I used to have a coach that would tell us “early is on time, and on time is late” when we came in for practice. If you were only ‘on time’, you ran laps, and I spent a lot of time running laps.
It wasn’t until after a few years of customer-facing professional roles that the lesson really connected: in business, meeting the requirements is not the same as being competitive (there’s a life lesson too, but that’s for another blog). Truly serving your customers isn’t about offering a good product or experience, it’s about a better product or experience. Good is baseline, but better is competitive.
Better can mean more innovative, more customized, cheaper, or faster. Whatever it means in the metrics of an individual market is where organizations need to be looking for opportunities to improve. History tells us that no matter how special our sauce is or how rarefied our position, there’s no safety from better.
Finding those opportunities is a main objective of a motivated sales team, so when one lands in their lap, it’s incumbent upon them to recognize it and act. For example, in 2019, a major JetCo client began handling hazardous materials, but without Department of Transportation (DOT) certification, we were unable to help them move it. We evaluated the opportunity, built a training plan, and brought in a partner to help get the certification for our operations staff. Our sales team also demanded certification in the spirit of better understanding the business.
Did we expect to ever rate a shipment? Would we ever need to know how to read a code on a bill of lading? Not likely, but knowing how the sausage is made was intended to help us go beyond the “yes” for our clients, and help get into that consultative, problem-solving mode that we love so much.
Fast forward to 2020, and we’re seeing the unintended effects of that decision. The same clients that asked us about HAZMAT last year are now reaching out with a new project: COVID vaccine storage and transport. As that supply chain develops, partners who can handle dry ice (it’s hazardous!), pressurized gasses, and related materials are finding themselves fielding capability requests, JetCo Federal included. Without responding to the original request with the intent of becoming better for our clients, we would have never put ourselves in the right position for these opportunities.
The lesson in this isn’t TED-talk profound, being better at something isn’t a new way to competition. The secret is building the culture of being able to identify those opportunities when they appear and harness them effectively.