
Q&A with Jason Burns, Partner, Business and Development Manager, QCS Logistics
By Andrea Obston
Jason Burns has led his company’s efforts to identify, nurture, and solidify customer relationships that show on the bottom line. In this Q&A, he talks about the pitfalls of old-style selling and marketing, comparing it to the advantages of mobilizing updated marketing tools.
Burns is a board member and treasurer of the Customized Logistics and Delivery Association, and a partner and business and development manager for QCS Logistics in New Orleans, Louisiana. His passion for leading change has played a crucial role in reinventing the company’s ongoing sales and marketing strategies and implementation. His work for QCS is responsible for increasing QCS’s services, customer base, and market footprint, which has resulted in QCS being placed on the Inc. 5000 list for the past four consecutive years.
Question: What’s wrong with the industry’s traditional approach to gaining customers?
Burns: In the past, many delivery and logistics companies were content with a passive approach to selling. Owners or sales people would cold call companies on the phone or in person. While that can still be a component of your marketing plan, it’s no longer the most effective way to bring in new business. Today, our potential customers have less tolerance for this kind of selling. And frankly, I’m not sure if it’s worked for many years. Rarely does this kind of approach get to the decision maker and even if it does, the probability of closing that lead is very small because they aren’t ready to buy at that moment in time. What’s worse, sales people who depend on this kind of selling would only take that one shot at a customer. If they didn’t get it right (i.e. make the sale) they’d move on. There was no continuing sales cycle. There was no way to keep customers warm; to nurture them through the sales process until they had a need for our services.
The thing about our industry is that we have to be there just when the customer needs us. We need to continue to market to them so we are top of mind when they do. Today, people don’t sit in their offices waiting for the right solution to knock on their door. There’s so much data at their fingertips through the web that they are empowered to go out and get their own answers. We need to acknowledge that and use it to our benefit. That means we need to look for ways to position our companies to attract opportunities by mobilizing online marketing techniques.
Question: With so many options out there, what are you doing to make the most of them?
Burns: We are working with a number of outside resources. We redid our website to integrate with an outside provider that offers us a combination of online advertising, sales tracking, and customer relationship management (CRM). We also use an outside social marketing firm that blogs for us and handles social media.
Question: There’s been a lot of talk about CRM. Explain what this really means.
Burns: CRM is the sustainable piece that turns prospects into customers and keeps potential customers engaged. We’ve set up a system that’s pre-programmed to move customers through the sales pipeline. If they get stuck at some point before the sale, it’s programmed to send them an email or a white paper that keeps the relationship warm. It allows us to stay in front of a potential customer until they are ready to purchase. So, for example, we meet someone at a networking event. We put them into the system and it keeps them engaged until they are ready to buy. We can’t afford for them to forget us after that first meeting. We need to keep them involved. CRM does that and it’s more dependable and cost effective than a traditional sales rep.
Question: How are you using your website in combination with social media?
Burns: We have a blog that’s on the site that covers useable information for our customers. We post at least twice a month. Then we promote the contents of that blog through social media—our Facebook account, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In addition, we use Facebook updates, Twitter, and LinkedIn for short posts on new trends in delivery, new employees, new markets, new verticals, and even company anniversary dates (like a 30-year employee we recently honored).
Question: You also offer White Papers. Talk about that as part of your marketing efforts.
Burns: The white papers offer information that someone would want to spend the time to download to learn more about a topic. We get the topics by watching the feedback on our blog and social media outlets. If a post is getting a lot of attention, we’ll do a deeper dive into it and write a white paper. Then, we offer that white paper through our site and promote it with social media. People can download those white papers, but they must provide us with their email, name, and company name. Their request for the white paper starts the nurturing process. Then, we nurture them through the sales pipeline using the other tools I mentioned.
Question: Sum up the changes in marketing that you believe those in the customized logistics and delivery industry need to take notice of.
Burns: It boils down to this: We can no longer depend on passive selling. It’s a shot in the dark that you’ll cold call a customer at exactly the right time. You need to find and nurture prospects through the buying cycle with information and a demonstration of why you’re the professional they need. Meet them, nurture them, distinguish yourself from your competitors, and keep the marketing going until the time is right for them to use your services.