Landing Accounts as a Freight Broker

As you may know if you’ve popped around the Written Dynamics website, my full time career is in logistics. More specifically, I’m a freight broker.

If you didn’t know, a freight broker is essentially a middle man for shippers and trucking companies. Some businesses move so much freight that they don’t have time to book, schedule, track, and deal with any unforeseen circumstances during the life of a load – so, lots will use people like us.

I see myself as an extension of my customer’s business. Some companies will have in-house brokers whose sole job is to book trucks for freight they need to move. Others will find a brokerage and work with an individual broker, essentially outsourcing their logistics. That’s what I do.

The difficult part is not booking trucks, it’s not scheduling trucks, it’s not tracking trucks, it’s finding businesses who need trucks.

Any company who is moving freight already has some sort of system to source their trucks.

There are a few ways that companies will go about moving their freight.

-They own their own trucks and employ drivers

-Their customers or vendors supply transportation to them and price the cost into orders being shipped

-They’ll use a company like UPS or FedEx for small packages (also known as less-than-truckload or LTL freight)

-They’ll go directly to trucking companies, or carriers

-They’ll use brokers

For my particular role we are in charge of finding new business opportunities. The main resource to finding these new opportunities is the internet.

You can go on google maps and find industrial parks or any kind of big building that looks to have shipping and receiving docks.

You can utilize websites like ZoomInfo and filter by industry, revenue, location, and even job titles of the individuals working at companies.

Outside of the internet, you can keep an eye out for businesses you drive by which have docks on the side of their building.

And then you can also reach out to people you may know who are shipping things at their job – this is usually the best way to get in, but can be difficult to find opportunities.

The most common way we land new business is by cold calling. The problem is that cold calling doesn’t really excite anyone, and nobody ever wants to be cold called. So, you have to make it fun.

When you call a business, one of two things is going to happen.

You’re going to get a directory of options to choose from. Usually some combination of accounting, sales, operations, shipping and receiving, purchasing, human resources, and operator.

Or, you’re going to be directly connected to a receptionist.

I think the best tactic is to select “operator” or be connected to a receptionist.

These are the people you want to have fun with, because they’re going to decide whether they’ll let you through to the person you really want to speak with.

One thing to understand is that these people answering the phone, also known as gate keepers, are being called by dozens of freight brokers every single day.

And they usually tell you the shipping manager is at lunch, in a meeting, away from their desk. One of my favorite things to say to this, especially if you’ve called multiple times and they’re never available, is “Is that what Jim tells you to say to all the people calling about transportation?”

This allows you and the person on the other side to shed a layer. It tends to ease things and make both people realize this is an open conversation. You’re basically saying, “Listen, I know you get called a lot about this, but I’m just looking to see if there’s an opportunity to compete for some business.” Or you can even say that!

I think being as transparent as possible with whoever you’re speaking with is very important. You want to establish and maintain trust worthiness with the companies you approach.

And part of establishing that is being genuine and not beating around the bush. When you ask for the transportation department without any reason, it’s completely obvious why you’re calling.

So step 1 to landing new business as a freight broker: Break the ice with the gate keeper, and get some information from them about their logistics operation. Once they stop knowing the answers to your questions, you can ask to get through to whoever’s in charge. If whoever is in charge doesn’t answer, leave a message, call back, and ask the gate keeper for an email. You’ve already gotten farther than probably 50% of people who call them.

The next part is where things get tricky. First, you need to actually get a hold of the decision maker. Sometimes, it can take 10 calls or 10 emails before you get a response. And when you finally do get that response, especially on the phone, you’ve got to be on.

But let’s say you get them on the phone the first time. One of my favorite things to say, is “Hey Jim, I was just speaking with Lisa (another tip: always get the gate keepers name) and she told me you’re the guy to speak with about transportation, is that right?”

If they aren’t the person to speak with, find out who is. Once you have someone, I like to ask two basic questions.

First, “Are you moving your freight as full truck loads” (or FTL). This just means it’s only their product going on the truck. Where as LTL is putting multiple small packages on a truck (think UPS and FedEx)

I ask this first because if they only do LTL freight, it’s not something I’m going to be able to help with. I want to find opportunities where I can offer solutions or compete with current solutions being provided.

So if they do move their freight as full truck loads, I’ll then ask them “Okay great, that’s my bread and butter. Now how do you source trucks for those FTL shipments.”

Again, common responses are: Customer/Vendor routed, own trucks, direct to carriers, in-house brokers, or out-source to brokers.

I want to hear that they work with brokers. I’ll then ask how many, and that sweet zone to me is 2-5. This means they have enough freight to go around to multiple people, but not too many to where it’s just a price war.

Once I know the prospect moves FTL freight and works with brokers, I can then start asking about common lanes, commodities they ship, volume, and any other questions you can think of to know more about their logistics operation and business as a whole.

I would say you then want to try and connect with the induvial a little bit. Make your phone call memorable by cracking a joke or making on-topic small talk. Leave an impression.

When it’s time to get them off the phone, ask for their email. And then ask if they have a shipment coming up you can quote them on. If they say no, ask for a recent shipment they paid for and if you can get them a quote to compare numbers.

This is what I’d consider to be a picture-perfect process for prospecting potential new business.

However, you’re not going to land the account on the first phone call.

So this is where organizational skills come in.

For me, I have a quota of 60 calls per day. At the end of the week, there’s no way in hell I’m remembering al 300 conversations.

It’s important to keep notes of individuals you spoke with and the details of your conversation. When you follow up, you won’t be asking the same questions. You can keep the ball moving forward to land that account and get reoccurring business which is the ultimate goal.

So, in summary, there are a few steps to landing a new account:

  1. Make nice with the gatekeeper. They are holding the information you need about the business and about who it is to speak with about becoming a carrier.
  2. Have specific questions for the point of contact so you can understand if your services are a good fit for their business
    1. Are you moving your freight as LTL or FTL?
    1. How are you sourcing your trucks?
      1. How many brokers?
      1. Common Lanes?
      1. Volume?
  3. Crack a joke or make on topic small talk with the point of contact to make the phone call memorable. This can also give you something to go back to when you follow up.
  4. Ask for an email and shipment to quote in the email.
  5. Be organized. Keep track of who you spoke with, when you spoke to them, and what you spoke about.
  6. Be persistent.

This could be a formula to follow for any sales gig, but this is how I landed 15 accounts in my first six months of sales.