Seasonality can be a killer to revenues in freight brokerage if you don’t have a balanced shipper portfolio. But when the season is in full force, it’s often hard to prospect for freight that you can handle during your off season. Then you get to your off season, and the shippers already have agents and carriers taking care of them, so it’s hard to break in. Seems like a vicious circle, but with proper planning in advance, you, too, can balance seasonality in your shipper portfolio. Here are five strategies on just how to do this:
- Start Early: To overcome the frustration of the good off-season shippers being taken, when you finally have time to contact them, carve out time to start prospecting during your heavy season. Yes, I know it’s hard, but there have to be some slower times towards the end of the day or the end of the week when you can carve out an hour or two to brainstorm and attack the areas described in the next four strategies. If you put it in your calendar for 3pm on Friday, and devote two good hours a week, you will make some progress.
- Target your carrier base, what else are they hauling? If you have a loyal and developed carrier base during your on season, talk to them and see what they are hauling during your off season. This will help you determine the categories of freight to add to your target list. Once you have a target list of categories, you can then find companies that do business in the product areas.
- What other products could be shipped on the type of trailers you use? If you specialize in construction materials and use a lot of flatbeds during the spring to fall seasons, what can be put on flatbeds in the winter? Same goes for temperature-controlled. Are there items that need to be kept cool in the summer and other items that need to be kept from freezing in the winter? Based on the trailers in which you specialize, you may be able to find ideas on other categories of freight that can be loaded into these same trailers and require your same expertise.
- What else is your region known for? Are you the type of agent who likes to get out and about to find shippers, because when you meet with them personally, you easily close the deal? Then do what you do best, research the businesses in your area on the Internet or drive around industrial parks where they seem to have loading docks to generate a list of target companies. You can prepare yourself to uncover their needs during the off season, and meet with them to lock them in so when their on season starts, you will be ready to service them and balance your shipper portfolio.
- Change geography: Are you the type of person who prefers inside sales over the phone? As an agent, you are not tied to assets like a carrier, so you are at an advantage if this is how you function best. You can leverage technology to post loads anywhere in the country and call on customers in a completely different region of the country, too. By finding some industry categories with commonalities to leverage your current strengths and knowledge, you can balance your portfolio by getting shippers in a different geography.
In the end, it’s all up to you. You have to act and take baby steps weekly during your on season to build a business in your off season. I hope you can use the five strategies described above to brainstorm by yourself or with your team to uncover the best ideas to generate new freight for your off season.
In my next blog I will share six reasons why freight agent is the perfect career for work/life integration.
– By Cheryl Biron, President
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