How I’d make goals for my logistics networking over the year
For anyone who has been reading my posts for long you will already know that it is a task of mine to make sure that international logistics professionals actually know how to network. I have complained about those who join networks and expect money to come in the window (free cash anyone?) without taking an active participation in the group. I have also been on a tear over how people actually go about their networking in ad hoc, willy nilly ways. This week I am going to give you a go with something that will help you greatly and will by and large sort your company out when it comes to not wasting time and money when networking. What’s that, you might be wondering?
Yes, if you want to be successful you need to set goals for your logistics networking. You need to set them on two levels: strategic and tactical. And here are some ideas of how I would go about it:
On the strategic level
If I had just joined a network I would set my goals for the next year based on my management, sales and operations teams’ answers to the following questions:
- What specific geographic areas are we overall weak in that could boost our service offerings in general? In other words, where is it that you don’t have the right agents, don’t have strong agents or don’t have agency coverage at all?
- What business areas could new partner agents help you to improve? Some examples of this are leveraging carrier contracts for space or rates, finding agents with access to good equipment (or even own it) or agents with current accounts and clients who you might have targeted in your own local market.
- What areas will help you to grow your customers’ own business? For instance, let’s say your customer is currently importing from China but due to capacity problems they now need to source from other countries such as Vietnam or Mexico. Which new agencies will help you to win that new business from your existing clients?
These questions need to be looked at periodically. Annually at the very least. Once you can answer these questions it then becomes very clear to you which agents in the group you need to approach and which you need need to pass on or pass over.
On the tactical level
The tactical level is for the meetings. I would make about half of my appointments specifically targeting those companies who match your answers from the strategic exercise. Then I would flip the questions around:
- What network members appear to be weak in your own specific geographic area and should be willing to partner with you to boost it up? For sure you will know in the market which of your competitors are strong and in what specialties. In my years of forwarding I also heard the same about agents as well. Sometimes this comes from reliable sources but other times it is scuttlebutt. However, this is one place where the ball is in our court. Have a look at which members are in the group and call them, Skype them or e-mail them prior to the meeting and gauge this yourself. See if it is worthwhile to connect with them for a one-on-one. This bit of preplanning will have an enormously positive outcome for you.
- Which special services, contracts and skill sets do we have that could be of great services and which are the network members who could best use those services? Remember this is where you become not just a sales person but a PR person as well. Have you developed a new business line? Do you have a new warehouse? Have you taken on a specialized sales or operations staff? Find the agents you think could use all of this and proactively let them know.
- On some of the accounts we are already working with agents on what are some ideas that we have for them that we could help them to boost the business? Yes, this is for agents you are already working with. Most salesmen have the hardest time to realize that new business often takes a long time to be as good as old business. It is much easier to go to existing clients to grow the business you have with them than it is to win new business with a new company. For heaven’s sake do not forget this when you go to networking events! When people think ‘sales’ they tend to think of the new but the new costs more and takes longer in many cases. Be prepared to explore new opportunities with customers and agents who are familiar with you and with whom you are also familiar.
Remember, when all is said and done you also want to leave some blank spots so that other companies who want to see you can also book you. This one I tell everyone prior to every meeting. If you have a change to have twenty-four meetings at an event I would aim to choose twelve slots but no more than sixteen. There are always people who want to meet you and you need to keep that in mind.
And here’s a bonus tip for how to achieve these strategic and tactical goals.
Tell us your goals!
We who work in the network quite often have inside information on many of the companies working within our groups. If you let us know what you are looking for we can generally either help you find the right company or we can keep our eyes and ears open for the right prospects or members. We are more than happy to help you with implementing your networking goals. Let us know what you want from the group and we will do our very best to make this happen for you. We will all share in the benefits when your goals are fulfilled.
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), and AiO Logistics Netowork (AiO). 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.