Romancing the Truck

Romancing the Truck

While the shipper customer drives the top line revenue number of any brokerage operation, it is the ability to source capacity efficiently that drives the profitability of the company. Throughout the industry, the focus on capacity (retention and transactional coverage) is market driven and reactionary.

Building a strong core carrier network is essential regardless of the market situation. While there appears to be a general shortage of trucks (aging population of drivers, ELD compliance, market pressures), it is often just a shortage of trucks available to you. Your network is balanced when the market is balanced, but when the pendulum swings either direction too much, the carriers will depart for more profitable freight elsewhere.

You must understand the carrier’s needs (take the time to ask questions and learn about what drives them and what they are trying to accomplish):

1) Due to the high cost of their operations and assets, carriers are often driven by cash flow needs. (how quickly do you pay? Do you have multiple payment options?)

2) Carriers are comfortable moving within a particular zone of operation. (Does your freight regularly keep them within that zone? If you move them out of the zone, do you provide options to get them back to the zone?)

3) Carriers work with companies that they trust and show them respect. (How do you communicate with carriers? Do you thank them? Do you recognize their efforts? Do you work with them to solve problems or just blame them?)

4) Carriers want consistent utilization for their equipment. (Do you provide regular freight opportunities to the carriers? Do you work with them to identify opportunities that serve you both well?)

Of the thousands of carriers in your network, how many move more than 1 load per month, per week, per day? Having 10000 carriers in your network has little value if they only move your freight when it suits them or when you provide the highest rate.

Leverage your stronger carrier relationships by showing that you are interested in helping them achieve their goals. Report to them how they work with you (metrics, volume, payment history). Learn from them how your company fits their plan and how well you are positioned to retain and expand that relationship.

Often, brokers are the de facto sales force for the carrier so treat the relationship accordingly. Communicate regularly about plans and activities designed to find new freight for their fleet(s). Work in tandem to identify shippers and customers that will support your shared goals.

As pressure from automated brokerage programs continue to undermine the transactional business model, brokers must strengthen their relationships with carriers to compete. Share the love and commitment to your carriers to position your own company for success. Carriers are true partners in growing your brokerage.

More Sales – Less Cold Calling

More Sales – Less Cold Calling

At TranStrategy Partners, we have worked with hundreds of transportation and logistics companies over the years. Sales, or more precisely, a lack of sales, is why many of these companies come to us for assistance.

Sales for 3PLs and freight brokerage companies don’t come easily. The market is crowded; the competition is intense and most companies haven’t differentiated themselves in their prospect’s eyes.

Many 3PLs use cold calling as their main prospecting tool. Smiling and dialing is not efficient or fun, but it is a necessary evil. The equation is simple, grow your sales by hiring more salespeople and pushing them to make lots of phone calls.

There really isn’t any viable alternative – or is there?

“93% of B2B buyers begin their buying process using Internet search.” According to research conducted by Marketo

There is a better way!

Yep, this crazy internet thing might really be here to stay.

93% seems like a huge number, but it passes the sniff test. Think about your last big purchase (home, car, vacation, college, etc.). I bet you began your research online, well before reaching out to an actual person.

Apparently, your potential customer is doing the same thing. They are conducting online research, getting the expert take and then reaching out to the person or company who can best solve their problem.

What a great way to sell, unless of course you aren’t online.

Selling Online Requires a Different Mindset

Once, you have decided to go after the online sales, you quickly realize that it requires a completely different mindset and different skills.

To be successful online, do the following:

  1. Specialize. You must decide on a niche or specialization. Getting some love from Google and Bing is even harder than cold calling. To be found by the search engines, companies must specialize – be known for something. Being found for your specialty will be much easier than being found for something generic like “freight broker” or “truckload.”
  2. Get a great website. Your 10-year old website designed by your niece isn’t going to cut it anymore. To get web traffic, your company is going to need a professional website with good original content. If you are starting from scratch, shoot for at least 30 pages with 300 plus words per page. From there, continue to add pages every month. Size does matter in this case. Google and Bing reward great (big) websites and ignore the rest.
  3. Content marketing. Content marketing like webinars, email marketing, articles, blog posts, white papers, and case studies puts your expertise on display and drives traffic to your website. Remember, people are searching online for experts – not salespeople. Share great content and develop an online following.

The internet offers a great new way to connect with prospective customers and showcase your company’s expertise – embrace it.

Let Us Help You Build the Company You Want

At TranStrategy Partners, we help business owners build the companies they want. Our proven approach helps freight brokerage and 3PL business owners develop their competitive advantage, hone their message and grow their sales.

Building a case for WHY

Building a case for WHY

Throughout our industry we place significant focus on the execution of process. This focus is directed at the granular activities that drive revenue. The HOW and the WHAT that we do is fairly straightforward and is easily grasped by the majority of people within the organization. However, it is often very transactional and allows for only marginal, incremental growth. By harnessing the power of the WHY within your organization, you can experience a more systemic and explosive growth.

The WHY provides the context and motivation for decisions related to change and opportunity. Building internal belief around the WHY excites and accelerates the individuals and teams within your company to both imagine and produce great things. Creating a WHY story provides a tangible and clear expectation for people to rally around. Tools like Cameron Herold’s Painted Picture/Vivid Vision provide a framework for the organizational leader(s) to distill the vision into clear images and steps along the pathway to success.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, many of you understand the drivers that move you forward – from the inception of the business plan to the plans for future success. Sharing those motivations (financial goals, growth metrics, community support and people development) becomes a key component in establishing the context for the entire team. Each individual that rallies around the vision increases the velocity through collaboration to reach the defined goals. Clarity of purpose removes obstacles by centering the teams on a shared goal set. Ideas and decisions can be made through the lens of WHY by simply asking if they align to the vision of success. If they do – proceed; if they don’t – rethink and reframe.

The Purpose of your company, whether focused on carrier relationships, premier service offerings, specialized cargo or any combinations thereof, acts to focus your uniqueness and to define your brand. Marketing around the story and the unique qualities of your business helps you foster authenticity and stand apart from your competition. Know who you are, what you stand for and the WHY that drives you. Build these answers into the content and communication strategies that connect with your prospective customers, vendors and workforce.

The WHY inspires the people in your organization. It energizes them to step outside of their comforts to achieve the realization of the WHY vision. WHY narrows possible outcomes to align with the vision and simplifies once difficult decisions towards the goal.

Develop your competence in the HOW and the WHAT through training and process improvement, but drive growth and engagement through clear communication and expression of your organizational WHY.

Customercialism

Customercialism

At the recent annual TMSA Conference, Align4Growth, the idea of consistent messaging across all dimensions of customer contact reigned supreme. The purpose of that contact is to build trust with existing and prospective customers. The credibility of an organization, particularly in the early stages of the relationship, is developed through the crystalline focus on the customer: what they need, how they engage and what they are trying to accomplish.

The First 50 – The Story Projects

Research across industries (B2B and B2C) shows that somewhere between 50% and 75% of the customer journey is made prior to the first true engagement with the business. Potential buyers are exploring, learning and comparing possible solutions. Digital presence and past performance are key indicators for these buyers to take next steps in the decision process.

Clear product definition, particularly in a service industry, is instrumental in providing useful information to those buyers. Explanation of the features, benefits and success outline how solutions are positioned and create a more holistic approach to your communication model.

First Contact – Building Credibility by Placing the Customer First

Sales rarely happen during the first contact – or second or fifth. Too often, the sales team disregards the process and message that brought the prospect to the table in the first place. They are focused on the close, getting a lane to quote or other misaligned metrics that drive compensation instead of driving the relationship.

The process needs to be focused on trust building which can be accomplished through the continuation of the messaging aligned to the digital experiences already experienced by the prospect. Sales should ask questions designed to elicit information and needs.

There is power in establishing both what the company can do for the customer and what it cannot do. By establishing such parameters, it shows the prospect the recognition of your own capabilities and intentional limitations and, ultimately, honesty and respect.

At The Close – Aligning Solutions to Needs

Once Trust is achieved, the relationship accelerates. In developing trust with customers and prospects, they become more attracted to the company and the people within it. This attraction builds a desire to spend more time – through a business relationship that endures.

In many cases, once trust is established, the business relationship becomes a foregone conclusion. The focus becomes imagining of how the solutions will be executed to meet the customer needs and help them accomplish their goals.

Industry Associations are Good for your Business

Industry Associations are Good for your Business

You can always come up with reasons to not bother being involved with industry associations. However, we have found that companies are generally better because of such involvement; and time spent bettering your company is time well spent.

Whether your company is a small mom and pop shop or a large enterprise, industry associations offer benefits for everyone.

The key to successful association membership is networking with your peers. Not only does it provide the opportunity to meet individuals who share a common interest, it can also spark the beginning of new friendships and solid business relationships. After all, you can never have too many contacts in this industry.

Most associations provide a newsletter or publication, whether it is weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Contained in these publications is priceless information touching on all the topics that affect the industry–driver shortages, freight trends, and government, environmental, legal and financial issues.

You can find breaking news on legislative decisions; upcoming seminars, conventions or meetings; new industry standards and best practices; employment opportunities; and industry trends. Plus newsletters keep you abreast of the latest developments among your fellow association members.

Being listed in an association directory is also beneficial to your firm, in more ways than one. Not only does an association directory promote the services of fellow members, in many cases it is distributed widely outside of the membership, increasing chances for work both inside and outside of the association.

Many associations have frequent meetings and webinars to discuss topics of concern to members. Meetings are but one of the many events held. Most have annual conventions, award ceremonies, workshops, management seminars and dinners, and even golf outings. A massive amount of information, company promotion and networking takes place in each of these outlets.

Don’t get me wrong, membership in an industry association will not guarantee your organization’s success, but active membership could be a step in the right direction. Plus, many of your competitors are already reaping the benefits.

Don’t be left out of the loop. Join us, along with hundreds of others in getting involved in this industry through the many associations that serve the transportation marketplace.

Beyond Carrots and Sticks

Beyond Carrots and Sticks

Motivation is not simply about carrots (compliance) and sticks (non-compliance). It is about context and relevance to goals. It is about the flow from here to there and the achievement of success. It is about communication of expectations and the appreciation for reaching the goals. It is about removing obstacles and creating pathways to success. Motivation of the people on your team and of yourself is critical to growth and leading through change (both expected and unexpected).

Recognizing what drives you (and others) is vitally important to the overall success of your endeavor. Your energy reserves are depleted by activity that doesn’t align to your drive, while it amplifies when you are focused on activity that matches your passion. Activities that sap your energy are often done poorly – either rushed or mistake-laden due to inattention. Activities that energize you are given full attention and commitment to produce strong results. Assess your drivers and the tasks you perform to map out what you do well and what may suffer.

By reviewing the activity and responsibilities within your organization, you can assign the tasks that best utilize the energy of the team. List out each activity that occurs within your daily workflow and the people who are available to complete each. Delegating tasks based on drive/energy versus simply role/responsibility can provide a greater level of productivity and velocity in completing each task.

Historical structures and roles provide accountability, but they do not always provide the necessary flexibility to handle changes within the market or industry stressors. Mapping out your activities provides you with a framework of action, but also helps to identify gaps (both in role/responsibility and in energy/drive). This map can provide a blueprint for personnel needs – for both hiring and re-organization – to best serve company objectives.