Prospecting for shippers and acquiring customers are some of the more challenging tasks that freight brokers/agents/sales reps can face.
In the world of logistics, there are so many options and competitors trying to undercut your rates that it makes retaining profits on the loads extremely difficult, which is only half the battle. There is also the bidding process, where you want to provide the most competitive rate you can with a carrier that can provide service your company can take pride in.
Just because the freight market is competitive, doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed — try out this strategies for building relationships with shippers!
1. Work On Your Warm Market First
Your warm market is just referring to anyone that you used to or currently interact with that can help contribute to your ability to secure relationships with shippers. They could be family, friends, or even old co-workers. The biggest way they can be of service to you is if they are or can put you in front of the decision maker.
Granted, just cause your cousin works as a Part-Time Retail Associate for Wal-Mart doesn’t mean that they are going to be a strong advocate for you to secure the retail giant as your customer. Wal-Mart is a logistics behemoth and relies on moving tens of thousands of trucks per day.
You would need to know someone that’s in management or at an executive level that oversees their logistics division of the company. Then they can recommend your services for the next time they need a quote or a truck for a specific lane.
If you know of with the job title of any of the following, they may have a hand in the shipping process for their organization or company:
Supply Chain Manager
Those who are in these positions will often be involved with moving shipments for their respective employers and can try and help you get your foot in the door with moving their freight.
2. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
When you’re out and about, pay attention to the location of local industrial buildings and warehouses. Any company located in industrial centers usually have space for warehouse units to allow for receiving and shipping materials (especially if the business is in manufacturing or distribution).
Once you find out who these companies are, start conducting your research on what type of freight they are shipping, what capacity they need, what lanes they run, and who is involved with the supply chain/logistics in their business.
Once you make contact with the representative of their company, it’s best to find out where they are having difficulties in their supply chain. Don’t let them convince you that they have no gaps in their supply chain, because that is a straight up lie.
There has definitely been a time where a shipment has been delayed, delivered late, or their company has received poor customer service during the transit process. It may require some digging and some rapport building, but with persistence, you should be able to get the customer to open up about their shortcomings.
When they do, you can offer them your services to try and fill those gaps and make their shipping operation run smoother than ever.
3. Use the Internet
The internet is a remarkable tool for information gathering and networking with other industry professionals through social networking websites/apps.
If you have capacity for moving furniture and you’re well-versed in that market, then you could simply search for “furniture companies in San Diego, CA" or whatever the name of your respective city. The list of companies that appear in the search engine is now your new list of prospects. Start contacting them via phone, email, or in person to see if you can earn their business.
You might be thinking, there's no way it's that easy. In which case, you'd be right. The work of prospecting is simple but not easy. It could take 200 phone calls before you’re able to get in touch with someone who agrees to give you a shipment on the spot — if at all.
As I stated earlier, you'll need to get in touch with the right person (the decision maker) if you want to close business right then and there.
4. Become a Specialist in Capacity/Commodity
Become a master at moving a specific type of freight (i.e. apparel, heavy machinery, produce, etc.)
Companies will appreciate the fact that you’re already running lanes of a similar variety, which will make your abilities stand out. By having extensive background with certain lanes or commodities, you can typically charge higher rates, given you have that sort of relationship with your customer.
They would rather pay a bit more to ship with you knowing that their freight will get their on time and with no issues. Since you have relationships with carriers who run these types of lanes, you can get the shipper quotes faster and potentially even offer them lesser rates to remain competitive with the rest of the market.
The easier you make the process for them, the more likely they are to want to work with you over another company that doesn’t have the experience with those lanes.
5. Pursue the Destination
A good way to get in contact with customers is to call either way the location of where a shipment is getting picked up or delivered.
For example, if there are goods being transported from Oakland to Long Beach, then rest assured, there are goods coming into the port that is going to require shipping as well.
If you call with enough frequency, then you will eventually come across a load that needs to be moved.
6. Generate Referrals
There is no more honest way of increasing your market penetration than through referrals. But why are referrals important?
It is like rewarding you for continuously going above and beyond for others, without any agenda. Over time, customers will naturally begin to refer you to other companies as their source of quality shipping.
You can also target companies that you have picked up loads from, once the transaction is completed.
7. Use Social Media
Social media platforms are extremely under-utilized in the freight and logistics industry. However, people need to realize that social media can be a great way to communicate with or gather information on shippers, potentially resulting in obtaining another customer.
This, among several other reasons, explain why social media is a staple in any logistics business marketing strategy. (Click here to read more about social media and its role in logistics)
Most companies will usually indicate what line of work they are in on their profile, which will provide you with greater insight as to whether or not they are a good prospect for a potential shipper. If you determine they are doing some form of shipping, you can send them a direct message to introduce yourself and inquire about their shipping needs.
In addition to directly reaching out to consumers, developers have created dynamic social media management tools to optimize outreach, manage customer relationships, and improve engagement with their audience.
8. Go Door-to-Door
You can never go wrong with the old school B2B door-to-door sales approach. Customers tend to respond better anyways when there is a physical presence in front of them, versus trying to respond via email or phone.
When faced with the challenge of walking into a business unannounced, it is imperative to allow yourself the opportunity to be told "yes" or "no".
Attempt to identify who the decision maker is and be sure you're making your presentation to that person. Once you have solidified a meeting with the customer, there are some sales protocols you'll want to adhere to if you want to increase the odds of you closing business.
Bring a customer packet with you in the rare case that they do agree to do business with you on the first visit.
In case of the inability to do business after the first meeting, be sure to exchange contact information. There is always a chance that they may require your services at a later point and time.
9. Customer Credit Reference Sheet
Often customers will provide a credit reference sheet to ensure the broker that they have a track record of paying on time and in the correct amount in previous transactions.
As long as you received these contacts in an ethical manner, you may reach out to these contacts and mention you were referred by that company because of your existing positive relationship with them throughout your time servicing their logistics needs.
If they respond positively, see if they themselves have any shipments that they would be willing to let you move.
10. Find Out What's Waiting
If you already have shipments going out to a location, see if there’s anything else that needs to be transported out of that location. They’ll get a better rate considering you’re already dropping off shipments in that general location.
Not only that, you'll be putting additional money in your driver's pocket. They'll be happy about that and maybe cut you some slack on the next load you book with them