Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
New Jersey operator Jeff Shanker explains what business skills and qualities are needed to help grow business, expand operations for more farm-out work, and provide seamless one-call transportation service.
About the Presenter
Jeff Shanker is executive vice president of A-1 Limousine, Inc., a 220-vehicle fleet with multiple locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Shanker joined A-1 specifically to help grow its affiliate network. He previously owned a limousine service in the 1980s, and also serves as the current president of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey (LANJ).
As a general rule, Shanker advises against hiring an affiliate manager if your sales fall under $100,000 a month, since it is unlikely you could afford the type of manager needed. Also, a seasoned affiliate or sales manager has specialized training, knowledge and skill sets you may not understand or be able to manage, said Shanker, who led a session on the subject on Nov. 9 during LCT-NLA Show East. About 100 operators packed into the room hoping to expand their affiliate bases and hear what attributes make a great affiliate partnership.
Attributes Of Affiliate Managers
Affiliate managers must be very personable. By the nature of their job, they should have the gift of gab. “This means smiling on the phone when they speak,” Shanker said. “They must be outgoing and friendly with social skills that allow them to easily converse with clients, fellow employees, and other limousine operator in person, through emails, social media and of course trade shows, such as next month’s International LCT Show in Las Vegas.
In addition to being personable, affiliate managers must be good with numbers, geography, and of course, negotiating rates that benefit your company and meet the needs of incoming farm orders without giving the farm away. They also must be empowered to make quick decisions on behalf of the company.
What Affiliate Managers Do
“Affiliate managers are ambassadors of your company who take ownership in the company,” Shanker said. “It is their job to analyze where your clients are traveling to and develop affiliates in those cities to handle the continued transportation needs in their respective cities. They must be able to negotiate the price you will pay to an affiliate that allows you to make a small profit from each transaction. They must be able to quickly provide an all-inclusive price an affiliate will pay you for inbound orders. They must represent your company at trade shows.” Shanker admonishes, “You don’t want your affiliate manager to be dancing drunk on the table at a trade show, but they do need to know people in the industry.”
Hiring An Affiliate Manager
You can promote from within or hire from the outside. However, the person must thoroughly understand the business from the services offered, sales processes, the reservations process, and details of your company. Erich Reindl, president of Avanti Transportation in Houston, added, “You must be able to sell your limousine service to another limousine service.” Added Shanker, “Make sure your affiliate manager clearly understands geography.”
One of the reasons negotiating skills are essential is to successfully work out a written contract between two companies to avoid any misunderstandings and to enforce policy compliance between both companies. Affiliates should “apply” to serve as your affiliate and should be vetted instead of just accepted because they want to do work for you.
“They must be trustworthy and loyal to hold your sign,” Shanker said. Once the application process has been completed, a contract can be negotiated to include details such as payment terms, chauffeur attire, how to do meet and greets, and compensation amounts for various jobs and vehicles. Every affiliate should provide appropriate proof of insurance naming your company as additionally insured on their policy. Potential affiliates can be found in the NLA directory, social media groups dedicated to the limousine industry, and your existing global partners.
Being honest with each other was another point stressed. Lisa Ortega, affiliate manager for BostonCoach, joked that she has lost count of how many affiliates had a flat tire on the way to a pickup. “Be honest. If you’re late, you’re late. Don’t tell us you will be there in 10 minutes when you know it’s really going to be 30 minutes.” It is also important that you are truthful about what types of vehicles you are sending. Shanker added, “If an affiliate isn’t willing to give you a chauffeur’s phone number, he probably farmed the ride out to someone else.” All affiliate managers underscored that farming out a farm job is never acceptable.
Building The Network
You’ve heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” In this business, you will have to change your reservations intake process to begin asking where your client is traveling. Next, you need to ask if clients need transportation in their destination cities. You have to ask where they are going and ask for the second-leg of the trip if you want to build your network.
To build a solid network of 1,000 affiliates worldwide, Shanker estimated it would take about three years. However, by starting to ask your clients where they are going, you can immediately begin building your network to meet the needs of your client base.
Shanker wrapped up his presentation by reminding the standing room only crowd to always operate under the code of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Maintaining An Affiliate File
An affiliate manager should maintain a file for each affiliate that contains the following information:
• An application to serve as an affiliate
• A written contract with a rate addendum
• Emergency contact information
• Hours of office operations
• After-hours contact information
• W9 Tax ID information
• Fleet information
• Auto Liability Accord Certificate
• Worker’s Comp Accord Certificate
• Agreed cancellation policy
• Uniform policy
• Airport meet/greet policy
Cardinal Sins Of Affiliate Work
• Failure to send confirmations (farm-in or farm-out)
• Failure to provide or ask for the chauffeur’s cell phone number
• Farming out an inbound farm order (farm a farm)
• Hand a business card to your affiliate’s client
• Take a local order from your affiliate’s client
• Discuss rates with an affiliate’s passenger
Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
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