Role of the Freight Broker/Agent in the Transportation Industry Part 3

Bringing together those who haul goods with those who need goods hauled, and getting a fee for the service–that’s the basic role of the freight broker. Seems simple enough when it is described that way.

If only it were that simple.

We have to plan for everything from truckers getting paid, loads getting to their final destination on time, environmental emergencies like wildfires or hurricanes, and get it done on time and on budget.  Click here if you missed part 1 or part 2.

In this final installment we’ll talk about planning your success as a freight agent and planning as you move forward.

Plan For Success

Everything that moves has to move at least a portion of the way, if not the whole enchilada, by truck. It goes to follow, you may think, that every company is your possible customer, right? No?

So what’s wrong with going after anyone and everyone who might have to ship something on a truck? Well, if you take this shotgun approach, you are suddenly dealing with millions of companies and individuals with different needs. It is virtually impossible for an agent to communicate effectively and provide accurate services with a market of this scale.

Narrow It Down

To put it in perspective, can you afford to send a single, direct mail piece to a million prospective customers? Simply put, no.  But if you narrow that down to maybe 750 to 1,500 customers in a specialized niche, in a particular area, suddenly that direct mail campaign is affordable, manageable, and effective.

Need other reasons to narrow your focus?  Bandwidth is certainly one factor to be a good agent:  Focus will give you credibility and increase your value to the customer.

By focusing on a niche you will be able to understand your customer’s industry, see any issues in advance, and offer valued, practical advice to your customer.

The customer then sees this as a relationship, not just a broker out to extract their money.  For example, if an agent specializes in equipment auctions, she could advise the customer what the risks are when gear is left in the field/yard after the auction. Sometimes auctions are held in open fields without security (parts are stolen from equipment, e.g. tail lights, to make another piece of equipment ready for shipping). If you can advise your customer about potential issues and how you might help them resolve the problems before they become problems, you will increase your value to the customer, cementing your value to them. This will likely lead to increased income. A customer that values a relationship is likely to pay a higher premium, benefiting the agent’s bottom line.

If the broker understands specific geographic road restrictions where a customer wants to ship freight, the broker can advise the customer on alternative plans. In Northern California, for example, on certain highways there are length restrictions. If a customer wants to bring in a 53’ van (which is not allowed on some roads), you could explain the restrictions to them and provide alternative solutions. This allows the customer to see that the agent is not only knowledgeable, but also looking out for them beyond this payday.

Credibility in a specific industry helps an agent expand to other customers in the same industry by showcasing their expertise.

Semi Truck in Motion. Semi Track Speeding on the American Highway. Motion Blurred. Blue Tones. Transportation and Spedition Photo Collection.

Build Your Customer List

Some questions to keep in mind as you are building your list of dream customers:

  • Who are your potential customers?
  • Where are they located?
  • How many of them are there?
  • How do they currently transport freight?
  • Who are they currently using to broker their freight? (may take some digging to figure out).
  • What can you offer them that they are not getting now?  (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • How do you compare to your competitors?
  • What services do you offer (specifically)?
  • How can you persuade them to bring their business to you?
  • Do you have the infrastructure (support system, experience, backing, etc.) to assure success?

In conclusion (or is it just the beginning?), just like any career, being a successful freight agent or broker involves a great deal of hard work, focus, know how, daily learning, and a strong support system. And you’ll have questions. If you do, drop us a line here , call at 541-923-6309 or e-mail  [email protected] and ask away.  No matter if you are a newbie in the business or seasoned pro, we’d love to hear from you.