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.
Interested in becoming a freight broker? Before you jump into brokering freight, brokers and other industry experts agree these are the must-do tasks before you set out on your own.
You’re taking the leap from being someone’s employee to brokering on your own. So what should you expect when switching from an employer’s Form W-2 to a Form 1099?
Whether business or personal, starting a new relationship with someone has its challenges. When it comes to freight brokers contacting new prospects and building a new relationship, it may seem daunting if not overwhelming. What do you say to your new contact? How often should you be in touch with a new prospect? How do you know if you are making the right choices moving forward or setting yourself up for failure?
Here are 6 lead generation tips to help freight brokers obtain quality leads:
1. EVERY DAY, obtain THREE new business contacts (and call them): FACT – As with most any industry, you will lose business for one reason or another. These new contacts will help to replace business that you will eventually lose or business that will never get off the ground (like the dreaded 1-shipment only customer). Some customers will not have any loads for 6 months or a year and then recontact you. Others will fall through for other reasons, so it’s important that you continually seek and pursue new prospects.
2. Do your research BEFORE you make the call: Cold calling people without doing any research tells them you did not consider the call important enough. The key here is to understand that it is not about you – it is all about them. Make sure the conversation is about them, not you. Use sales intelligence to turn a cold call into a warm call. Sales Intelligence refers to technologies and practices for collection of information to help sales people keep up to date with clients and prospects. Use Google and other search engines to gather relevant information (i.e. articles featuring the company and/or executives, recent awards or recognitions, and company locations).
To get information on your prospect’s company, begin by calling their sales department. Salespeople are great individuals to talk to when you want to know everything about a company and where it’s going. You can gain a great deal of knowledge from salespeople, so use that opportunity to ask them questions about what they do and how they do it. Ask them what lanes they ship, or what states they operate in.
3. Build a relationship: Establish rapport with your contact and foster a connection. It’s no secret – people are more likely to buy from a friend than from someone they view as a salesperson. This can be difficult to achieve at first when making cold calls. One way freight brokers can establish rapport is to start the conversation based on the lane they are running or the weight they are moving. This is great information to use to help make that initial connection with prospects. You will naturally learn how to build rapport as you learn the ins and outs of their business and the individual him or herself. Try to think of the process as being on a football team: you start as a freshman and build your skills through training and practice.
5. Take ACTION and follow through: You’ll build proficiency through ACTION. The process will get easier and you will get better at connecting, but you have to put in the time and effort.
Recently, I had the opportunity of getting a little face-time with one of LDi’s top freight broker agents. During our conversation, he shared with me his struggles on building his presence on social media and with Facebook in particular. His main concern at the time was how he could grow his Facebook freight broker business page fan base. As LDi’s Marketing Manager, I was more than happy to share with him my social media expertise and offer in-depth insight and suggestions that he found to be valuable. It was then that it occurred to me that this information, as simple as it seemed to me with my background, was not so obvious to him and that it could be beneficial to ALL freight broker agents facing this very same struggle.
I’ll admit that this article might seem like a departure from more “traditional” methods for growing a freight broker business such as: turning cold calls into warm calls, finding new customers or retaining current ones, etc. But, I assure you that social media, once considered a novel alternative by businesses, is now a mainstream growth tool for your business and that you’re missing out on additional business opportunities if you are not fully embracing and exploring all avenues with regards to social media. To go a step further, if you have an established social media presence you may not be doing enough to truly reap the benefits that it offers. More specifically, I believe freight brokers should be utilizing Facebook equally if not more so than LinkedIn to grow their freight broker business and here’s my thoughts on why: first, in the professional world, the general consensus is that LinkedIn is the ‘god of prospecting and connecting’ when it comes to businesses or business professionals…when the truth is that sales and growing your business is a numbers game and numbers are all about reach and exposure. And if you’re talking reach and exposure, no other social media network even comes close to Facebook. For those of you, and I’m sure there’s quite a few, that are saying, “But Facebook is a SOCIAL network!” That’s absolutely true. But, the number of people that are on Facebook and using it daily are astounding! Whereas on LinkedIn, very much considered the powerhouse of lead generation, user numbers are considerably less and they are not on LinkedIn daily. And, now I can hear those same individuals saying, “But we need to connect with businesses”. Also true. But we don’t sell to a business – we sell to a person.
My second reason, is any individual looking to sell a product or offer a service can’t ignore the TRUE determinant of why prospects become customers and customers stay loyal to you…and that’s RELATIONSHIPS. And I’m not talking about a ‘business relationship’ where you call, they have a need and you deliver a solution. That’s just logistics and if that’s your only approach you’ll spend more time trying to drum up new business and the rest of the time wondering why you can’t keep your customers. I’m talking about a personal relationship where you have put in the effort since day one with them. Getting to know your prospect/customer as a person, relating to their concerns, building trust and deepening that connection to the point where they aren’t just a business contact anymore – they are now a loyal customer that trusts your word, depends on you to service their needs and would not even consider sending their business elsewhere. There will even be days, once that level of comfort is firmly established, that your customer will give you a quick call, state their need and know you’ll just ‘handle it’. But chances are you also know their favorite hobby, if they’re married, have children or just bought a new house – all because you’ve built a personal relationship with them. And what social network is known, used for and deemed appropriate for building personal relationships and connecting on a personal level? That’s right – FACEBOOK!
- More than 467 million people use LinkedIn BUT there are more than 1.6 BILLION users on Facebook DAILY!
- More than 3 people sign up every second on LinkedIn BUT more than 8 people per second are added on Facebook!
- An average user spends 17 minutes on LinkedIn per month BUT an average user spends 21 minutes on Facebook a DAY!
That’s impressive! Now that I’ve addressed the why and offered some facts, I’d like to share how a freight broker can begin leveraging Facebook as a POWERFUL tool to grow their business* even if they just created a Facebook business page TODAY! For those of you that have already been working with your Facebook business page, I’m confident that even you will benefit from some of these suggestions, keeping in mind I’m assuming nothing of your social networking abilities or depth in your current progress, so I’m starting with the basics:
- Create a Facebook business page
- Obviously! This is easily done from your personal page by looking to the upper right corner of your screen and clicking on the white downward arrow. In the drop down menu, select ‘Create Page’.
- Optimize your Facebook business page
- It’s important that BEFORE you decide to just create a business page for yourself that you research other users on Facebook, similar to you, that have created a business page and that you take the time to carefully review all the elements that went into their page (banner image, photos, bio, videos, everything). It’s always best to emulate the best instead of winging it or starting from scratch.
- Link your Facebook business page to your personal profile
- This is a great way to alert your personal contacts that you have a business page and hopefully drive them there and Like your business page. The more connections the better and those connections will hopefully help to share your business page content that could mean the potential for new or more business opportunities.
- To do this, start from your personal page and look on the left-hand side under ‘Intro’. Click on edit and start typing in the name of your business page. When you see it pop up, click on it to add it. Now it has become a link that people visiting your personal page can click on that will take them directly to your business page!
- Put a Facebook Fan Box on your website/blog
- Now that you’ve made your FB business page, don’t stop there! You need to promote your page every chance you get – be it on your website, in your blog, at your place of business, on your company literature, etc. Spread the word, again, it’s all about REACH and EXPOSURE.
- Take advantage of your personal Facebook account
- Whatever you post on your business page, you can also post on your personal page – that’s the beauty of Facebook and its lenient nature and flexibility.
- Content is KING
- Even if this is Facebook and interaction is very social and laid back, you should always post with being mindful to the “Big R’s” of social media:
- Relative: relative refers to the content you are posting for your audience. ALWAYS think of your target audience FIRST before you post anything! You wouldn’t post a smoothie recipe on a jewelry store page. SPEAK to your SPECIFIC audience. Your Fans should find your page informative, helpful, interesting and appealing. Remember that this is your attempt at promoting your business side so you should project yourself as an expert, thought leader, educator and above all else, a professional.
- Relevant: to attract and keep your Fans, you must post information that is always relevant. Keep topics current, keep your page fresh and you can even have fun with it by posting an industry article, a podcast of yours or (thanks to Facebook!) a funny meme about the transportation/logistics industry, etc. – and never, never, ever post anything questionable or offensive (I can’t stress this enough).
- Reputable: whatever you post, that’s your image and whatever information you put out there, it needs to be accurate and easily verifiable.
- Reciprocate: like any other social media network, content is shared. As much as you’d like your Fans to share your posts, you should make the same effort to regularly share some of your Fans posts as well. It can’t be a one-way street if you expect to continue having loyal Fans.
- Responsive: Engagement is key. Just as you will invite comments and interaction from your Fans, you must make the effort to respond to their comments and stay constantly engaged with them. Answer questions, stay on top of your notifications, reply to comments and do it all in a timely manner! That’s just basic social media etiquette.
- Results: Make sure to regularly check your Insights tab to gain valuable information/feedback on best time to post for your Fans, which of your efforts saw more engagement – was it a video? A meme? A posed question where they needed to select a response? An industry article? And harness that information to streamline your future efforts for better engagement by appealing more to your Fans.
- Even if this is Facebook and interaction is very social and laid back, you should always post with being mindful to the “Big R’s” of social media:
- Post on Weekends
- With being the biggest social network out there, people aren’t just on it during work hours. They are on evenings AND weekends too! So, post anytime you want – if it’s good content (see #7).
- Invites, Likes and Fans
- Now that you’ve created a business page, you need FANS! Luckily there are SEVERAL ways to gain Likes:
- Invite your friends from your personal page. Again, it’s all about reach and exposure and this one’s quick and easy.
- From your personal page, join groups relative to your business page. For instance, freight brokers might search for groups using some of these words: truck, trucks, trucking, freight, freight broker, shipping, logistics and so on. Once you join or are accepted into some groups, you are now free to post content to their page. Make sure you don’t do anything to get yourself kicked from the group such as over-posting or bad content. The rule is, if you’re unsure – DON’T POST!
- Make another established freight broker/trucking contact an admin to your business page. This is another quick and easy way to have access to their connections and invite them to your page as well!
- Now that you’ve created a business page, you need FANS! Luckily there are SEVERAL ways to gain Likes:
- Create a Group
- Not only can you add Fans to a group by promoting it on your personal and business pages but others on FB will be searching for groups to join that they are interested in and join your group all on their own! How easy is that???
- Also, since you created the group, you set the tone for the page and content. This is the next best thing to prequalifying your prospects! Even though not all group members might be a hot prospect, at least they are more targeted and easily accessible to you.
- Check Yourself
- Just a word of warning as you venture into Facebook territory and begin marketing your professional self and your business. In the past, what might have been viewed as acceptable to your personal connections on your personal page (trash talk, slang, off color or inappropriate jokes/references, etc.) will now be potentially viewed and judged by anyone that connects to your business page. So, it might be wise to examine the content on your personal page (videos, posts, images, content) to make sure there is nothing that might offend or turn away potential prospects or current customers.
Let the above methods serve as a jumping off point for any freight broker looking to create a Facebook business page or have already done so but not sure how to proceed in optimizing it’s use. For those that found this information to be too basic and you’re looking to deepen your leveraging efforts with your Facebook business page even more, I invite you to obtain a copy of our free report, “Advanced Facebook Leveraging for Freight Brokers”.
If you have any additional suggestions on how to leverage a Facebook business page to help grow fan base and ultimately business opportunities, 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!
*Please keep in mind that this only serves as a general gauge and not all freight brokers will reach the same level of achievement, results or success when utilizing a Facebook business page to gain more customers or grow their business.
For many, Thanksgiving means a time when we gather with family and friends over a meal fit for a king, catch up on others’ lives, maybe enjoy a nap and splurge on some football. It’s also a great time to break away from our busy routine and pause to reflect on what we should be thankful for in our own lives such as good health, great family/friends, being safe and living free.
As a freight broker agent, you have even MORE reasons to be thankful and now’s a great time to take pause and recognize all the things that should make you thankful and grateful you chose this challenging yet highly-rewarding profession.
Among the MANY reasons, here are my top 10 reasons to be thankful as a freight broker:
1. YOU LIVE IN AMERICA – From day to day, we lose sight of this monumental advantage. This alone should make every freight broker agent thankful that they have the right to own and operate their own business as well as enjoy other fundamental rights awarded to you as an American citizen such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
2. CREATING A FAMILY BUSINESS – As a successful freight broker, you’ve now turned a solid, lucrative endeavor into a family business where you can create employment for the business professionals in your family circle. What’s more, you have the flexibility to find the positions that are best suited to fit everyone. Perhaps they don’t care much for working in a dispatching position but love finding new customers or carriers or vice versa. It can be a win-win situation when everyone finds what they enjoy most and where they fit in best and you benefit from a stronger business structure with happy, productive employees. And, many years from now, the business that you and your family helped build can serve as an established legacy and priceless asset to be managed for generations to come.
3. LOW START UP AND OVERHEAD COSTS – As a rule, it typically costs around $3,500 to launch into becoming a freight broker agent. These costs include everything from training, licensing and equipping your office with everything needed to function successfully as a freight broker agent (phones, computer, desk, files, supplies, etc.). From there, it’s not uncommon for a freight broker that started their career in a spare room or garage to outgrow their surroundings and need to expand into an offsite office that is five times larger! Also, if you are working your freight broker business on your own AND work from home, you are already saving money on overhead costs. You have the advantage over other business owners by not needing to pay or paying very little for expenses such as building costs, utilities and employees.
4. NO COMMUTING – Most people would agree that working from home and making good money would be nothing short of a dream job. So, be thankful…you are living the dream! You have the luxury of sitting at your computer in comfy pajamas, enjoying lunch in your own home (and probably saving HUGE on that aspect alone), and never being concerned about traffic issues, bad weather or putting added miles and additional wear and tear onto your vehicle.
5. A PROFITABLE INDUSTRY – As reported by Michael Curry from My Carrier Resources, there were 13,565 licensed freight brokers in the US at the beginning of 2014 and that figure has climbed to 15,203 in January of 2015. That level of growth for one year is impressive to say the least and it continues to grow! This not only indicates that freight brokering is a profitable industry but also illustrates freight broker agents are in high demand. The freight broker industry has proven to be a great opportunity for inexperienced individuals, new graduates and other business professionals with little exposure or experience in the logistics industry that are seeking a reliable and rewarding career path.
6. TIA (Transportation Intermediaries Association) – As a freight broker, you can be thankful for all they do for the logistics and freight brokerage community that include programs like TIA Watchdog, TIA Certified and TIA Political Advocacy.
7. SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE INTERNET – With access to websites like www.internettruckstop.com, www.getloaded.com, and the comprehensive search ability of Google, you have powerful resources at your fingertips that freely offer up valuable insight and information to put you leaps ahead of your competition and help you do your job more thoroughly and efficiently. Helping you to quickly research new customers, gather intel, source carriers and finding the exact go-to person, are just some examples of attainable knowledge that will help you build and develop long-term relationships with your customers and vendors. Additionally, social media sites like www.linkedin.com, www.facebook.com, www.twitter.com, and www.youtube.com practically eliminate the need for cold calling and keep you informed on real-time information.*
8. SMARTPHONES AND WI-FI – It has become the running joke that no matter the need…there’s an app for that! And, it’s true! Thanks to smartphones and their ability to get more done, fast. Today, there are countless apps available to help freight brokers run, manage and track their freight brokerage activities from virtually anywhere. No longer do you need to be chained to your desk to check your email, make/receive phone calls or complete tasks.
Here are just some of the amazing apps available to freight brokers that save valuable time and provide convenience: ITS Broker, Get Loaded, MyRadar, Evernote, Google Maps, and of course, LDi AgentMate; an app that keeps our freight brokers connected and in control of their freight 24/7 with features that allow you to create/cover/dispatch/deliver loads, post/edit/delete/view open postings, validate carriers, view customer information, post to 50+ load boards in seconds, and email rate confirmations instantly to name a few.** There’s an advantage to most everything with technology but, most of all, the real benefit is enjoying extra time for yourself and your family.
9. BEING YOUR OWN BOSS – Every entrepreneur and freight broker agent gets to enjoy the freedom of making their own decisions and flexibility to create your own schedule. You get to determine your salary/raises, when you take the day off, where/when/how you conduct your business, and are the sole determining factor of how successful you want your freight brokerage to be. Whether you want to make enough to live comfortably or live a lavish life…the sky’s the limit!
10. CUSTOMERS AND CARRIER PARTNERS – Freight brokers and freight agents should never forget that their loyal customers and carrier partners are the life-blood of their business and should be thanked regularly. It takes very little effort and cost to offer a heartfelt thank you, send a pizza for lunch, mail a thank you note (with a copy to their superior), and remember their birthday or give a holiday gift.
11. BONUS – LDI AS A RESOURCE – Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention www.LogisticDynamics.com. Not only do we provide high-value content in our blog but amazing information resources for freight brokers with our free reports, pre-recorded webinars and educational videos. Many talented individuals at LDi invested their time, valuable insight and seasoned expertise to create these pieces geared specifically for helping freight brokers be more successful and grow their business.***
When you take on an attitude of gratitude, you will find more contentment in all areas of your life. And, hands down, gratitude will always trump a bad attitude. Thanksgiving seems to put us in the mood to be thankful and appreciate all the things we are grateful for, but what a difference it would mean for us all if everyone instilled this way of thinking throughout the year.
What are you thankful for as a freight broker? Please share your thoughts below in the comments.
* For more details on how to find information and engage prospects in ways you never thought possible, view our free pre-recorded webinar, “Work Smarter Not Harder – How to Win More Freight Without Cold Calling”, featuring well-known presenters Sam Richter, author of Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling and Art Sobczak, author of Smart Calling that will demonstrate how knowledge itself is not power, but the USE of that knowledge is and show you specifically how to plug that information into the Smart Calling process that thousands are using to open up new accounts!
** View a demo of LDi AgentMate, an app that keeps our freight brokers connected and in control of their freight 24/7, and experience the freedom and power of real-time instant information access anytime, anywhere, all in the palm of your hand.
*** Visit LDi’s Resource Page for access to webinars, videos and free reports geared specifically for freight brokers and freight agents that want to keep current in the industry and help increase their income TODAY!
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!
You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve managed to build a solid freight broker business with happy, long-term customers and mastered the technique of bringing on new customers regularly. In fact, business is booming! Sounds great, right? The problem is…your business is busting at the seams and there’s just you and maybe a partner that’s running the whole thing. If your business grows any more, your attention to the details and stellar customer service level that your clients are accustomed to will drop, you’ll have to refuse loads (wait, what???) and tarnish the top-notch reputation you’ve worked so hard to build or worse…potentially lose a customer!
You know the solution. You’ve toyed with it in your head for a while now – You have to hire more staff, but you just don’t think you can swing it – for a variety of reasons (or perhaps, excuses?). Starting a freight broker business was difficult enough but hiring more staff can be downright terrifying! Ask any start-up business owner and they’ll tell you how scary it was for them to hire their first person. So, here are some things you should consider that might help you overcome your fear of expanding your freight broker business and help you better navigate the process:
- Why Hire – Make sure you accurately identify WHY you want to bring on more staff. This could mean hiring someone for just dispatching, finding new customers or exploring a new niche in your office such as LTL or oversize, etc. Once you bring that individual on for a specific need, make sure you don’t divert their focus or muddle their main task(s) by adding on other tasks or making that person be the catch-all of other responsibilities. If you do, make sure it’s always in the best interest of the business and ok with your new hire, otherwise you run the risk of losing them and taking your business off track thereby hindering your success or growth. NOTE: It might seem logical to hire based on expertise. Keep in mind that you can always provide additional training to get your new talent up to speed or knowledgeable in certain areas of the business but you can’t train someone on attitude. When bringing on someone new, always hire for character FIRST, then experience.
- Hire Smart – Freight brokers need to realize that just adding extra heads to your office won’t necessarily help or increase your business. If you’re absolutely certain that you’re ready to bring on more staff, consider these key factors.
- Who to Choose – Do you want to hire a seasoned transportation professional or someone new to the industry? Hiring someone experienced will cost you more but you’ll benefit from having to spend little time to train them and they will be able to hit the ground running fast. Also, hiring one experienced employee could replace the need to hire 3 inexperienced employees. However, if you choose to hire an eager newbie, the training time will be longer but you can customize their training to tailor-fit your business. Either way, once you’ve found your great new hire, make sure you do your best to hold on to them by making them a respected and valued team member, paying them accordingly and empowering them to do the job they were hired and trained to do. And before you make your final decision to bring someone onboard, consider one last thing – perhaps THE most important factor…fit. They may be an outstanding, intelligent, hardworking individual, but they also need to fit in with your office and you. NOTE: It’s not only important but veryrealistic to understand that with whomever you bring on board, provide in-depth training to or give access to your extensive book of business, you always run the risk of them jumping to a competitor or taking your customers with them.
- What Tasks – Only YOU know who you need to bring on to help your freight broker business grow. If you know your office needs more help NOW, one of the safest bets and best bang-for-your-buck might be to hire a dispatcher. Hiring a dispatcher will help you cover loads, dispatch drivers, perform check calls, schedule pickup/deliver appointments, send rate confirmations and do carrier due diligence. This will buy you time to invest in customer interaction and relationships which drive all business!
- Business Flexibility – Don’t just decide to bring on another person because you’ve had a crazy week or hectic month. You need to ask yourself if your freight broker business has enough work to keep a new hire busy during slow times or seasonal slumps. Still not sure? The best rule of thumb is not to “think” you might need more staff. If you need to add more staff, believe me, you’ll know without a doubt when it’s time.
- Can You Afford It – Bringing on staff is another out-of-pocket expense for your freight broker business. You definitely don’t want to hire someone only to find out that you can’t afford to keep them! Below, I’ve kept with our hiring a dispatcher scenario to give you an idea of how to go about figuring new employee cost.
- Dispatcher Break-Even Analysis**:
Hourly cost range of $8-$15per hour with an $11.00 average.
$8 per hour = $1,492 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 8.98 loads per month
$9 per hour = $1,680 Employee Monthly Cost/ $166 per load = 10.12 loads per month
$10 per hour = $1,866 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 11.24 loads per month
$11 per hour = $2,052 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 12.36 loads per month
$12 per hour = $2,080 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 12.53 loads per month
$13 per hour = $2,424 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 14.60 loads per month
$14 per hour = $2,612 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 15.73 loads per month
$15 per hour = $2,799 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 16.86 loads per month
NOTE: The amount of $166 was used because that is the average agent commission per load at LDi over the past 12 months. **Employee costs are an estimate that includes related costs such as payroll taxes, benefits, tools, equipment and small supplies needed to perform their job.
- Ask yourself how long would it take to increase your load count by 8.98 to 16.86 loads per month if you could spend 3-5 more hours per day selling to your existing customers and calling on new customers.
- Would it take 1, 2, maybe even 3 months? Now ask yourself if the investment is worth it? The decision or indecision to grow is yours but always remember, “If you’re not growing you’re shrinking…you just don’t know it yet”!
- Growing Pains – You can’t bring on more people to your freight broker business without incurring additional overhead costs, not to mention compensation. More people in your office mean the need for additional equipment (phones, computers, printers, desks, chairs, headsets, etc.) and potentially more space, depending on if your current office space allows for additional bodies and equipment. You might need to move your business to a new and bigger space or location, which could mean additional (and costlier) expenses, such as utilities, rent/lease, parking, etc. Also, whether you bring on someone seasoned or not, you will still need to train them for their position as well as acclimate them to your business model and office procedures. This is another often overlooked expense when bringing on a new hire and, although the figure varies with each individual, your time is valuable and has a price. In addition, once they are fully functioning, you will still need to take additional time out of your daily schedule to monitor their activities and make yourself available to them for questions and guidance as needed.
One final note, it’s good to remember the old adage, “With great power, comes great responsibility” or the sage advice that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Now that you’ve decided to bring on one or more individuals into your freight broker business, you need to recognize your own new role within your company. You will need to adjust your mentality from being a one-man-band to being a leader as well as a team player. You will need to be the epitome of patience as you and your new hire(s) become acquainted to you, your business, your office space and additional staff, if applicable. You will need to trust them and turn over certain tasks…something you may not be comfortable with or used to doing. But, it’s up to you to invest in them and develop a strong team atmosphere. It will take time, but it can be done through honesty, transparency, trust, communication and by recognizing individual accomplishments and identifying and rewarding specific milestones or achievements. Once implemented, these actions will create happy workers by instilling loyalty, inspiring work satisfaction and helping to cement a long and happy professional relationship between you and your staff. And as we all know…happy workers are productive workers! In fact, new research suggests we are more productive and work more effectively, creatively, and collaboratively when we’re happy at work…TWELVE PERCENT more productive, to be exact!
Still unsure if you should expand your freight broker business and take on a new hire? Then, chances are, you’re probably not ready. But, if you firmly believe you are, hopefully this post provided some good insight to help you start the process. To learn more on the challenges and solutions for growing a successful freight broker business, watch our insightful workshop video, “Successful Freight Broker Agent Strategies and Techniques for Growing Your Business”, presented by a top LDi Agent http://bit.ly/1L2SwGK, where he goes into detail about his own brokerage’s growing pains and how he not only overcame them but grew to be a multi-million-dollar freight broker business.
If you have any additional suggestions on how to overcome the fear of expanding a freight broker business, I’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!
The only thing constant is change and in order to build a successful and sustainable freight broker business you need to embrace diversification.
Diversification. The word tends to strike fear in the hearts of entrepreneurs and business owners alike, for two reasons: To implement, it means that your business must undergo changes and consequently growing pains or choosing not to diversify means you run the risk of going under if you lose one or two or your largest customers. However, if done right, freight brokers and freight agents that choose to diversify can see their freight broker business and income grow as they expand their scope of business and reach out into untapped territories. This helps to add new customers to your client base as well as give you fresh opportunity to service your current customers in new ways!
Without a doubt, the reasons to diversify will always outweigh the reasons not to diversify your freight broker business. The question is how. Here are some options to help you explore ways to diversify:
1. Grow Your Customer Base: A good rule of thumb for freight brokers is when your freight broker business gets 10% of business coming from a single company or a certain industry – it’s time to expand your client base. The loss of that customer could be crippling. Focus on getting three new contacts a day and make that your daily challenge. HELPFUL TIP: Think above your competition by utilizing different/varied ways to grow your business. Try LinkedIn – using the search function in LinkedIn can help you with targeted searches that narrow your results to provide you with more accurate leads to potential customers. Get Referrals – reach out to your vendors, associates and customers to turn a cold-call into a “warm call” and gain an instant conversation opener.
2. Expand Your Services: Every freight broker and every freight broker business needs to continually evolve or old habits and routines will cause you to overlook opportunities and potential threats that surround you every day. To expand your freight broker business, try branching out into other business sectors (lumber, bottled water, produce, etc.) and adding additional modes such as LTL, Flatbed, rail, ocean, etc. (note: margins for a full load are at about 10%-20%, compared to the 20%-35% for a partial truckload) or simply try asking your customer for more lanes. The benefits to expanding your current services would help to offset seasonal setbacks or customer supply fluctuations. HELPFUL TIP: Some factoring companies can provide you with credit ratings and analysis on shippers that will give you a better idea on whether your freight broker business should take on a potential customer or not.
3. Utilize Social Media as a TOOL (not a distraction): The use of social media for your freight broker business, such as LinkedIn, can be a valuable tool to promote your services. You can utilize their search functions to find similar businesses like your top customer. Try to join groups your customers would belong to-NOT other freight brokers-where you can interact and give input that could lead to additional business. A blog is a great platform to showcase your knowledge and experiences, promote your services and even establish yourself as an industry leader! HELPFUL TIP: Content is always, ALWAYS the most important factor when promoting anything. The second most important factor is contribution. Don’t just post and post and post and post content. People will get tired of your one dimensional activity. Take the time to visit your groups regularly and offer valuable feedback or comments. Don’t forget to respond to any comments or feedback others leave on -your- posts and/or blog. Not just interaction but timelyinteraction speaks to your credibility and genuine connectivity to others and always be professional.
4. Have a Contingency Plan: As diversification quickly becomes the latest powerful way to grow and expand your business and proving to be a must for long-term success, it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place so that your business can still function during any unexpected turbulence that is especially likely in the volatile world of the transportation industry where a freight broker business is constantly at the mercy of the economy, capacity and the weather. HELPFUL TIP: When creating a contingency plan, identify your key risks (loss of customer/revenue, weather fluctuations, technical disaster, etc.), prioritize those risks then you can decide what you will do to resume business in case one of the disruptive scenarios takes place. Your plan should basically answer these three questions: What could happen? What will we do in response? What can we do in advance to prepare?
Need a little kick in the pants to help you jump on the diversification wagon? Imagine walking into work tomorrow morning and your phone is flashing. It’s a voice mail from your biggest customer and they’re letting you know that they’re sorry but they’ve decided to switch to another freight broker. Motivated yet? I thought so…Now get growing!
BONUS: Want to know more techniques that will save you time, increase your income and grow your customer base? Get our free report, “Top 10 Ways Freight Brokers/Agents Can Increase Their Income” that outlines specific ways every truck broker, freight broker or freight agent can implement to INCREASE THEIR INCOME IMMEDIATELY.