We are being inundated with news about the state of the trucking industry and driver shortage. News media outside the trucking industry have now started to report on driver shortage and what it could mean to consumers in the coming years. There is a lot of news with not a whole lot of good solutions or answers to the problem. While you can’t solve the problem for the industry you can develop strategies that will strengthen your position in the market.
Doing the same old same old is not going to work. In order to get an edge, you have to think outside of the box. I am going to say something that may cause your eyes to cross a little. Start thinking about your drivers like you do customers. Sounds crazy, right? Well, think about it for a moment. Customers are now screaming for capacity, while drivers are becoming a scarce resource. Who does it sound like you should be spending your time selling? Drivers! Most carriers understand this during the recruiting process, but many do not have a plan or training in place for front line people who engage with drivers. The age-old saying “ABC…Always Be Closing” can certainly apply to your drivers. Think about selling to a customer and then never following up to sell them again or to get feedback. The sales manager would be out faster than they started.
In the sales world, customer retention is almost always at the forefront of every interaction. Which begs the question, “how do you consistently sell to your drivers”? Here are some things to consider adopting for your driver retention efforts that make sales organizations successful:
Sales Training for Ops – yes, you read that correctly. Train your operations people how to sell. Dispatch, payroll, or anyone else that interacts with drivers should have some basic idea understanding of sales. Knowing how to ask the right questions and communicate value to drivers is a way to consistently “re-close the sale” during driver interactions. This is not a one-time event. Developing a training culture for your staff is key to making this stick.
- Get your sales leader involved for help
- Hire a sales trainer/consultant to help layout a training plan specifically for your business
Account Planning – In sales management, account planning is developing the strategic blueprint for growing an account. It consists of sitting down with your customers on a quarterly or annual basis to understand what their needs and goals are going forward. Then you create more value and stickiness by meeting those needs and reaching those goals. Each meeting becomes a review of how it is going, discussing the metrics, and what should change. In return, you can charge a higher price and experience a better ROI. This is a great exercise to do with drivers. Here are few things to explore with your drivers:
- How much money do they want to make? How many miles/loads to get there?
- What are their pain points?
- What does the work/life balance look like for them?
- What kinds of routes do they prefer? Geotarget, length of haul?
- What kind of benefits do they want? Health, dental, vision, 401k, legal, etc.?
- What are they seeing/hearing from other carriers? You are competing with other carriers, understand what your up against.
- What else is important to them?
Ongoing Sales Engagement – Finding ways to stay in front of your drivers and engage with them on an ongoing basis is extremely important to keep connected. Here are some ideas:
- Put on driver appreciation events more than once a year
- Be VERY active on social media. Facebook and Instagram are big with drivers. Come up with a creative contest just for these channels. Outsource or hire a social media guru to help. Get your internal staff involved as well.
- Staying in front of your drivers with positive information. Tell them about the new exciting stuff.
- Survey your drivers about their experience. Let them know the results and what you learned. Make reasonable adjustments to your hearing. This is also a great talking point when doing account planning.