We have lost our Hunters
The Moving industry like all service industries needs talent. We hear a lot about drivers, labor, and administrative staff, but we don’t talk much about sales talent. We seem to think of sales as a transactional process, something technology can take care of, without an expensive glad hander in a shiny suit. What we fail to see are the many layers of sales and how important the position is to the industry. The more we distance ourselves from the customer the more our service seems to slide. Yes, we blame it on the lack of drivers the capacity issues etc. but I would also like to add the lack of great salespeople bringing in good business.
We are losing the COD market and have all but lost the corporate market. COD salespeople or “order takers” as we are lovingly referred to in the world of operations, are being minimalized in the new technology driven world. We can download an app, have the customer walk around the home and then book it in a call center, why bother sending out a rep? Indeed, during the pandemic this technology was a God-sent, but it also made the industry take one more step away from the traditional in-home Moving consultant. With that, the ability to customize a service for the client has gone, resulting in cookie cutter service that seems to be on very crumbly ground.
On the corporate side we allowed the real-estate industry to basically take the moving business from us. RMCs developed an entire ecosystem around getting a real estate listing. Bundled a host of services into a one-stop- shop and basically outsold the Mover. Initially we were portrayed as a bunch of crooks that needed to be controlled and audited. A fate we brought on ourselves with our gordian knots we called tariffs. Pricing so complicated it was like trying to explain a derivative in the financial market. Even though most RMCs did not even understand the pricing, they understood sales and quickly positioned themselves as white knights, managers, and auditors of the crooked Mover. They also caught the outsourcing wave and basically took our market.
Within a very short time 5 years to a decade the RMC had basically taken the corporate relocation market and with that came the reduction of the professional corporate Moving salesperson. Movers that had a good sales team held on for as long as they could. With many kneeling to the fact that they could not beat them, so they joined them. Many Movers turned into relocation management companies; many gave in to the fact that the RMC controlled the industry. Resulting in only a few old outliers (like me) continuing to ride for the brand and tilt at windmills.
Salespeople are referred to in some circles as either hunters or farmers. A hunter is someone that is constantly looking for business and farmers are those that have a few good accounts and nurture the bejesus out of them. I am a hunter period. Hunter is not a great visual, but it explains the process of always looking for opportunity. (For the record, I do not consider an account pray or a trophy and I don’t know any taxidermists). My organization however is designed around me looking for business and if we find it, having an amazing team to nurture and care for the customer, allowing me to go back out and look for more opportunities. Any business organization looking to grow, would much rather have a hunter than a farmer, by the way.
Hunting is a lonely job so most all old hunters are gone, replaced by mainly farmers who nurture the RMCs market. The RMCs had an army of hunters that attacked the market in the early days, today most are waiters rather than hunters. They have done such a great job in convincing corporations that they are the only option, that they basically wait for an RFP. RMCs have a set number of suppliers (farmers) and as a hunter, I can testify that no matter how good your service, most all RMCs are very cooled to adding anyone to their stable. Better to keep a small number in your control than add to the mix. This realization came from decades of calling on every Canadian RMC, offering a best-in-class service, while kissing every ass I could find. (Something I stopped doing about 15 years ago)
The Hunters dilemma: To be a hunter, you have to track your service delivery, you need statistics on your quality to back up your offering, you have to constantly provide a hunter with something interesting, you must innovate, and distinguish yourself from the pack. In addition, and more importantly you must be constantly out looking for opportunities. As a hunter I am always looking for opportunity and for whatever reason some RMCs think the corporate market is theirs and theirs alone. There in lies the problem, the hunter’s dilemma.
Sales, marketing and looking for business is the essence of free enterprise. If you stand back and look objectively at the market, the Movers for the first time in a long time could take back some control in the corporate arena. With the massive supply and demand swings, we own the trucks and consequently control the supply in the supply chain. The corporate market is losing its appeal for some Movers, with high expectations and relatively low rates. Many RMCs are taking the “lets all get along”, approach rather than the traditional “its our way or your gone” approach, evidence of a subtle power shift (through the eyes of a hunter). What some of us fail to see is that the Movers have control of the market if we want it. Unfortunately, a lot of the old hunters are gone or have turned into farmers. The truth is that a direct to Mover or flow through program, as offered by Customised Moving is far and above the best relocation model. I have an entire list of reasons why, if interested. In short when you lose your will to hunt, you stop trying to be interesting, different, and competitive. Taking yet another step away from the customer and customized service and into a commodity mindset.
(Contact me direct if interested in hearing from someone who left the farm a long time ago)