“If you don’t have this constant motion of iterative change, then you are standing still in the marketplace,”said Andrew Smith, Head of Worldwide Sales for Uber Freight
Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Andrew to discuss sales disruption in market shifts where demand can outpace supply.
Andrew shares ways to:
- Be a sales disruptor even when supply outpaces demand
- Understand the role data plays in sales disruption
- Convince prospects and customers of your vision and change behavior
Quartz Network: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Uber Freight?
Andrew Smith: For those who don’t know about Uber Freight, our mission statement is pretty simple: we simplify the movement of goods to help communities thrive. That largely means that we create a marketplace to connect shippers to carriers and capacity to help move the goods that we all thrive on today in our daily lives.
The roles that I lead from a sales perspective and commercial perspective at Uber, include our sales team in terms of new client acquisition and working with customers on a day-to-day basis. We manage the marketplace in the resulting unit economics of how we actually balanced the supply and the demand.
Then, we have a full operational team that has the complexity of ensuring the success of our clients, when they actually do procure capacity through Uber Freight to make sure that the goods are delivered in a timely and safe fashion across the entire network.
Quartz Network: How do you sell disruption in an evolving sales environment where supply now outpaces demand? And what does this mean for Uber Freight?
Andrew Smith: Uber, obviously, is named as a disrupter for what we’ve done. I’ll touch on some thematic topics that we talk about internally.
One, we believe that there are two types of change. There’s a continuous sustaining change that we make evolutionary progress in small increments at a time. And then what are the disruptive kind of discontinuous changes of innovation that we look to actually change people’s and businesses operations and behavioral characteristics? And those are much steeper step function changes in the environment.
But how do you actually go and sell and bring people through that change in that disruption on their side on the people element? We believe that there are three different dimensions to disruption. There are technological innovations. So, something that is just breaking the bounds of what was possible before. Such as the most recent environments of technology like salesforce.com delivering actual application software through a hosted environment, not managed services. So, the birth of software as a service.
More recently, you can start to see data platforms. The invention of Apache and Hadoop and then now moving into the disruption of that into Spark. So not just looking at processing data in rows and tables, but actually looking at it real time. So, there’s technological advances that actually drive innovation.
The second is, what is the experiential component of that? What is the better, faster, cheaper, that simplification method of? Is it easier to do business? And there’s actually value creation, from giving time and productivity back to organizations by using different tools or actually services.
And the third is the marketplace aggregation. We live in an amazing world that the internet has exploded to drive that imbalance of supply and demand. And so, what is the aggregation across different marketplaces?
We see some examples, such as Amazon. While you originally got books from Amazon, and content from Amazon, you now have the plethora of third-party sellers that can make a viable business on their marketplace. Etsy is another example of that. Apple App Store, how you get connected to app developers that actually can drive engagement onto their applications through their marketplace.
So obviously, we at Uber freight strive to actually drive that innovation across all three different elements from what we do on the technology, innovation, and making sure we have a real time pricing engine that can give our customers access to algorithmic pricing and data. And then also the other elements of building the supply and demand metrics just for the overall success of our customers.
Quartz Network: What role does data play in selling disruption?
Andrew Smith: It’s an amazing opportunity for us to harvest data. One, we are at the ability to actually use the different set of systems. If I think back to the late 90s, early 2000s, we had these systems of record. So how do you actually think about ERP systems? How do you classify data? How do you actually run your business in a more manufactured or logical way?
When we started to get into the 2000s, we started to think about systems of engagement. Cloud mobile apps focused on the end user, that customer started to become this identity and was a key thing to actually be able to drive focal points in terms of who our customer was, and how do I learn more about those customers, because I understood their identity.
Now as we get into the late 2020s, we really started to shift into systems of intelligence. And this is where we think about intelligence is the algorithmic ability to pick up on signals. And not only is data and classification key, but it’s really the engagement that we can actually drive based on our customers to understand and predict their behavior. And the biggest change is how do you actually predict what the customer wants at the right point in time? And that’s very different than in the last 20, 30 years of just staying, looking at still data without the prediction element of who is this as a buyer? As a consumer? And how do I predict what they want coming next?
Quartz Network: How are you using data as a direct differentiator for customer validation?
Andrew Smith: When we think about that data, it’s largely trying to segment who our customer is. And if you think about data as one byproduct to understand your customer, ultimately, if you can actually do the next connection point to understand their business models and their KPIs and their inputs, it becomes a competitive advantage to actually sell value back into the organization and back into the consumer. And so that can be tastes and preferences.
If you start to think on the consumer end or in the hospitality element, how do you actually start to capture that data to better predict what your customer wants in terms of their case and preferences, their utility curves, their own elasticity?
And on the corporate side, making sure that you understand what they are trying to optimize for. Is it speed? Is it cost? Is it execution? Is it actual security risk? So you can start to think about what those parameters are on data, and the plethora of fields that you can start to think about in a data warehouse and start to monetize. The ability to capture that data has absolutely exploded, and we view data as a competitive advantage for us and it informs our decisions on a daily basis.
The other element of data is experimentation. You cannot continue to harness data in a point in time. You’ve got to think about an experimentation, always A/B testing things, always working with your customers to actually pressure test their assumptions on the data, and making sure it’s delivering the value back in terms of your own metrics. But then also the throughput and arming them with insights.
I’ll give you just one anecdotal example. At Uber Freight we’re obviously delivering to millions of different facilities across the United States and across North America and the world. And what we realized was there was a disconnect of how customers understood what their data was, coming from their different facilities.
So we built a very simple aggregation to allow our carriers and the drivers on the ecosystem to give rating scores. Much like you’d see on a Hotels.com or Travelocity or something of that nature to say, “How do I actually get in to understand the data of what is this hotel rank?”
There’s a star review, that’s actually put out as a curated list, but then there’s the actual real user reviews. So how do you actually cull like that? We can get more analytical because we start to use data in real time GPS and tracking data. And so we can start to run the efficiency metrics and we can go back to our customers and say, do you understand that the actual logistical throughput at this facility is a statistical anomaly compared to the normal facilities.
So you’re actually bringing insights to your customers that they may not have realized they were even relevantly operating with. And actually bringing those back out, to help them operate more effectively as a business really does earn that trust and scale in terms of a partnership as a as a service provider.
Quartz Network: As an industry disruptor, how do you convince prospects and customers to see the vision, so to speak, and ultimately change long term behavior for the benefit of the business?
Andrew Smith: One, you got to bring them in as part of the process. When we think about getting data from customers and actually having this ideation. In software there’s an ability to have an alpha group of testers and these beta group of testers in terms of product by ability.
If you don’t have this constant motion of iterative change, then you are standing still in the marketplace. You cannot continue to adapt, and your customers environments are changing. So can you continuously be learning? We talked about the systems of intelligence that allow us to predict those changes on our customers behalf, but make sure that you are bringing your customers in. One of our favorite tools is to do workshops with our customers.
So, it’s not only how do we better inform the delivery of our vision, but how do you actually craft the vision to actually understand the problem statements? When you think about our sales environment, and disrupting change, what is it that they’re trying to unpack?
Take a look at their holistic business and assume that you are an operator within their table to help them drive business impact on their side. If you then can uncover the challenges and the vision that their company is dealing with, you can get that ideation to say, “How can we solve that problem?”
Then it’s a job of a service provider to do pattern matching. So, how do I actually think about this customer in this industry that had a similar problem to another customer in another industry, but there’s a common denominator.
That’s the solution that we can go build for both different industries, so you don’t get bespoke solutions for one set of customers that don’t scale across the entire universe.
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