How to build a successful sales organization in a transportation company - Part 2

Justin Bailie, Co-founder of Rose Rocket is back with part 2 of how to build a successful sales organization in a transportation company. Haven’t watched part 1 yet? We recommend starting at the beginning to get the most value from each video — you can watch part 1 here. In part 1, you’ll learn about two key pillars that you need to have in place in your business before you should hire a salesperson. 

In the second part of this three part series, Justin shares tips and advice on: 

  • The qualities you should look for in a salesperson when you’re hiring
  • Whether or not you should hire someone from the transportation industry
  • Where you can find good salespeople
  • Closing a candidate
  • Potential compensation structures (full commission versus base salary + commission) 

This video is filled with honest insights from Justin about what has and hasn’t worked in the past for him when he’s been in the process of hiring a salesperson. We highly recommend that you watch the full video but we’ve also summarized what Justin talks about below. For easy access to all the information Justin shares, you can also download this printable one-pager here 📄

Grab a cup of coffee and maybe some popcorn (who doesn’t love a snack?) and let’s dive into part 2 of how to build a successful sales organization in a transportation company. 

Watch it:

Read it: 

You’ve squeezed the niche, figured out how you’re going to sell on value and have confirmed that now is the right time to hire a salesperson — what happens next? For the next bit, we’ll walk through various things you need to consider during the hiring process. To start, let's look at qualities a good salesperson possesses. 

Qualities to look for in a salesperson

While there are no hard and fast rules around all the qualities a salesperson should possess, there are few qualities that you can look for that can help you find a good candidate for your business. 

Since the pandemic, there has been a shift in how businesses conduct sales. Pre-pandemic, outside sales was a dominant function for most businesses. Getting in front of the customer was often a key sales tactic and many sales functions were done face-to-face. Since the pandemic, there’s been a shift to inside sales, especially in service businesses, as many companies had to adapt how they conducted business when the coronavirus spread across the world. 

When looking for a salesperson today, it’s beneficial to look for somebody who has done inside sales recently or has some inside sales experience. This will open up the candidate pool a lot. When interviewing people who maybe have an inside sales background, their personality and their strengths as a salesperson, might be a bit different from the type of salesperson you might have hired pre-pandemic — they might not seem like that “classic” salesperson that’s super outgoing and gregarious. 

This salesperson will be someone who is probably more process driven, than when you would think of a salesperson. Going back to video 1, when you take a more value based approach and understand your niche, then finding a salesperson that’s more tactile and process driven will be beneficial, as they’ll be able to communicate your value to customers. We’re not saying though that outgoing and gregarious people might not be process driven — you just might have candidates come across your hiring pipeline that might seem a bit more introverted if held up next to what a “classic” salesperson looks like. 

From a characteristics perspective, a good salesperson is often entrepreneurial and industrious — this person will most likely will have to generate their own leads, close without a defined process or all the questions answered. Having someone who can navigate their way through an opaque landscape in a business that’s just starting to grow a sales team and figure some things out, will help immensely. You want this person to have the durability to take on new challenges and see their way through any problems that might arise. 

Should you hire someone from the transportation industry? 

An age-old question — should you hire someone from the transportation industry? There’s no right answer here and hiring someone from the industry has many pros, while hiring someone from outside of the industry also has many pros. It really all depends on what you’re comfortable with and the kind of support you can provide your new salesperson. Here are a few things to consider. 

From industry

Hiring someone from within the industry can bring a lot of value to your business — they’re coming somewhat pre-packaged and ramped up and you won’t have to teach them as much about the industry, as you might someone who is coming from outside of transportation. 

However, there is one thing to be cautious about — don’t hire someone from industry just because of their book of business. Books of business are often an underperforming promise. 

If you have a tight niche and defined value prop (refer back to video 1 for a refresher if needed), and you’re considering a candidate from the industry, this person may be selling a completely different product at your business than the one they’re coming from. This means that their book of business might not be helpful if all their contacts are focused on a completely different niche. 

So, if you’re thinking about hiring someone that has a book of business, discount that book of business completely, and instead focus on whether or not the candidate in front of you matches the profile of the type of person you want to hire. 

Out of industry 

If you consider candidates outside of the transportation industry, your talent pool opens up really wide. When thinking about hiring a candidate from outside of industry though, be sure that you have the time to commit to teaching them about transportation. 

To help make the learning curve easier, it can be beneficial to consider candidates that are from an industry that is adjacent to transportation, like packaging. The packaging industry tends to have the same buyer persona, budgets, and sales motions as transportation, so you’ll mostly be teaching this person about the nuances of transportation and your specific business. 

There is a risk though to considering candidates who’s backgrounds are quite removed from transportation. For example, if you were to consider a candidate from a large retailer, you’d then have to teach them about B2B sales, the types of budgets in transportation, and more. They’ll also be at a disadvantage to people who have B2B sales experience because B2B experienced salespeople have learned the intricate nuances of B2B sales that only comes from within working in it. 

That’s not to say though that you should never hire someone from outside the industry to join your business. It might be better to hold those hires though for further down the road, when you have the processes and tools in place and your sales team is built out a bit. Off the bat though, you should find success hiring someone with some degree of experience, even if it’s not pure transportation experience. 

Where do you find good salespeople? 

Again, another question where there’s no right answer but it really comes down to budget and the time you’re willing to commit to finding someone.

One way to find good salespeople is by working with a recruiter. A recruiter is a professional who specializes in finding people that fit the needs of your business. When working with a recruiter, you want to be sure you articulate your niche and value prop to them, just like you would to a potential salesperson you might hire, so that they can find candidates that align with your business. 

Recruiters though are an investment. They can cost quite a bit of money, so there is some budget needed there to work with a recruiter. The benefit of the recruiter is that they will save you a lot of time and work that goes into sourcing good candidates. For interesting insights on working with a recruiter to hire salespeople, check out our Freight Famous episode featuring Mark Gooderham.

If a recruiter is a little out of your budget or you prefer to hire a salesperson on your own, there are tools that you can use to help. There are many job boards where you can post jobs, like LinkedIn. LinkedIn also provides you the opportunity to purchase a recruiter account, where you’ll be able to more easily find candidates on LinkedIn than if you were on a free personal account. Another great way to find good candidates is through referrals. 

When taking the do-it-yourself route, you have to be mindful of the time commitment that goes into sourcing candidates yourself. It’s basically a sales effort on your part to find good candidates for your business. 

Closing a candidate

We’re almost there! You’ve found a candidate that you really like and now you want to make sure that they say yes to working with you. When you’re going through the interview process with the candidate, this person is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them, so you want to be sure that throughout the interview process you’re making your business as attractive to the person as possible. 

How can you make your business attractive to a good salesperson? It’s being able to take your weaknesses and turning them into strengths. So say you’re a smaller business and you maybe don’t have all your processes nailed down – you can turn that and look at it as you’re a very entrepreneurial company. Ultimately, you want to take all the different parts of your business and make them selling points. 

Another thing you want to highlight, especially to a candidate who is maybe coming from outside transportation, is that in this industry, we have the unique position to potentially offer a lot of money to this candidate. A good salesperson tends to be driven by money and wanting that commission, and if the candidate in front of you is not motivated by money, they might not be the best salesperson. 

With this in mind, you want to ensure that you’re able to offer your candidate a compensation package that is competitive and hard to say no to, as well as being able to clearly describe any other perks they may get from working with you like work environment, whether they can work from home, vacation, etc. You want to pitch the quality of life they can have working with you against the backdrop of the money they’ll be able to make. 

Compensation structure

In the transportation industry we have two key compensation structures — full commission or a base salary + commission. 

If you chose the base salary + commission structure, you will see more cash outlay for your business in the beginning but as this person ramps up, this will become less than if you were to offer full commission. Choosing this option tends to attract candidates who want to work with you for the long run.

If you were to choose the full commission structure, in theory there would be less risk to you from a cash outlay standpoint but the risk of that salesperson leaving sooner and potentially not being fully engaged is higher. A full commission structure can also erode your margins in the long run. When a salesperson is working on a full commission structure, they’re more of a contractor to your business and you might find it harder to keep them aligned around the value and messaging of your business. 

There are risks and benefits to both compensation models but if you have the resources to pay your salesperson a base salary + commission, as this compensation structure tends to yield better long term results over the full commission structure. Full commission tends to be a bit more of a higher risk situation, while paying a base salary + commission is a medium risk, high reward situation. 

No need to take notes! Download our printable one-pager.

How to build a successful sales organization in a transportation company part 2

That’s a wrap

This concludes the second part of our three part series on How to build a successful sales organization in a transportation company. 

In part 3, Justin will go over training your salesperson, lead generation, and processes and tools. 

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