Whether you're new to the industry and just received your authority, or have been working in it for years, either way this question is always at the top of mind for freight brokers. How do you get customers? In this blog we'll talk about getting customers as a freight broker and the process you can put in place to do it over and over again.
How freight brokers get customers is also referred to as the act of prospecting. Defined as the first step in the sales process, which consists of identifying potential customers, aka prospects. The goal of prospecting is to develop a database of potential customers and then systematically communicate with them in the hopes of converting them from potential to active customers.
Freight Brokers use prospecting to expand the size of their sales funnel. They’ll reach out to leads (potential shipper contacts) and nurture them into “opportunities” (leads who have been warmed up over time). There are various sales prospecting techniques, from making calls to sending emails, trade shows, and connecting on LinkedIn.
For each prospect your are going to speak with and try to build rapport with, you will also be simultaneosly evaluating whether they are also a fit to be your customer. For instance, you should have your qualifying questions on hand to determine this as fast as possible. Remember, you'll have to go through hundreds of leads to bring on a few active customers. So weeding out the prospects is just as important as making progress with the qualified shippers.
When I'm qualifying a prospect, they need to ship at least 25+ full truck loads per week. And are working with a broker or have worked with one before. That's enough for me to spend more time discussing their operations. Why over 25 truck loads per week? Because that's about the capacity of one dispatcher or load planner to be able to handle by themselves. As soon as you get over that, when you take into consideration missed pickups and carrier fall outs, they'll need a brokerage's flexibility to maintain a decent on time % for their customers.
Let's say you're on a prospecting call and you know they ship at least that volume.
Next work on building rapport, being conversational, and really listening to what they are saying. Try to relax and don't feel rushed to say everything you want to at first. Empathize with their objections and talk abut non business stuff if you can. Be yourself as much as possible.
Next will be asking operational questions. Not interrogating them by firing off question after questions. Try to learn the basics of how they operate as a company. Who are the decision makers, how many loads per week this time of year, is this their busy season or slow season, which lanes do they ship often, what is their current mix of brokers and asset companies? Have a list of these questions in front of you when you're calling. This should get you started. Add additional questions to your list as you find ones that work better for you.
Now we'll be uncovering challenges, issues, frustrations or concerns. I always take the positive approach to uncovering challenges. For instance, if I ask Nate who we all know is a proud Buffalo Bills fan what he really likes about the team this year, I'm sure he'll have plenty of positive things to say. And I'm sure if I asked him what else he likes about this year's team enough times, he'll eventually run out of positives things to say? And do you think he'll eventually tell me some things he's unhappy about? He will. Everyone does, it's just human nature.
And why do we suggest this approach over directly asking if they are having issues? Well, if someone called you out of the blue that you never spoke to before and started asking about all the things going wrong at your job. How would you feel about it? Right.
Ok, so let's assume we now have a prospect we've spoken to 3 or 4 times. We know they ship 30 ftl's a week and are currently using brokers. They've expressed some frustrations about some difficult shipping lanes. They said it's hard finding trucks last minute on some of their less frequent lanes. What do we say now?
Challenge questions. Once you've isolated a frustration or something they care about, then you can ask some of the following. How long has this been an issue? What have you done to resolve it? Did that work? Is this having an impact of your business? Ball park, what do you think this has cost you over the last few weeks?
If you noticed, they are designed to highlight and add some color to the you guessed it, challenges the prospect is facing. The more they are relieving and feeling them the better.
Which brings us to consequence questions. These are designed to highlight what would happen if the challenges you just discussed don't get addressed. The cost of doing nothing or inaction. Remember, they need to be the consequences of the specific challenge the prospect faces. It won't make any sense if you ask them about the consequences to a challenge they don't have.
What does it do to your customers schedule when you push delivery times back? What happens when carriers don't let you know that they will be late or have issues? Are you personally held responsible for the trucks that you book on loads? What would happen if you were unable to find a truck during your busy season? If your current carriers continue delivering late, how will this impact your business? How will it affect you personally?
Now that we've brought the prospect to a place where they feel the consequences of these challenges and frustrations the next step is to present solutions. This should not be forced and should feel as if it's a natural progression of your conversation. For example: Jimmy, if I'm hearing you right, not only are these late and missed pickups effecting your customers and your company's reputation, but you are also personally losing your monthly bonus because it's one of your key performance indicators? Wow…… long pause. If we could demonstrate better on time %'s and improved communication, would you be willing to give us an opportunity to move a trial shipment? Then nothing. Silence until the other person speaks.
That's it. This is the path that every prospect will follow more or less. Some will be fast and you may be able to achieve this over 4-6 calls. Larger prospects it will usually be longer 12-14 calls and discussions. The average touches it takes to turn a prospect into an active customer is between 8-12 over 1-3 months. The Walmarts and Targets of the world will be closer to 12-16 months or longer.
For more tips and training be sure to watch our weekly podcast on our channel and check out the description for links to group and private coaching.