How to win business from shippers

Bjorn Vang Jensen, formerly with Maersk, now heading up logistics for Electrolux on what transport firms need to know when pitching this key shipper for business.

I recently read an article on “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen“.

I like this. I like it a lot!

If you’re invited to try to sell me something, you can safely assume that I’ve done my homework on who you are, as a person and as a company, and that what I’ve discovered is sufficiently compelling that we are now meeting. Feel good about that, and drop the crutches!

I don’t need you to present your revenue, your network, your org chart, and your vision statement. I already know. I don’t need pictures of your facilities either.

Nor do I need two slides of client logos you’ve copied from the web. I already know – and besides, there are two handfuls of companies that everyone seems to be doing business with, so it’s meaningless. Also dangerous: I might ask you what you actually do for a given company on the slide, and if you don’t know the answer, you look silly.

So now that we’ve eliminated 99% of the standard PowerPoint sales deck, here’s what I really respond to: I want you to look me in the eye and tell me about your company. For five to 10 minutes. Without a slide in sight. If you can’t do that, then you don’t know your own company well enough, or care enough about it, and that immediately tells me that maybe I don’t want to get to know your company either.

First, because they apparently hire employees who don’t care, or they are unable to motivate them to care. Secondly, because it irritates me immensely that they sent someone who apparently doesn’t care, nor knows what he or she is talking about.

I can easily go for 45 minutes on my own company, division by division, with numbers, stats, dates and strategy. I don’t need PowerPoint for that, because I care enough to have made it my business to learn.

I can describe the What, The Who, the How and the Why of what we do, in great detail, so I’m letting you off easy by only requiring five to 10 minutes from you.

If you clear that hurdle, then next, I want you to tell me what you’ve done for one or two clients that is amazing, and relevant to me and my company. With details and references. One or two slides per case.

That tells me that you’ve done your homework as well as I’ve done mine. That you’re not just on a fishing expedition, or merely trying to add my business card to your trophy wall, and my name to your expense account.

The deck described in the article is great. The problem is that it takes a certain kind of person to be able to deliver it effectively. You need to be eloquent, preferably funny, deeply knowledgeable, quick thinking, confident, and able to roll with the punches. I don’t meet many salespeople like that. But they exist, and I do meet them, and when I do, I’m infinitely more likely to give them business, now or later.

The greatest sales calls – by definition the ones that result in business being awarded – are those that quickly turn into mutually rewarding and – preferably – fascinating conversations, rather than rote presentations. Conversations don’t happen when all eyes are glued to a screen. They happen because you have something in common; a relevant product, a good business fit, a compelling business proposition – and respect.

Respect is earned. It is neither embedded in a title, nor inferred from the size of the entourage you bring along. If you can meet me on the terms described above, you will have earned it.

Every single day, my LinkedIn feed and inbox are bombarded with speculative emails, seeking appointments and business. I, and many, many others in my situation, consider these mails very irritating.

First, they rarely, if ever, offer anything compelling, and are often virtually indistinguishable from spam.

Secondly, they are nearly always irrelevant to me. Why, for instance, would I want to discuss marketing campaigns or advertising, or how to generate sales leads? I’m in logistics!

Yes, I absolutely know the people in my company that I could redirect your mail to, but I won’t do it. I don’t want to annoy them, and I’m not doing your homework for you!

Now you know what is expected. If you’re up to the challenge, I’d love to meet you. Also, I’m a lot nicer in person than this piece would suggest 🙂


  1. Thanks Bjorn. You describe a formula ‘the what, the who, the how and the why of what we do’ have you read Simon Sinek who starts with the WHY as a differentiator, welcome your thoughts? Greg

  2. Good article on the curse of Power Point.

    Dunno about the seven pointed star tatoo but I can speak to the Taikoo flag.

    I am no salesperson, but when I was working for the Swire Group I found it extremely easy to sell our services. I was simply completely confident that if I said we would do something on x date at y cost, regardless of the technical difficulties, the political considerations of operating in difficult places, and the logistical nightmares, the thing would be done on that date and at that cost and it would be done properly. Because it always was.

  3. I liked that! An approach adequately realistic that sticks to the essence. I also am growing tired of consultancy talk, high level of context, generic cliches and ppt handouts that miss the point completely.

  4. An arrogant and condescending sales approach and glad to say that none of our prospect or clients have this same attitude. Bjorn needs to learn a bit of humility and understand he is not a gift to the shipping industry.

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