Finding new shipping customers is not easy, we know. With you in mind, we put together this post for some ideas on how you can grow your book of business!
Before we get to the how, let’s address the why. So, why would you want to be a champion freight broker for carriers? The answer to that is the easy part; because freight brokerage operations that take the time to build solid, long-lasting relationships with motor carriers are the MOST stable and successful ones in the business. But, an achievement of that magnitude doesn’t come without it’s challenges and certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
As for the how…it’s a process that, when done right, involves investing the time and attention needed to create and establish a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. Taking the time to get to know your carriers, understand their needs and keeping an open dialogue with shared growth in mind will go a long way in building and strengthening carrier relationships.
And just like any champion, there’s the external and the internal preparation that will help you to nurture new carrier relationships as well as continue to effectively anchor your ongoing carrier relationships for years to come. For example, it doesn’t matter how powerful your punches are or how fast you are on your feet if your head and heart aren’t in the right place…and vice versa. So, first, let’s deal with the external:
Get Carrier Intel – Take the time to gather intelligence from the carrier. The best way to find out their wants, desires and needs is to ASK! Here’s some examples of some key questions:
- Where do they prefer to run?
- How many trucks do they have?
- What lanes do they need help with? What other lanes?
- What lanes are they most/least interested in?
- Was the last load they ran a regular lane? Can you make this lane a weekly run for them?
- Is their business expanding? If yes, how so?
- What can you do to help them grow their business?
Also, inform them of what you’re currently working on and future upcoming loads you will have. These are great questions to not only learn more about the carrier but is a great starting point to help you solidify relationships with your carriers.
Follow Through on Promises – Strong relationships forged in TRUST are built on KEPT promises. During your relationship, there will come a time when you need a favor from a carrier, such as a lower paying load than they’d normally accept. To get them to take the load, you might promise them a better price on the next load. If and when you do that, make SURE you honor your word and do just that. After they deliver the load, continue to follow through and ask if everything went well and if there were any issues, they need to be addressed immediately. On another note, if the carrier mentions that they liked that lane, you could work it out so it’s a repeating route for them. Driving truck is a job that demands respect and, as their livelihood, your word to them and honoring your promises mean everything. That, and paying them quickly and consistently will help them value their relationship with you more and help pave the way for future business.
Share The Growth – While your transportation business grows, your carrier’s business should grow as well and will help to solidify a stronger relationship with your carriers. Be mindful not to drop your dependable carriers for ones willing to work cheaper. This usually ends up with you accepting a lower level of service that does not meet the standards you have set for your core carrier base across the board. Don’t be afraid to inform your carriers of pricing adjustments due to market conditions or other factors. Hopefully they will respect your honesty and appreciate your transparency.
Get Equipped – In today’s world and becoming more so in the transportation industry, technology remains at the forefront. Your freight broker business should be no different. Gone are the days when a freight broker equipped with a little technology could run with the pack. Today’s freight broker needs to have access to a Transportation Management System (TMS) that not only helps grow his business but updates to keep current with the needs of the ever changing industry.
Every TMS is different and it’s imperative that the TMS you use has the available tools that will help you to run your business as smoothly and efficiently as possible. By using the latest technologies in its proprietary custom TMS, LDi Freight, LDi has the advantage to match carriers and shippers faster than other third-party logistics options. Here are just some of the tools available in LDi Freight that bring real-time technology to our freight broker agents when sourcing carriers:
- DAT Matches – Any load posted to the DAT is set with an alarm which will be raised when DAT finds a matching carrier in their system. LDi Freight allows the user to see if a load has matches and see the corresponding carriers.
- Available Trucks –Displays trucks from multiple sources:
- Trucks posted by carriers through our carrier portal website
- LDi Loads that are delivering for any agent
- Available trucks manually posted by agents
- LDi Load History –Searches historical LDi loads for carriers that have delivered a similar load for us before and might be likely candidates to handle a current load.
- Carrier Smart Search –Aggregates possible carriers from multiple sources:
- Trucks posted to the DAT
- Trucks posted to Internet Truckstop
- Carriers set up with LDi who operate within the pickup or drop location of a load
- Carriers who have run a similar load for LDi before
- Trucks that are delivering a current LDi load soon
- Trucks posted to the Carrier Portal website
- Trucks posted to the LDi Available Trucks screen by agents
Regarding quoting/pricing, LDi has DAT RateView and ITS RateMate products integrated directly into LDi Freight to provide our agents with assistance in quoting their loads and seeing historical pricing trends.
LDi also has multiple mobile applications that allow an individual to always stay connected. Whether it be our mobile TMS, LDi AgentMate or our mobile carrier app, LDi CarrierMate – designed to connect our carrier base directly to our TMS. LDi is and has always been the leader in technology and we will continue to adapt and be ahead of the industry so YOU can stay ahead of the competition!
Communicate Like a Partner – Asking your carrier questions, especially when it’s the first call you make to them is vital…but listening is critical! Carriers will appreciate you asking questions but if you want to make a great impression, you must remember the details of your conversation. Whether you talk about their latest vacation, a family celebration or recent weather occurrence, make sure you take notes and refer to them during follow up calls to keep building the bond and continue growing the relationship. Relatable conversation will always be more well received than launching into a generic inquiry. But know the difference. It’s not about prying into their private or personal lives. It’s about relating to them by being genuinely invested in them as an individual and not just a means to an end.
Be Trustworthy, Be Loyal – As loads become available, remember to reach out to your core carrier group and award freight methodically. And as you continue to do this, it will help to build trust and loyalty. And if there comes a time that they’re unable to cover the load, they may start to refer you to another reliable carrier and this will help to build your carrier network. Also, don’t just reach out to them for business needs alone. Make sure you touch them repeatedly throughout the year during non-business times as well. Small gestures such as sending a pizza to say thanks, a birthday card or gifts during holidays and occasions are very inexpensive ways to appreciate your carrier and make you a freight broker champion in their eyes!
Transparency Rules – A freight broker with fair procurement practices is a freight broker of choice for carriers. This means conducting transparent business practices at all times. For instance, when rates change, explain to your carriers why. If pricing becomes a concern, voice it to them. They may be flexible. When you are upfront with them and communicate the reason behind the rate change, such as weather, seasonal changes, fuel cost or other factors, it allows an open dialogue between you both instead of a conversation that could have been mutually uncomfortable. Whenever possible (and it’s always possible), be honest and ethical when doing business. There is no substitute for either and once trust is broken, the relationship will never be the same, so don’t go there.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Yep. But worth it? Absolutely! And in the spirit of perseverance, I’m reminded of the words from the infamous Rocky Balboa, “Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up”. So, time to put on your gloves, get in the ring, dig deep and go those extra rounds…and do what it TAKES to be a champion freight broker for carriers.
If you have any additional suggestions on how to be a champion freight broker for carriers, we’d love 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!
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!