Cold Calling. It’s the one thing that intimidates many new freight brokers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you know how to handle a cold call and what questions to ask, you’re way more prepared than that typical novice freight broker, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
Don’t Be Scripted
As a disclaimer to this advice, I want to remind you that each and every one of us has a different sounding voice, a different pitch, a different way we emphasize certain words, we just talk differently. This is why I think scripts can make you sound robotic. They take your natural way of speaking and force it into something else. For this same reason, put your own spin on these questions that we’re going to cover here. There’s a bunch of different ways to ask these questions, and it’ll be up to you to figure out what you are most comfortable with, and what feels the most natural to you. So play around with these and have fun fine-tuning your cold calling.
“What Lanes Are You Shipping Right Now?”
It’s really important to understand what lanes the shipper is currently operating in. You’re going to need to find trucks for them, so you’ll need to understand how easy or tough it can be to secure a truck in that specific lane. You’ll also want to get an idea of how the market rates have changed in the recent weeks and months as well as any seasonal shifts in that lane. In addition to the lane, make sure you clarify the equipment type, and take it a step further to see if there are any other equipment type options. For example, if it’s a 20 foot shipment, can it be partialled on a dry van, run as LTL, or even on a box truck? Asking these questions shows that you are thinking creatively for the shipper, and not just trying to get their business.
“What’s the Biggest Challenge You’re Facing?”
There’s a lot of ways to ask this one, but the key here is to reveal opportunities for you to help the shipper out. This could be a single shipment that the shipper is having a hard time moving, it could be issues they’re having with existing brokers or carriers in their network, or high claims on a certain product that they ship. Either way, when you ask this question, shut up and listen to what they have to say. It’s not uncommon for a shipper to go on and on about what’s going wrong. Think of it this way, the smoother their shipments go, the smoother their job is as the person that tenders the freight out. If brokers and carriers have reliable service, reasonable rates, and good communication, the shipper's job is pretty simple. The reality of the matter is that usually isn’t the case. There’s usually something that needs to be tweaked. Sometimes it’s rates, sometimes it’s on-time pickups and deliveries, and sometimes it’s just being able to find a truck on a Friday afternoon regardless of the price.
“What Are Your Job Responsibilities?”
Now it might sound weird to ask this question, and you’re going to want to phrase it in a way that sounds more natural when you weave it into the conversation. The point here is that you want to understand a few things. Is this person the actual person that can tender me a load? Is this person the actual person that can set me up as a new broker for their company? Is this person an actual decision maker? You can have an hour long great call with someone but imagine this. Imagine you ask them how to get set up at the end of the call, and they tell you “Oh, that’s not me, that’s John over in the traffic department.” Yikes. Time wasted.
In addition to understand their job role, it’s good to know three key players in the company. First know who their boss is in case you need their approval or blessing to get onboarded. Second, know who their backup is when they are out of office. This could be someone on the same level as them, above them or below them. Lastly, know who their subordinate is if they have one. Chances are, people will get promoted at some point and their subordinate might slide into their job down the road. Plant those seeds now, and you’ll thank yourself later.
The Non-Business Related Questions
Lastly, don’t forget that shippers do business with people they know, like, and trust. Get to know them and ask some fun questions to better know what kind of person they are. What are they doing this weekend? Do they have kids or a pet? Who is their sports team? What kind of music do they listen to? You can easily warm up a call at the beginning with some light questions and close up a good call the same way. A customer will remember how you made them feel on a call more than what you said, so try to leave a lasting impact.
Good luck cold calling!