For new freight brokers, the prospect of building a steady stream of shippers can be very daunting. There are stories of fresh, eager brokers whose excitement dissipated after a few months of prospecting but getting only one or two shippers whose business were sporadic at best.
Setting up a new freight brokerage and finding customers to keep it viable is always difficult. Freight brokerages aren’t that dissimilar from other businesses—the service might be different, but the way to acquiring a stable base of shippers is the same across any industry: through dogged persistence and a commitment to excellence.
Here are some tips on how to find shippers who can bring in sales month in and month out, to keep your freight brokerage profitable:
1. Make sure that you have a lock on your niche
We’ve previously discussed the importance of targeting a specific niche when you’re starting out as a freight broker. You’ll be able to build your expertise about this particular market, differentiate your business, and create a reliable reputation in the process if you focus on a niche.
2. Search the internet for manufacturers and suppliers in your niche
Once you’ve locked on your niche, finding shippers in your market will be easier. One way that freight brokers do this is through the internet. If you chose a particular market because you’ve had a previous exposure to it, say you worked in that industry for several years, you probably already know the top suppliers and shippers in this space. If that’s not the case, there are several websites that have a comprehensive database of all manufacturers in the country like Solusource.com, Thomasnet.com, Globalspec.com and KellySearch.com. These directories link to the company websites; they even allow you to connect with these suppliers via an email form on the site.
3. Register your company on free and paid freight boards
Grab a membership on these boards by registering your company. You can find shippers with loads looking for carriers on these boards. Free boards let you search their database without paying for membership. Paid sites, however, come with incentives like a credit score—probably the best way to ensure that a shipper or carrier is legitimate.
4. Cold call prospects
Making cold calls is probably the most dreaded part of being a freight broker. There’s nothing like an outright “No” that discourages freight brokers faster than they can get one customer out of 300 shippers they’ve called. The more successful callers had two things going for them: (1) knowing why they called before the call, and (2) knowing about the company they’re calling. It’s rare to achieve success the first time you make that first call so don’t get discouraged. Over time, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t so you can adjust your techniques to be able to acquire new shippers with ease.
Whether you network online through social media or in the real world through attending expos and exhibits, you build business by getting yourself and your freight brokerage out there. There will always be another freight broker who’ll need your assistance later on, another shipper who’ll get tired with his current broker, another carrier who knows people to connect you to and so on.
Establishing your freight brokerage business may require you to put in 50 to 60 hours a week in the first few months. Most of your activities will be spent looking for shippers willing to put their trust in your freight broker skills. If you’re discouraged along the way, keep in mind that it takes time to acquire a number of customers who can give you steady business every month. Once you do, though, firm up relationships with them by providing dependable, timely service; that way, you’ll gain a loyal base of customer for years to come.
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