As a new broker, you’re going to do some cold calling.
The tried and true method of connecting with potential customers hasn’t gone out of style, but you can’t go into it without the proper prep work. Let’s talk about what all needs to happen before you hop on the phone.
Pick your spot
Prospecting is a critical skill for any sales professional, and as a freight broker, you’re now a sales professional. Congratulations.
Before you begin cold calling, sit down and identify where in the market you want to begin your business. Don’t just call anyone anywhere, pick either a region of the country, a specific market, or a particular industry to focus your prospecting. This makes things simpler, whereas casting a wide net may leave you a bit disoriented or spread thin. Aim small, miss small.
With your business targets set, spend time crafting an image for your company. The strength of your brand will pay dividends as you grow, as your level of service will directly affect your brand’s reputation. Take time now to make sure you have a website, company name, a professional email address, and optionally, a presence on LinkedIn. Get yourself a bank account and an LLC set up if you choose.
Before your call
Once you’ve identified where you’re going to prospect and who you’re going to call, you’ll need a load board. We’re partial to our own DAT One, the industry-standard load board. There, you’ll need to do some research, because you can’t hop on a call with a shipper empty-handed. If you can’t talk specifics about rates or current capacity conditions, you won’t be able to have a meaningful conversation.
So, for your potential customer, use tools within DAT One to see what it will cost you to get a truck. Then take a peek at market conditions to understand any region’s state of supply and demand (how many loads are available vs trucks available).
Once you’ve done the preliminary market research, don’t call without having a value proposition. As a new broker beginning their book of business, a common strategy is offering a more affordable rate than the market. Assuming you have few or no customers at this point, you are also a solo operation. Don’t view that as a negative. Flip the script and remind your potential customers they will only have one point of contact if you secure the sale. As an extension of that, you’ll be able to provide them with white-glove service.
Being a new broker doesn’t necessarily stack the odds against you. You’re more flexible, agile, and open to custom service options. Use that to your advantage to create a unique value proposition to give your prospects.
During the call
Every company is different. For you, this means avoiding some of the freight broker cold-calling scripts you find online. They can’t possibly be well-suited for every shipper customer you call. We prefer to share general guidelines for your call that can be adapted for your prospect and allows breathing room for your personality to shine.
The customer is the hero – After the requisite small talk and you get down to your pitch, make your customer the hero of the story you’re telling. Viewed this way, you may lead with telling them you specialize in their industry, so they’re getting a partner worth trusting. If you have industry connections in common, don’t leave those out. Cater to them and show them how you can help them specifically. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” Your answer is a great place to start the conversation. The very best sales representatives listen first – you need to find out what problems the shipper is up against, then build from there.
Nail your energy and enthusiasm – Whether we want to admit it or not, being likable sells. Do your best to make sure you’re approachable, actively listening, and enthusiastic about helping your customers. It helps to stand up on the call and smile as you speak. Don’t be afraid to walk as you talk, either. It helps keep your energy up. Some sales pros suggest putting a mirror close by so you can always remember to smile while you’re chatting.
Prepare questions – Our friends at Freight 360 suggest the following questions to have ready on your call:
- “Can you share a bit about how your shipping is organized?”
- “How many full loads do you ship a week?”
- “Do you have your own trucks?”
- “When is your busy season?”
- “Do you use outside carriers? What do you like or dislike about them?”
Importantly, these are open-ended questions that will keep the conversation flowing.
Close with confidence – If the conversation has gone well and you feel like you got a good rapport with the customer, ask them for business. A simple “Do you have truckloads I can handle for you?” is all it takes. Customers that ask this straightforward question fare much better than those waiting for an offer to cover loads. Don’t beat around the bush – go for it and secure the sale.
After the Call
If you’re in the business of cold calling, then another old-fashioned, tried and true method should fit nicely in your toolbox: following up. It doesn’t take much. After your call, send an email recapping what you discussed regardless of the call’s outcome – stay in touch whether you secured a sale or not. Keep communication lines open by staying in touch. It’s a great way to solidify a great first impression.
After the call, jot down basic notes about the customer and the details of their conversation. If you didn’t secure a sale, pay special attention to their pain points and apprehensions about working with you. If you did, write down where you think you won them over. Make more notes about the state of their business and what they’re looking for in a brokerage partner. On your next call with them, review these notes beforehand so you know where to start the conversation.
Now reflect on what went well for you. How did your preparation serve you in the call? Could you have prepped more, or did your work before the call pay off? Pay attention to what worked and didn’t work during your call, and use that to refine your approach in future calls.
With these tips, walk into your cold calls with confidence, begin soliciting new business, and start your success story.
The above is an excerpt from Finding Shippers 101, a new guide from DAT showing early-stage brokers how to get off the ground and find customers. Click here to read the full ebook.