Relationships matter. Even in today’s fast paced and high-tech environment, relationships continue to have a crucial impact on freight brokering. Agents that establish a strategic relationship with customers and carriers will often have the most business growth and long-term sustainability with their book of business. As a freight agent you may ask yourself many questions such as, “Do I have a solid relationship with each of with my customers? What about the carriers I use? How integrated am I? What keeps the competition from penetrating my existing book of business or keeps me from new opportunities?” Asking yourself the following questions could strengthen the relationship with your customers and set you apart from the competition.
#1. Do I know what areas of performance my customer values most for their business?
Obviously good communication while coordinating shipping loads with your customers is a foundational component for establishing strategic relationships. Each customer is different in setup, commodities, processes and preferences for how they want to do business. It’s important to ask each customer questions that will help discover what critical aspects matter to them and what you can do to stand out in your performance with them.
As an agent, if you can strive to understand what key performance indicators (KPIs) your customer is looking for and how they are measuring you and your competitors, this can provide critical areas of focus for you.
#2. Am I utilizing the resources my sponsor offers me to strengthen my strategic relationships with my customers?
What if you could have someone with extensive years of industry experience work with you on your business goals and needs? Someone who would be a critical business consultant, who on a regular basis could update you with the latest market trends, offer best practice solutions, ask questions about your business that help define goals and initiatives. This is a key part of what a business development coach (BDC) does for you. Your 3PL sponsor will have someone who works with you as a BDC on a regular basis and knowing who your coach is, and meeting regularly with them to talk through challenges you may be experiencing with your customers and shipping loads, is important. If you are not utilizing this valuable resource, doing so could be a game changer for you in your day to day tasks and overall performance of your book of business.
A BDC can help you position yourself to be a great value and industry partner for your customer. Not only will a coach help you perform at a higher level, but they will educate you on industry best practic and techniques that will strengthen the value you can bring to your customers. BDCs are connected to agents and industry resources that not everyone has access to. Further, they have a vast amount experience and valuable data available to them. Because of this they tend to have a great pulse on what brokers in the freight industry are currently doing to succeed and meet ongoing challenges.
#3- How can I best utilize the 3PL’s national sales team for sales support?
You may not always be able to make a personal visit to every one of your customers for multiple reasons, but your 3PL should have a national sales team that can visit. This team works under your direction, and you may also join them on visits or even send them on your behalf. The national sales team can also provide years of experience in contract sales and the industry background to win new contract business for you. In most cases, the 3PL sales rep will coordinate the planned messaging with you as well as bring important data to help your customer realize the capacity and level of support available to them from the 3PL. Sometimes they just drop off donuts, some fun company swag, and always express appreciation for their continued business.
The national sales team representative will sell the customer on the value of using you as their freight agent and highlight things they are seeing in the current freight industry, and solutions that could help you earn more business. These actions almost always result in increased business for you. Additionally, you can rest assured that you can use this service to coordinate a visit to the customer(s) of your choice with a message you feel is best for them. The value of having a sales team to represent your company and the 3PL you do business with provides a tailor-made sales approach that is a great way to enhance customer relationships.
#4-Would I be able to be more integrated if I shipped in multiple modes for my customer?
Agents often focus on one mode of transportation in their business. While it’s important to do a great job in the mode you specialize in, it is also important to set yourself apart from the competition and become integrated with your customers’ business. By offering multiple modes you will establish yourself in some of the following ways.
1-Customer convenience: The customer can look to you as a “one stop shop” to take care of all of their freight needs.
2- Creative Solutions: By utilizing several modes, you can offer the customer creative multi-mode solutions to complicated logistical challenges and offer more competitive pricing.
3-Intergraded Programs: Customers like simplicity and convenience and often the different modes come with transportation management systems (TMS) that integrate with the customers business, making it easy to ship with you.
It’s much more difficult to capture a larger market share a of a customer’s business when a competitor is integrated with both TMS systems and multimode services. Having a 3PL sponsor that has an effective parcel, less-than-truckload and full truckload program is important.
When it comes to running a top-notch business, it’s always important to understand what it will take to perform better for your customers. Be sure you ask yourself these questions with each customer interaction so you can deliver the best experience possible and build strategic relationships that last.
The England Logistics Freight Agent Program provides companies with information and tools to expand and allow them to manage their business. Backed by the England Logistics brand, participating agents enjoy increased market visibility and established business connections. Our dedicated team also delivers consistent support for day-to-day operations. This allows freight agents to expand their portfolio while reinforced by a reliable team.