How to actually get that important first sales meeting with a logistics customer via email

I’m writing this post because in the past 5–8 months that I have just started from the customer side of the business, I have seen an abhorrent amount of email from sales “professionals” that look as though they were not using common sense. If this is not you, then I apologize for telling others how to compete against you better :) Note, this post is only talking about the email first contact; phone first contact and other notes about what to do in the first meeting will be posted at a later time.

Welcome to logistics — I’m actually glad you’re here. I’m a potential customer, I may or may not have experience in the field; I may or may not have need of your services at this time, but one thing is for sure I will remember you.

So how do you score that first meeting? What’s some of the best things you can do to actually check that box off on the all important Sales Appointments per Month list?

First, do 2 minutes of research on a company that you’re going to solicit. You do not need to know all the inner workings or the specific problems that are going on — but do more than just look at a call list or a PIERS/Zepol/Import Genius report. Go onto the internet and look at news or a website (like hoovers) that tells you at least what industry I’m in. Am I a private or public company, what challenges do you think a company like that may have. This isn’t a deep dive — just stop and think for 30 seconds.

Second, find the person you’re going to email. Now do 1 minute worth of research on that person. A simple internet search is fine, it will tell you if that person has been in the industry for a long time; you might find their LinkedIn page (don’t ask to link up, you don’t know me yet!) which can give you after a quick 30 second skim quite a bit of information to know how to write your email (am I educated? am I a licensed broker? have I worked in the industry before? would I know what PSS, GRI, and FSC mean?).

Third, when you start to write your email — remember I don’t know you or your company (well, maybe I know your company — but you have to assume that I do not). So start off by saying something like: “Hello XXXX, I’d like to introduce myself, my name is ABC and I’m the <insert your title here> with XYZ company (a local, national, global — logistics firm)” -> you may even want to say a “publicly held logistics firm” or “a subsidiary of DEF corporation” or something like that which shows me you are not a “fly by night” operation and gives you and your company credibility in my eyes.

Fourth, next tell me how you found me (because I’m going to want to know). “We found your information online, and believe we might be a good match to your business needs;” “We recently were recommended to talk with you from Bob <insert actual person name> at ZYX <insert actual customer>;” “I was speaking with you’re predecessor Bob <insert actual person name> before, and thought that perhaps you and I could continue the conversation.” All of these things qualify you and tell me why are you even emailing me.

Fifth, give me a little sizzle for your steak. Give me something to bring me to the table: “We have a robust logistics network that can right size for you;” “We are a global company with local ties;” “We are the largest privately held company that focuses on information technology in the supply chain.” Give me some reason to think you might be more than just any thing else. Make yourself not a commodity in my eyes.

Sixth, invite me to a conversation. The one thing that as a customer I have little of is time. So never, ever, ever try to dictate to me a time (especially if it’s our first appointment). Invite me to a conversation so you can learn more about my company and our needs; and I can learn more about your company and your solutions. “ I was curious if you might have some time available to discuss this further? If you would, I’d love to schedule an appointment with you, just advise a good time and so we can schedule on both our calendars.” This sentence does several things at once. First your putting the ball in my court, asking me if I would have time empowers me (but most likely will net you) the chance of finding a good time to meet. Second, your asking me to declare the date and time — that allows several things to happen: your showing me that you care enough about my business that you will work to find a good meeting time; you are asking to put it on “our” calendar — that means your and my calendar — and if it’s on my calendar I have to do it; finally, it’s really nice that give me the option to say “no, not right now — but maybe in a week or two;” while this will not help you today — it will help you later on when you want to come back to me.

Seventh, thank me for taking the 20–30 seconds to read your email and make a decision. “Thank you for the opportunity to present our company to you, I look forward to the possibility of discussing this further;” “I really appreciate the opportunities that XYZ company may be able to offer ABC company and look forward to meeting with you;” “I look forward to us discussing this in the future, and would like to thank you for your time.” All of these things are important! Remember, my time is limited and you just burned 1/2 a minute that I could have been working on something else. While that may not sound like a lot to you, it’s not your time to waste :)

Finally, followup. How long am I suppose to wait after I send an email to do a followup looking for a response? Assuming you do not get an out of office message, I would wait about 2–3 days then send a followup email. Remember to include things such as “I know you are very busy, but wanted to just confirm that you received this?” Remember, emails get lost or miss filed all the time. The trick is to be smooth about your follow up.

In fact, this whole post is about being smooth. You do not need to write a 3–4 paragraph email (in fact don’t, I will not read it!), but you need to convey the above points to get me to be interested. Remember, you are a sales person; you are representing your company, but also yourself to me. Show me that you can roll with the punches, show me you can be presentable to my boss, or my boss’s boss.

Of course during that all important meeting, I’m going to find out if you’re just selling snake oil or you actually know what you’re talking about — but that is for a later post.

Good Luck — and happy hunting.

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