As we enter November, there is a lot of talk about the dreaded holiday slowdown in freight. Between shippers whose freight slows down and drivers who want to stay near their home base to be with family, it can be a tough time for freight agents stuck in the middle. Although this can be very frustrating from a revenue perspective, we can all use this time to set the table for success in 2016. Here are seven tips to help:
- Get to know your current shippers better, and help them get them to know you better. Do they know everything you’re capable of doing for them? Maybe you got in on one lane or one type of freight, so your shipper has pigeonholed you into that area alone. The slack time during the holiday season is a great time to have more meaningful conversations to assess your shipper’s needs by learning the whole picture of the challenges they face. Two of my favorite questions are: “What keeps you up at night?” and “What do you get yelled at for?” If you can find their real pain points and bring solutions to make their lives easier, be it within the shipping realm or connecting them with someone else who can solve a non-shipping related problem, you will strengthen your relationship and become their “go-to person” as a problem-solving partner.
- Identify, research and contact new prospects. If your current shippers are experiencing a lull in activity, it is likely that your prospects are as well. They might have more time to speak with you and focus on planning for 2016. Take a look at your current shipper portfolio. Do you want to leverage your experience with a certain type of freight to gain more of it? Or perhaps you want to diversify so that you won’t be vulnerable to trends within a given industry. The holiday slowdown is a perfect time to strategically assess your book of business, see how you can grow it, and approach new shippers when they, too have more time on their hands and may be open to planning for 2016.
- Reconnect with shippers you had difficulty bringing on as clients. There are always those prospects who are tough nuts to crack. When you have a bit more time on your hands for prospecting, you have more time to research what issues shippers are facing in a specific industry. Knowledge is power. You can then use this knowledge to demonstrate how you can become a more valuable resource to this tough prospect. The prospect, too, may feel less stressed and have more time to talk with someone who could be a potential partner in helping get their job done.
- Read, read, read to build a backlog of interesting content to share with your prospects as well as to find new sales techniques you can then try while you have more time. When you are in the stage of building rapport, it is generally well-known that you shouldn’t be selling your services all the time. Adding value is key to establishing your credibility. If you provide industry articles or articles on how to improve business performance that help your prospect become more knowledgeable in their industry or become a more effective business person, you will be remembered as someone who adds value. Reading sales books can also help you change it up in your approach.
- Get organized. Downtime is a great time to tidy up your office, update LinkedIn, and do all the things you’ve been putting off because you’re too busy. Getting prepared for 2016 by setting up files and cleaning out your prospect list can help you start the year off strongly. Maybe make a systematic plan on how you will leverage LinkedIn for prospecting from inside the office with weekly tasks so it is turnkey when things get busy.
- Get out and meet people by attending conventions and networking events around your area. If you don’t have many loads on your plate, being out of the office might not be as difficult as it is during busy times. Meeting new prospects at industry conventions and networking events can get you the exposure you need to grow your shipper portfolio. There are many holiday events where people are more relaxed and open to chatting in general. Take advantage of them for your business.
- Evaluate your broker relationship and consider a move. Are you satisfied with the whole package offered by your current brokerage? Commission split, back office support, weekly commission payments, on-time carrier payments, carrier QuickPay, tcheks, credit history, reputation, these are many of the things that can make or break a relationship between a freight agent and a brokerage. Do you feel like you really fit and are valued? Are your brokerage’s values aligned with the way you like to do business? Are there things your current brokerage is not doing for you? It’s easier to plan and make a move during the slower holiday season, so you can get all your shippers on board with the new brokerage and make a move starting full steam ahead in 2016.
Some people see the holiday slowdown as a bad thing, which it is from a revenue perspective. But if you take control to leverage the time wisely, it can be a great time for you to regroup and set the table for a strong start in 2016!
– By Cheryl Biron, President
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