You can’t find the right talent. Can you create it?

Some important take aways from my recent meetings and calls with senior executives at some of the leading 3pls in the Middle East relating to commercial activity and talent.

1. Many of them are finding it challenging to identify and hire sales professionals with enough in-depth overall supply chain knowledge and experience who can create and sell end to end supply chain solutions to their clients.

2. A lot of 3pls are struggling to find suitable freight sales professionals with a good enough track record of being able to back themselves and consistently bring the revenues for freight sales in the region

<<< >>>

The first point about supply chain solutions is an ongoing challenge for everyone as many of the people with the level of operational supply chain experience that’s needed don’t have the sales experience or know how (a major skill in itself!) that’s needed to be able successfully sell SC solutions to end users (as they are coming from more operational backgrounds and simply haven’t been exposed to sales).

Those that have the sales ability and experience are commanding very high salaries as they have usually already reached to a senior management level leading the supply chain function for companies in their career to-date (those are the people you need if you could afford them!)

With regards to the second point about freight sales I asked some of the employers what’s more important, the ability to sell and having a proven track record of sales?

Or having the knowledge of freight forwarding?

Most answered that’s it’s easier to teach someone about freight forwarding, the hardest part is having the sales ability in the first place !

So what are the possible solutions?

To get suitable supply chain professionals onboard from client side to logistics service provider then in my view its either a case of upping the budgets for salaries to get the senior people (which is probably not an option in the current market for most 3pls) or alternatively start creating dedicated screening, on boarding and training programs that run on an ongoing basis to first identify potential sales ability amongst mid career supply chain professionals and then ensure they have the tools and ongoing support they need to be successful.

Their are many mid career SC professionals in the market currently who are looking for a move, I am sure a few of them would make excellent SC solutions sellers!

In other words start building talent pools / talent communities and taking a proactive approach to “develop” talent for these types of roles.

For the more transactional high volume / high activity driven sales functions perhaps it’s time to look for experienced sales professionals from other sectors and teach them about the Logistics industry?

Is anyone else experiencing similar challenges, do you agree or disagree?

For my contacts outside the Middle East is this a similar story in your regions?

Any other thoughts or ideas to share?

No in-country experience, no job.

Three points nearly all the 3pl  companies are totally rigid on when hiring SC solutions / Contract Logistics BD people.

  1. Solid track record of performance selling SC / CL solutions in a 3pl
  2. Deep knowledge of specific end user industry verticals
  3. Current or previous in-country / local market experience

Sales people.jpg

In my view the first two are a no brainer but after close to ten years in the Middle East supporting 3pls I struggle to understand why companies won’t give talented people with an excellent track record in other countries a chance in a new country or region, and especially in countries where there are many expats (as expats we all got a chance to start in a new country without previous market experience).

I will use the UAE as an example because I am based here. A young talented SC solutions / Contract Logistics BDM is looking to make a move to the UAE from (for example) Europe or South Africa. He’s/she’s prepared to take a hit on the salary for a chance to learn the market, he/she understands they must, and is also totally willing to literally hit the pavement and knock on doors to build contacts, client base, pipeline and market knowledge from day one. He/she has an excellent track record of past performance, knows their stuff when it comes to understanding firstly their own companies logistical capability then is able to  identify clients they could realistically support, can analyse a clients logistics set up, and design and implement solutions. Basically they can win new business, yet because he/she hasn’t worked in UAE before no one is even prepared to meet them.

What seems to happen here in UAE far too often is that many 3pl companies, who are pretty much all looking to hire good SC CL solutions sales people, just want to know which clients the person can bring in order to quickly fill the latest new build warehouse, and usually expect results in 3 months… if this was related to transactional freight sales I kind of understand the 3 month expectation, but what’s the relevance of this in contract logistics where the sales process could be anything from 2-3 years or more in order to win a major contract.

In the logistics sector in the Middle East we clearly have a major shortage of good SC CL solutions selling people in most countries especially within the 30-40’s age range which means an even bigger problem is looming. Is it time to take a risk by hiring someone who has the industry experience but without the market knowledge if its clear they adequately tick the other two boxes?

What do you think is more important? (Feel free to add others in the comments).

  1. Solid track record of performance selling SC / CL solutions
  2. Deep knowledge of specific end user industry verticals
  3. Current or previous in-country / local market experience

A good leader see’s things in people that others don’t, a good leader is prepared to take educated risks when making hiring decisions and is prepared to stand by those decisions.



I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please consider sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or any of your other social networks, and please CLICK HERE to follow me on Twitter.