When Mairead Hayes accepted a position in Viva Energy’s Sales team, supporting its Commercial Road Transport customers, she had to learn a whole new set of skills. It was a challenge that she met head-on to provide the best possible service for her customers.
Mairead Hayes joined Viva Energy in 2016 as part of its Shell Card marketing team. At the time, she didn’t foresee that she would be the company’s Strategy Manager for Commercial Road Transport just four years later.
After a year in marketing, Mairead moved into the Sales team to support some of Australia’s largest transport operators. “I was presented with an opportunity within the sales team that was outside my comfort zone,” she says. “But I wanted to stretch myself and try and keep learning, so I took the leap and haven't looked back since.”
While in this role she has gained valuable experience in business strategy, enterprise account management and business development. Today she is involved with the top tier of Viva Energy’s trucking and transport customers, developing strategies to help them succeed in the Commercial Road Transport industry. This is being driven by a strong desire to develop relationships built on mutual trust and value.
The deep end
With any major change there will inevitably be challenges. For Mairead, the deep level of industry and technical knowledge required for her new role in Sales was very different to the skill sets she had developed in marketing.
“It can be intimidating, moving from a role in which you’re comfortable to something completely different,” she explains. “You're dealing with large customers and they need to feel confident that they’re dealing with the right person. You have to build a new set of competencies and make sure you’re up to the challenge of finding solutions for them.”
Mairead built her knowledge by talking with customers as much as possible and delving into the data. “I'm naturally pretty curious, so as well as listening to my customers I tried to immerse myself in everything I could get my hands on to understand their businesses. At Viva Energy I also had a lot of experienced people around me. I asked a lot of questions and everyone in the team was happy to share their knowledge.”
But as daunting as her new role was, Mairead was up to the challenge. “If you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you never know; you might end up being better at the new job. Certainly the experience and knowledge you pick up along the way will help you in the future, whatever role you choose.”
A love of the transport industry
To succeed in any career, it helps to be passionate about what you’re doing. Mairead certainly has a passion for the road transport industry, which comes from the people and organisations she works with.
“It's the diverse characters and organisational structures within transport that excite me,” she explains. “I might be working with a large corporate publicly-listed company one day, and with someone who started their career as a truck driver and built up a hugely successful business from scratch the next. Transport is such a vibrant sector.
“The sales role at Viva Energy requires me to wear many different hats. There's a strong commercial focus, of course, but the safety of our customers and our team members is always top priority. There’s a strong emphasis on risk management, as well as innovative customer solutions and managing and negotiating contracts. It's such a diverse role and no two days are the same.”
Mairead wholeheartedly believes in the saying: Without trucks, Australia stops. The saying was tested and proved correct at the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. “Those conditions were really challenging. It emphasises the resilience of the sector and the critical role transport plays in all of our lives, from delivering the clothes on our back to the food in our bellies and the goods and resources to run industries.”
Mairead works closely with Viva Energy’s prospective transport customers, and understands how difficult the decision is for them to change fuel suppliers. To make that easier, she works at developing relationships so she can get to the heart of an individual customer’s needs and provide a service that goes beyond simply supplying fuel. This creates what she calls ‘a win-win solution’.
“The best outcome is always mutual success,” she says. “I always ask myself two questions. Firstly, how would a decision or action impact the customer's business? And two, how will it make the customer feel? Because the decisions I make and how I act will impact how a customer feels about Viva Energy.”
Building relationships to truly understand a customer's requirements and their motivating factors is the part of Mairead’s job that she loves most. “The transport sector is fiercely competitive and customers are under huge pressure. If you're not providing solutions that add real value, then really all you are is a transactional supplier of a commodity product.”
Experience in both marketing and sales helps Mairead to develop strong value propositions – those win-win solutions – for her customers, and she considers herself lucky to be able to lean on the experience and support of both the sales team and the marketing team at Viva Energy.
“I really believe that the combination of genuine customer insights from the sales team with disciplines and methodologies from the marketing team helps deliver relevant, personalised and unique customer value propositions.”
A team effort
Mairead will regularly call on the huge knowledge base and experience within Viva Energy to help benefit her customers. “Such a complex industry demands fit for purpose solutions. The best way I can help a customer is by providing relevant technical or professional experience by tapping into our network of experts here at Viva Energy.”
As an extension of her passion for teamwork, Mairead ensures her customers have access to the appropriate level of expertise by encouraging Viva Energy’s engineers, logistics and IT teams to talk to them directly. “Customers appreciate that kind of access and the feedback from our own teams is that it is great to talk to the customer directly to really understand the issue and deliver the right solution for them.”
As an example, Mairead talks about the time she worked on a Diesel Extra fuel economy trial with a customer. “In that instance I was certainly not the technical expert, but I was able to bring a team of experts together to design a trial that produced accurate results. As well as sales and marketing, I had technical and product experts from Viva Energy, and fleet and mechanical specialists along with procurement from the customer’s business.”
Mairead worked closely with the customer when deciding which vehicles would be selected for the trial. “From Procurement Managers to Fleet Managers, Workshop Managers to mechanics and the drivers themselves, there are a lot of stakeholders invested in the smooth and economical running of the customer’s fleet,” she explains. “Fuel keeps the wheels of their business turning, so it’s hugely important that everyone involved feels comfortable and can see the benefit when designing a trial like this.”
To ensure absolute transparency, Mairead also engaged a highly qualified independent third party to run and monitor the trials, reassuring the customer that the results would be unbiased and accurate.
The results of the trial proved that Diesel Extra provided greater fuel economy for the customer’s fleet, and would therefore deliver substantial cost savings. “I really enjoyed that project because it was a team effort. It was technical as well as commercial, and ultimately we were able to help the customer achieve better fuel economy and lower fuel costs.”
Mairead clearly enjoys working with customers to optimise their fuel spend. For another customer her team was able to achieve cost savings of around $200,000 per year. “We developed a fuel channel optimisation strategy for the customer. This helped us identify that substantial savings could be achieved if the customer’s trucks refueled from the customer’s bulk fuel tanks located around the country when they were able to do so. It seems simple, but unless someone takes the time to analyse the problem the solution can often be overlooked.”
The support Mairead and her team provide is not always about a great financial outcome. “Our technical team conducted a national AS1940 assessment for a major partner across eight of their refueling sites,” she explains. “Through the assessment we were able to identify an opportunity to improve on-site safety, which is one of the most important aspects of our service.”
Negotiating an international health crisis
The outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic brought with it a great deal of uncertainty with international and state borders closed, and cities and entire countries in shutdown.
To help transport customers and the industry continue to provide their essential service through this unprecedented time, Viva Energy provided stability.
“To be a stable, reliable presence and supplier for our customers is hugely important. These businesses were facing huge challenges to keep their freight moving, which put them under immense pressure. Internally they were reacting well to the crisis and, in many cases for commercial road transporters, meeting huge increases in demand. They always need to know that we’re there supporting all the action plans they put in place.”
Viva Energy’s transport, supply and logistics teams worked with customers to make sure that they had the fuel they needed where and when they needed it. This involved forecasting and stock management through unprecedented demand fluctuations. “We can be really proud of the fact that Viva Energy was able to support our customers and give them peace of mind, because the fuel they rely on is there when they need it,” says Mairead.
“The fact that we have such stable and deep relationships with our customers demonstrates how well the sales team understands their needs.”
Since accepting the challenge of a position in Sales, Mairead and the team have enjoyed many successes, from growing its transport portfolio year on year to renewing and extending several key customer partnerships. In both cases the team succeeds by demonstrating the depth of the relationship and the value Viva Energy provides through its products and services.
But overall, it’s the relationships she has forged that make her most proud. “I love knowing that a customer is happy with our solutions and our service, when I’ve been able to add genuine value and make their life easier or better in some way. I love finding a way, finding a solution for a customer when nobody thought it could be done. And I feel blessed to have made such strong relationships over the journey.”
Learn more about how Viva Energy supports the Road Transport Industry