How to meet the right forwarder at your AGM? Come to the meeting with objectives in mind!
Our network members are not in the business of networking. Networking is something people who are interesting in sales, marketing and public relations for their businesses have to do but it is not their main business. Transportation of goods from point A to point B is where they make their bread and butter. We at the networks however are into networking as a business. Because of this I am not generally surprised when companies come to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) the first time and treat it like pot luck. What I mean by that is they don’t pay much attention to who makes appointments with them. They meet whoever they meet and make the most of it. Or not. They use the ‘come as you are’ approach. And some attendees try to meet with people simply because they have never met with these new companies before. I would think by handling a meeting this way once the member companies would see that there must be a better approach. But if they do even recognize that this approach isn’t working so well they don’t seem to know how to fix it. That’s where I can help.
In all my years experience of going to AGM’s as both an attendee and as an organizer I have found that the one single best way to make sure that you meet the right people there is to align all of your meetings with your company’s objectives. And you do that by clarifying a few things first. Before booking any meetings ask yourself these questions:
- What overall goals are my company focused on for next year and the year after and what will be our important markets at these times?
- Where do we lack good agents who will help us to achieve these goals of our business?
- Where have we had problems with agents on the sales side of our business?
- Where have we had problems with agents on the operations side of our business?
- Where have we had problems with agents on the financial side of our business?
Answering these questions will give you a dashboard overview of where you stand with your current agency relations and expose weaknesses in it. It will also show you opportunities for improvement. So always before an AGM ask yourself these questions in detail. Or better yet, sit down with people in your company who could give insight and ask these questions together. Some real answers will come of this. The questions will:
Will help you to find the right companies to meet
A result of assessing your company and honestly answering these questions, you will know exactly where you need to find new agents in new markets and exactly what kinds of agents these will need to be. And you will see where you will need to change from old agents to new agents. You will be able to draw up an agent wish list geographically and add the qualities and aspects of the business that you will need to be able to find the right company with the right services.
Will help you to know what to ask about their business
By asking yourself the above list of questions you will have come up with a raw list of what you need to be able to help your company attain its goals. But you need to remember, even though a company is a network member, and even though a company looks good on paper and in front of you, you will still need to vet them to make sure they are the ones you exactly need. However, because you have gone through the process to clarify your objectives with the aforementioned questions you will have a head’s up on what information you will need to know from the person sitting across from you at the meeting table. Knowing what you need to know is the first step to actually knowing it.
Will help you to know what to say about your company
I have seen when people go to AGM’s they quite often have the same brochure, presentation, etc., for everyone. It is a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Don’t get me wrong, I encourage everyone to have an elevator speech. It is a necessity. But elevator speeches are meant for meeting random people for the first time, whether that be on your own or at a networking function. When you are at an AGM at your one-on-one sessions ought not be considered ‘random”. You should have prepared for each meeting by doing a basic, cursory background check of these companies – even if this only means looking at their member profiles or glancing their websites. And as such you should be able to clearly articulate how the potential partners’ companies can help you specifically and in a simple way. You need to tell them what business you have and what kind of business you think you might be able to develop. This is the right information for them to be able to go back home and do something with.
If you come to an AGM without having done the preparation above you will still meet good agents. This is because there will be good agents there who might be looking for someone like you. But if you really want to get the best return for your company’s financial investment in going to the meetings I highly recommend aligning your meetings with your company’s overall objectives. It costs nothing but a little bit of time and brain power but the payoff will be handsome.
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.