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We suspect you’re looking to accomplish a few things by joining a 3PL’s Freight Agent Program. Whatever your reasons, a competent and responsive agent-based brokerage is key to help your freight brokerage grow.
If you’re a freight broker or freight agent, negotiating is an everyday occurrence for your freight broker business. And it’s not for the faint of heart – Negotiating is tough work! But, over time, it helps you develop skills and strategies to build credibility and deepen trust between you and your customers and carriers.
In the logistics industry, freight brokers and freight agents hold a very unique position in the fact that they are both a buyer AND seller of transportation. Which means, in many ways, that they are in direct conflict with one another and here’s why: When freight brokers sell to customers, the goal is to sell your services at thehighest price possible, while offering customer’s good VALUE for their money. When freight brokers buy transportation, the objective is to secure the lowest PRICE possible without compromising the level of service we need. The difference between the two is how freight brokers and freight agents make money.
Because negotiating is inevitable as a freight broker agent, it’s imperative to build better relationships with both your customers and carriers while not forgetting to focus on selling thevalue you bring to the table first! When you focus on these two components, you will lessen your negotiating time and increase your profits.
Here are some questions you could ask yourself to get a better indication on how much negotiating you’ll need to do with your customer:
- How will the other person benefit as a result from buying from you?
- Do you know your value proposition to the other party?
- How high up in the company is the person you are dealing with?
- How are you perceived by them?
- What is the urgency of the other party?
- How strong of a relationship have you developed with the other party?
Having a firm grip on the above answers ahead of time will help you be prepared with the responses you’ll need to enter into negotiations intelligently and with confidence. In addition, I’ve included some valid points your customer or carrier may have when negotiating and insight on how to better address and/or combat their concerns:
- You have not proven your value beyond the competition.
- Do Your Homework: Technology has allowed consumers access to more information than ever on pricing and competitors. In order to sell on value – not price – as important as confidence and rapport are, you need to do your homework on your potential client. This will be the first step you take in order to establish if they’re a good candidate to meet your price needs so you aren’t wasting your time talking to individuals only interested in the cheapest option.
- Leverage Your Strengths and Experience: Before you reach out to ANY potential customer or carrier, your mind-set needs to be rock-solid and you better be ready to unleash ALL your company’s strengths and unshakeable reasons why you stand out from your competition. Don’t be like a deer caught in headlights when they start firing questions off to you. If that happens, you’ll never truly be able to win back their full confidence or trust in you and will have started the relationship off on shaky ground. Take a moment with your potential client to share the history of your company to show solid roots and have success stories or customer testimonials at the ready (bonus points if your testimonials/case studies solved issues or addressed concerns similar to your potential client).
- Confidence Is Always King: When stressing the importance of value as compared to your competitors, you should not get into price negotiations. This would be the time to mention the advantages only YOUR business can bring to the table (i.e. 24/7 customer support, online customer portals, technological advantages, etc.). NEVER take things personally and let emotions get involved during negotiations and never bad mouth your competitors.
- You have failed to differentiate yourself from your competition.
- Know Yourself and Know Your Value: You have to be able to list (firmly and capably) your businesses strengths and know them inside and out. You must be able to succinctly communicate what sets you apart from your competition and, therefore, are capable of commanding a higher price. Here are three ways that can help you differentiate yourself and act on IMMEDIATELY:
1) Sell Yourself – It’s common knowledge that when dealing with a person when purchasing a service or product, most times they aren’t just buying what you have to sell…they’re buying the value in YOU! It’s the connection the customer feels with the seller, how they can relate to them, how they feel understood and comfortable by choosing to go with you. So, sell yourself! Be confident in yourself, find that common ground with them, be relatable and be informative. Now’s the time to show off all those years of experience and abilities you’ve acquired, all the knowledge you’ve retained that have made you the seasoned freight broker you are today that allows your business to run smoothly and efficiently. It’s these details and your passion for what you do that, in their eyes, will give you the edge over others and impress upon them why you are better than the rest. Customers revel in the fact that they are doing business with the best of the best. You just have to convince them that you are and then FOLLOW THROUGH! But, don’t be cocky or arrogant – remember, they have MANY others with whom they could do business.
2) Ask Questions…Then LISTEN: Most don’t take the time to ask questions, let alone listen to what their client have to say. Take the time, before-hand, to research your potential customer to have the background information you need in order to ask the right questions. Nobody likes their time wasted and no potential customer will feel important when you ask them questions that show you didn’t do your homework on their business and that’s a deal-killer right off the bat! What better impression to make on a potential client than to demonstrate being pro-active in your information gathering and establishing yourself as a leader in the industry by asking insightful questions.
3) Be Solution-Oriented: When customers are looking for a solution to the problem, they don’t want to hear about all the great things your company can do or care about your flashy company literature. They need a solution and that MUST be your focus if you expect to gain their business. Listen thoroughly to understand the full extent of their need then address that need/concern/issue specifically and satisfactorily. Mention another customer with a similar situation that you’ve helped and what specific actions you took to overcome that obstacle/concern.
- You have failed to build trust or provide a viable solution:
- If you want to build trust and credibility with your customers, and hold on to them for life, follow these 10 important tips (courtesy of Walter Rogers, salesforce):
1) Avoid selling a solution that isn’t in the customer’s best interest. Sometimes you just don’t have the right solution at the right price. If that is the case, it is always best to be honest with the customer, instead of proposing something which you know will not fully deliver the outcome the customer is looking for.
2) Never misrepresent the features, advantages and benefits of a product or service. Customers don’t want a product or solution that only comes close to meeting their needs, or that usually functions properly. Give them the whole, unvarnished truth, and let them decide if the proposed solution will work for them.
3) Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver. Some sales professionals find it very difficult to say no to the customer about anything. Telling the customer that a certain solution with specific features and benefits will be delivered by a specific deadline, when you know you can’t deliver, is a recipe for disaster.
4) Accepting or offering bribes or gifts is always unethical. There are perhaps no brighter ethical line sales professionals must not cross than the one prohibiting off-the-books inducements.
5) Keep pricing consistent to all departments within the same company. You will poison the relationship and kill the account if the discrepancy is ever discovered.
6) When problems develop after the sale, don’t make excuses and don’t place blame; fix the problem. You are the face of the company; it is your duty as a sales professional to deliver on the promise you made.
7) Don’t withhold bad news. If you think the customer will be upset when you tell them the bad news, just imagine how much more upset they will be when they find out you knew the bad news three weeks ago and hid it from them.
8) If and when you must speak of the competition, be respectful at all times. Some sales professionals seem to think that “trash-talking” the competition will make their own products and services look better. Usually, it only makes them look petty and immature in the eyes of the customer.
9) Always honor the relationships that other sales professionals on your team have with their accounts. Stealing accounts from your team members is just that–stealing.
10) And finally: make promises and keep them. Above all, you must do what you say, when you said you would do it. This one skill alone will put you head and shoulders above your competition.
- Your price is still too high or asked you to reduce your price or match a competitor:
- First off, this may be a red flag. Some individuals are only focused on garnering the lower price – period. Most times, these individuals end up being problem customers and a drain on you and your business. It might be best to just decide to cut bait and move on and save yourself the headache. But, don’t instantly jump to this conclusion. Ask more questions, get a better feel for their needs and flexibility (if any). Sometimes people are just very busy or need to tend to other things and want to cut through the process. Be patient, get more information then make an informed decision.
- For all other times, be empathetic to their concerns and let them know you understand their situation. This brings you over to their side and helps them feel understood and diminishes any feelings they may have that their concern is silly or unjustified. Moving forward, you will need to ask more questions and deal with each objection they have to relieve their apprehension. You need to properly and fully address each objection before moving forward on price. If they don’t feel comfortable in doing business with you, negotiating price is pointless. If you still cannot agree on price, you need to explain why your service is still the better value. Remember to specify to them that, in the long run, choosing to pay a higher price will ultimately provide them with the value they seek (i.e. goods delivered on-time and in good condition). Help them to understand that by choosing you, it will not only make things easier and more stress-free for them, but will reflect positively on their position and make them look better to their superiors.
- Find out what the customer values most when doing business. If you provide the same value as a competitor, then price becomes the only definitive difference. Use this opportunity to impress upon them what only YOU can bring to the table and establish these factors as anchors and testimony to your superior value and thus obvious choice for selecting you.
When a freight broker or any business professional is faced with the negotiation process they must realize from the onset that it’s all really about relationships and selling value every step of the way. Once that mindset is established, you will dramatically cut down on having to negotiate to win business. However, when you are forced to negotiate, you can refer to LDi’s Free Report, “11 No-Fail Negotiation Tactics for Freight Brokers”, a power-house list of critical negotiation tactics geared specifically to overcome objections.
If you have any additional suggestions on winning negotiating techniques, we’d love to hear them! So, please feel free to comment on this or any of LDi’s blog posts or suggest future article topics and thanks for reading!
As rewarding as having a successful freight broker business can be, it is fraught with challenges on a daily basis. Some of those bigger challenges might include building your contact list, gaining more customers and growing your overall business. With those and other challenges come obstacles and the root of all obstacles with your prospects and customers is fear. It is then up to the freight broker agent to better understand its causes to eliminate and overcome those fears.
Generally speaking, it is “need” that drives someone’s interest in purchasing a product or service, but fear that prevents them from committing. But what exactly are your prospects and customers afraid of? Here are some major categories regarding fears that might prevent a potential customer from choosing to do business with you and what you can do to help them alleviate those fears:
FEAR OF CHANGE
The fact is, most people are comfortable with what’s familiar, even when change can result in something significantly better. For instance, if you are trying to win business from a shipper who is already working with another freight broker or agent, chances are they’re most likely wondering why they should step out of their comfort zone and switch to doing business with you.
I’m sure some of us have heard the saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. Basically, it means that even if a shipper is not 100% satisfied with their current freight broker, making a change could be even more painful due to the unknown.
How to overcome it:
A good approach to combat the fear of change would be to soften your initial sales approach with similarities. The next time you come across a prospect that is reluctant to switch to a new freight broker agent, try aligning your services to their current expectations. This might give them the comforting nudge that is needed to help them ease over to you. Demonstrate how those similarities will prevent unnecessary disruption and hassle, minimizing the risk of change. Then, once their fear has been lessened, you can demonstrate how you excel above and beyond your competition by providing additional value.
FEAR OF IMPACT
It’s always a good idea to consider things from your prospect’s point of view when conducting business. You may not realize it, but for them to make the switch to a new freight broker, they might be visualizing something like the aftermath of a crash. It’s not just them deciding to make the move to someone new or not it’s the impact of moving from someone familiar to someone foreign. The idea of what could go wrong may be enough to make them stay with their current broker. And what about how working with you will affect their business, their bottom line, their career, their family? You can guarantee that until their concerns are reassured, they will not be making any changes to their current process.
How to overcome it:
The way to soften the fear of impact is to soften them with knowledge. Knowledge is power – for both you and your prospect. Take the time to listen and learn what their objections are and why they have them. That way, you can address their areas of concern with informative, targeted solutions which will dissolve the possibility of risk and alleviate the fear.
FEAR OF FAILURE
It’s reasonable for any potential customer to be afraid of failing but, in all probability, they are most afraid of YOU failing! It’s a tough pill to swallow if they take the risk and you fail to live up to the promises and guarantees offered at the point of sale. If your shortcomings harm or damage your prospect’s business and reputation, they suffer a double whammy. Not good.
How to overcome it:
In order to overcome their fear of your failure, you MUST provide them with proof. In the realms of business and personal, it’s not what you say but what you DO that matters most. Here are some examples of what you could do to show your potential customer that you are more than a just a sales pitch:
- Take the time to educate your prospect about how you and your company help your customers succeed. Remember, it’s NOT about you, it’s about THEM. They don’t care how awesome you or your company is, it’s how you can make THEM awesome! A great way to illustrate this is by providing them with customer case studies. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not – and OH so worth doing. First, select one of your customers that you have helped overcome some obstacle. Second, create a case study that outlines the action taken or steps you took to solve their area of concern or helped them overcome a hurdle.
- Become a source of expertise in your industry. With each passing year as a freight broker agent, you amass a wealth of knowledge and seasoned proficiency that is golden! Go a step further and build on this solid foundation by sharing your acquired skills and best practices with others. By doing this, you will build credibility, trust and -more importantly- likeability. Start sharing information today through your own online blog, podcasts, vlogs (video blog) and promote your accumulated knowledge on any of the social media networks. All of these options are great ways to help quickly position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
- Make customer support a foundation cornerstone of your freight broker business. I cannot stress this enough! How many times have you had a salesman dog you, wining and dining you to get your business but once they did, you never hear from them again? And good luck trying to get a hold of them when something goes wrong – because that will never happen. Make it a point to position yourself ahead of the pack by not forgetting about your customer once you get their business. I can guarantee you that if you continue to follow up with your customers and be at the forefront to soothe a concern or tackle an issue, they will be your customer for life! Two quick points on this…first, happy customers tell 2-3 people about their experience with you while unhappy customers tell 8-10 people! And the second point is that it costs FIVE TIMES MORE to acquire anew customer than it does to retain one.
My final thought on quelling fears of potential customers is to actually live up to your own claims by providing testimonials from customers who will validate what you say. We all know word of mouth is a powerful thing and referrals are KING! Want to really impress and banish their fears? Try offering them the opportunity to speak to one of your customers on the phone. What better way to show them you’re the real deal then having them hear first-hand how you have conquered someone else’s fears?
For more information about the industry’s most respected freight broker agent program, visit www.LogisticDynamics.com or call us today at 1-800-554-3734.
When we are about to venture into new territory, we all wish we knew the right way to proceed or a roadmap that led us to a destination of success. In reality, it’s never that easy. If you’re starting out in the freight sales agent profession, calling on a prospect is not only a priority – it’s a necessity to establish and grow your freight broker business. And as a freight broker agent, you know that making effective sales calls is the difference between success and failure. You also know it’s not about getting prospects to just come on board. It’s about keeping them actively shipping with you, while offering them great service and the best prices.
So, wouldn’t it be great to know the freight broker’s secret to making a top class sales call? While it may seem simple, it most certainly is not easy. You will have to persevere through rejection and work hard day after day, bouncing back from the challenges of calling prospects. As once homeless then turned professional football player in the NFL and now motivational speaker, Eric Thomas says, “All roads that lead to success have to pass through Hard Work Boulevard at some point”.
85% of Your Financial Success
Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85% of your financial success is due to your personality and your ability to lead, communicate and negotiate. Believe it or not, only 15% comes from technical knowledge. This is exactly the opposite of what the world tells you. We are told that the path to take is to go to school, get a degree and get the knowledge. Unfortunately, this only accounts for 15% of success! What the world doesn’t teach you is the other 85% – how to communicate, negotiate and lead. We are left to figure all that out by ourselves.
What You MUST Do When Making a Sales Call
Earning a prospect’s business by making them feel special and not just being the next name on a long list of sales prospects is the key to being a successful freight broker agent. You need to take the time to learn a bit about your prospect’s business/background, be well prepared before the call and always operate under the conviction that freight broker rock stars consistently do what average freight agents don’t or won’t.
Sales Call Information Sheet & Sales Call Script
To have a no-fail Sales Call, you need a no-fail Sales Call Information Sheet. A good habit to get into, is having a Sales Call Information Sheet that includes these important key details about the company/contact with whom you will be connecting:
- Company name
- Company phone number
- Company fax number
- Main contact name
- First contact name
- First contact date
- Products / Services
- Important information
- Email address
- Physical address
Why is this information so important to know, you ask? The answer is simple: because it’s these key details that will help you later construct a no-fail Sales Script*. And yes, it’s a given that information gathering is hard work but it will ALL be worth it when you plug your information into your Sales Script and become a top-producing, rock star freight agent.
It may sound basic but, in the freight broker business, perfecting your sales calls is the most important thing you’ll do in this profession. When you treat this part of your job with the importance it deserves, invest the amount of time that is necessary to obtain the information you need AND combine it with our no-fail Sales Information Sheet and our no-fail Sales Call Script, you will possess the weapons you need in your freight broker arsenal that will propel you and your freight broker business to accomplish what you had only ever dreamed of achieving!
If you have questions about this report or want more information about the industry’s most respected freight broker agent program, visit www.LogisticDynamics.com or call us today at 1-800-554-3734.
*For a great sample template of our no-fail Sales Call Script, please click here for the Free Report, “How to Be a Freight Broker Sales Call Rock Star”.