No man is an island and nowhere is that more true than in the freight broker business. Your continued viability will depend on a deep database of shippers, carriers, and other freight brokers. But if you’re fresh out of freight broker training school, connecting with the right people in getting your first clients can be pretty difficult.
These days, finding any kind of job—whether salaried or a commission-basis position—through the conventional, cold-calling way yields few desirable results. Six out of 10 jobs are mostly filled through networks and the recommendations of people that you know that’s why expanding your reach is very important if you want to have a thriving brokering business. Plus, networking leads to more profitable customers, more dependable carriers and more productive alliances in this industry.
So how will you find the stakeholders and influencers who can help you establish and keep your freight brokerage firm thriving?
Learn from the five pillars of effective networking to create these fruitful relationships in your sphere.
1. Get out there and meet people.
If you stay in your office the whole day and wait for the right people to come to you, then your license will end up in the cold bin of “inactive license” statistics. Tap into your network’s networks—family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and business associates, to name a few. Attend trade shows, exhibits, expos, conferences, conventions, and meetups. Participate in professional associations and special interest clubs. Face-to-face engagement is still the most reliable way of getting in touch with new contacts.
However, chatting up a stranger in an industry seminar you’re attending can be quite scary. Small talk is one weapon in the savvy networker’s arsenal that gets used often in these situations. Discuss the weather with someone between coffee breaks or ask your seatmate where s/he’s from. From there, you can progress to a more permanent association.
Remember to meet new acquaintances on their own terms though. While some may be comfortable engaging in small talk right off the bat, others may prefer an introduction through a friend. How will you know? Usually, facial expressions and body language can signal a person’s openness to engage. A smile or a “Howdy!” allows interactions but crossed arms and avoiding your eyes mean they want to be left alone.
2. Adopt the “How can I help you?” perspective not the “What can you do for me?” style.
When approaching new contacts, think about what you can contribute to help them achieve their goals. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I help this person?
- Do I know someone who can help him?
- Will this person be helpful to someone I know?
- How will this person fit my network?
While your networking end goal is to grow your client and carrier base, connecting with people just for that purpose is counter-intuitive. People have built-in radars for coattail riders—they may humor you at first but this is a one-way relationship that won’t flourish for long. In business as in life, reciprocity is always good karma. People never forget favors you’ve done for them and they’ll want to return it to you quickly.
Make yourself accessible and available to someone in your network who needs your expertise, your knowledge, your skills or your connections. Answer questions. Provide feedback. Link friends with each other. The goodwill that you’ve spread about will translate into a wealth of connections that you can tap in the future.
3. Nurture the relationships you’ve created.
Now that you’ve made new contacts, don’t let their business cards gather dust in your address book, rolodex or Outlook folder. Keep in touch through phone calls, email, group meets, impromptu lunch breaks and the like so that you’re always aware of what’s happening to everybody in your network.
Don’t be shy to discuss with them what you’re trying to achieve in your business. This way, you stay in the forefront of their minds. When they need a freight broker to take care of their or their contacts’ loads, you’ll exactly be at the right place and at the right time to provide the service.
4. Model the lessons of others who’ve gone before you.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when growing your freight brokerage business. Chances are somebody else has already achieved the goals which you’ve set out for yourself. If you want to earn $100,000 monthly, search the industry for people who did just that. Follow the steps they’ve taken to that six-figure monthly income.
If you want to become an industry influencer, look for the movers and shakers, and get yourself into their network. Find these mentors and role models—you don’t need to be coached formally. Informal discussions and get-togethers usually elicit the kind of information that you’ll never find elsewhere.
You can also read the books they’ve written and listen to interviews they’ve made. There’s always a wealth of resources you can access on these successful individuals that you want to learn from.
5. Leverage virtual networks in your networking activities.
Marketers are the ones who’re profiting the most from the Internet. The World Wide Web has made it possible for them to connect to their customers directly and promote their wares while keeping costs down. Through social media you, too, can find relevant partnerships and alliances to effectively and efficiently reach and sell to your customers.
A fantastic way to build your online network is to make connections with other freight brokers by using LinkedIn. You can also use tools like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Quora, Yahoo Answers, blogs, forums, photo-sharing networks, question & answer boards, and other social networking sites to find new contacts, make the initial connection and keep in touch. Rinse and repeat frequently to steadily build your network.
Incorporate these five pillars of effective networking in your daily routine so that it becomes a habit. In the long term, making new contacts and establishing solid relationships with people from the industry will become second nature. And that is something that you can’t learn just from attending freight broker training alone.