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Article: Can ethics exist within the Telematics sales environment?

Author: Brian Martin, Director, VT solutions

Question: Can ethics exist within the Telematics sales environment?

The short answer is YES, but history has sadly shown us that it is more often the exception rather than the rule.

The true Sales Professional does deserve and should receive a high level of praise and respect for the job they do. However the people that do not interact with professional salespeople on regular basis, may believe in the negative stereotypes of the salesperson as a pushy, shifty, not-to-be-trusted sort. So where does this stereotype come from?

Television programs, movies, even West End or Broadway productions have promoted this negative image of salespeople, as has the tabloid press. A study of how salespeople are portrayed in the popular press found that salespeople are often associated with deceptive, illegal, and non-customer oriented behaviour.

In this study which included newspapers and general interest magazines, these words were often associated with salespeople.

  • Deceptive Practices: (Deceptive; Deceive/Deceit; Hustle/Hustler; Scam; Unscrupulous)
  • Illegal Activities:    (Fraud; Defraud; Con Artist; Con Man)
  • Non-Customer-Oriented Behaviour:  (Pushy; Hard Sell; Fast Talking; High Pressure)

You may be wondering what this has to do with Telematics, because it is easy to think of this negative association as a thing of the past.  I’m sure everyone has a horror story of their own, associated with the sales industry.  These stories are never one offs, and sadly have tarnished the market verticals from whence they came. Double Glazing in the 1970’s; Photocopiers from the 1980’s and the Car Salesperson of the 1990’s. And in this new millennium decade, it now appears to be the Track and Trace Industry, that has adopted some of the bad practices of yesteryear, and whose reputation is currently being tarnished.

Business people have devalued selling for far too long, is it any wonder that many companies have tried to distance themselves from the profession of Sales, calling them selves ‘executives’, ‘consultants’ or even ‘managers’.   We in the Telematics Industry must stop the rot, and keep the Sales industry of Telematics a profession to be proud of.

I am saddened when I hear a story of a Telematics company who wins a court case to receive money from a customer, who refused to pay for a solution that did not work.  Likewise seeing Strategic Alliances posted on a web site, or sales literature knowing personally that such an Alliance has come to an end.  We in the industry are not stupid and we do talk to each other, and bad press travels a lot faster than good press.

Below are few quotes from potential customers of Telematics, who regrettably have experienced the negative side of Telematics Sales, which have all contributed to this damaging image:

 “I am responsible for a large fleet of vehicles, and in all honesty I am lucky if a day passes, without someone trying to sell me a tracking solution” (Anonymous from a large Water utility company).

 “We went to one of the biggest players in the industry, and agreed to trial their system.  However the support was non existent and the trial failed to live up to the sold expectation …… it’s now been 7 months since we last spoke to the

 

company, and the unit is still in our vehicle” (Anonymous from a laundry service company).

“I invited a, so-called, fleet management company in to sell the benefits to one of my clients. He was briefed about my clients’ needs, which were to monitor the chilled temperatures of the transportation, and he agreed that this was a standard feature. However, the feed back I received from my client was the salesperson failed to talk about the temperature monitoring and only spoke of vehicle tracking.  This was embarrassing, having been told what the need was, and then not have it discussed. This has now tarnished my relationship with my client” (Anonymous from an insurance company).

Being burnt through bad Sales practices has not been restricted to just end users. There have been several companies who have entered this industry to ride the wave of expectation, and sell the dream of a great product to both Investors and employees alike.  To then be struck by reality and fail to deliver. This has resulted in Millions of pounds wasted, and livelihoods taken away. There is nothing wrong with selling a dream, but the dream does have to be based on market knowledge, something tangible – a product that works, which is right for the proposed target market (vertical and country). If these don’t exist, then realistic time scales and openness must prevail.  Below is a quote from a Sales Manager who worked for such a company:

“I was recruited to drive sales for a Track & Trace product, new to the UK … However the product was not right, it was full of bugs, unstable, and the mapping took forever to refresh It was developed for a country new to Fleet Management, and not suitable for the mature UK market place  I gave my Directors the feedback needed to adapt the product to the UK; unfortunately the Directors never took my advice and told their investors how wonderful the product was; Naturally when 6 months passed with no product development, no sales and no money, the Directors could not go back to the investors and blame the product, hence the whole sales teams was dismissed.” (Anonymous from a Telematics company).

I am not professing to have the answers, but it’s obvious that some salespeople in this industry have not been professional in their approach, and this has contributed to the negative stereotype.  Thus sales professionals should work to improve their image, through their own behaviour.  Perhaps the industry should take the initiative and form it’s own association, laying down ethical and professional guidelines for all to adhere to?

The buying public, fleet managers etc. have survived the initial growth, and thus have become more sophisticated than they used to be.  There are more companies, more Telematics events, and more information out there, which has resulted in better educated buyers.   Sales professionals must realise that the buyers now have more choice and the competition is more intense and proficient. It is therefore absolutely essential that any salesperson attempting to perform and achieve in the current climate of this vibrant market place, must be equipped and knowledgeable of the accepted practices of modern selling.

If you decided to take up a sport, be it rugby, football or dressage, the first stage would be to start training (mentally and physically) and get to grips with the rules.  And in learning those rules, you would obviously want to know the most recent rules of the day, not the rule book of past generations from the 1970’s, 1980’s or 1990’s. Regrettably however, too many salespeople are being taught out of date practices.

Do you really want the sale at any cost? At the cost of your company’s integrity?  your own integrity? Your company’s reputation? Your reputation? For what goes around always comes around!

People like to do business with people that can be trusted, make them feel good, and will give them the very best advice, service and fit for purpose product! Companies and individuals must come round to the thinking that Vehicle Telematics Solutions are just that, “Solutions”, it is not a one dimensional product sell, there a lot of Business benefits to be had from Telematics, and it’s these that must be sold.  Gaining knowledge about your prospect, and market place has to become part of the standard sales practice.  Only then will you be able to translate that knowledge to specific benefits to them.  Fleet Management & Telematics are not Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), thus this different sales approach must be taken.

If the industry wished to shake off this image, these changes need to be made. Remember regardless of which company you work for, never forget the most important product you're selling is yourself.

Sales is a profession and it up to the Salesperson to be Professional


 

Article: Duty of Care?

Author: Ian Walmsley, Head of Partnerships - Cybit www.cybit.co.uk

New legislation has been introduced as part of a determined effort by the authorities to reduce road deaths. A general trend for individuals and organisations to resort to litigation has resulted in the issue of ‘Duty of Care’ being recognised as the area of greatest current concern to companies running vehicle fleets.

September’s (2003) launch of the Health and Safety Executive’s new guidance on at-work road safety and the proposed Corporate Manslaughter Bill which sought to introduce the new offence of Corporate Killing clearly charges company directors and fleet management professionals with Duty of Care compliance; management failure in this respect which “falls far below what can reasonably be expected” and leads to a death or serious injury can result in the prosecution of individual directors and the freezing of company assets.

According to Juliette Bell from the Fleet Safety Forum, the new HSE guidelines set out what’s already best practice in the fleet sector; “there are four key areas you need to look at;

The first is setting up your road safety policy.  Next you need to carry out a risk assessment. Then you need to deal with driver issues such as tiredness and speeding.  Finally, make sure all journeys are necessary and carried out by the most effective route”.

Many fleet operators risk falling foul of the new HSE guidelines if they are unable to monitor and manage the performance of their drivers once an initial risk assessment and fleet safety policy has been introduced.

“Introducing a fleet safety policy without the means to measure and manage forecast against actual performance once the fleet leaves base is like producing a sales and marketing plan for the year, issuing sales targets and individual KPI’s but failing to put in place any management system for the sales force to report sales on a regular basis “In reality every company measures and manages sales performance on an ongoing basis with changes being introduced as necessary to ensure targets are achieved. This is the same for any business critical issue such as cost control and cash flow”.

Without being able to measure such factors as driver speeding, time behind the wheel, rest breaks and realistic journey plans it is extremely difficult if not impossible for any organisation to effectively manage their duty of care obligations under the new HSE guidelines.


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