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Break the Ice With Your Carriers: 3 Relationship-Building Tips for Freight Brokers


December 21, 2015

Even in the age of social media, there’s no substitute for real relationships.
With today’s online load boards, social media networks, and nationwide WiFi, it’s possible for a freight broker to schedule a load without ever coming face-to-face with the carrier. You might not even have to pick up the phone. However, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean that you should.

The most successful brokers build their businesses the old-fashioned way: by creating and maintaining relationships with people they trust. Getting to know carriers is good for both parties. You’ll gain the confidence of working with someone you can count on. And they’ll feel better about working for you, which may translate to more favorable rates. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use technology. Load boards can be incredibly helpful in forming contacts and finding carriers for hard-to-fill needs. Still, nothing beats a real network of reliable people. Here are three tips to help build carrier relationships:

1. Listen to Your Carriers.

Listening is key to any relationship — whether you’re asking your spouse about their day, or asking a carrier about their last load. Start new business calls by asking questions, and listening to the answer. Ask carriers which lanes they prefer, and what weights they typically haul. Are there any routes they would they like to run, but aren’t currently hauling? Maybe you can help fill a deadhead section in their route, or contact them when you have a load near their home. Carriers will appreciate the fact that you asked, even if you can’t accommodate them immediately.

After a load has been delivered, follow through by asking your carrier whether everything went smoothly. If there were problems, address them quickly. And, if the carrier liked the lane, perhaps you could make it a recurring route.

Beyond business, show carriers you care by remembering personal details. You might consider creating a list of carriers with notes on each one, and referring to it when you call. A conversation that begins with, “Hi, Bob. How are the kids? You enjoying that Texas heat?” seems a lot more personal than “Are you available Wednesday for a load coming out of Fort Worth?”

2. Build Trust and Loyalty

Now that you’ve noted preferences, contact your preferred carriers first when matching opportunities become available. This shows loyalty. And, if your carrier isn’t available, they may refer you to another trustworthy carrier, filling the need and expanding your network.

Loyalty improves relationships — and it may save you money. For example, it may be tempting to choose cheaper carriers to raise profits, but if service is poor, you may end up losing business in the long run.

You can also build loyalty by reaching out to carriers throughout the year — not just when you have business for them. Many companies send cards or small tokens of appreciation to customers — such as a tin of popcorn or cookies — during the holiday season. For a more personal touch, note carriers’ birthdays, and send cards. It’s an inexpensive gesture, but it can go a long way.

3. Be Transparent.

If you make promises to a carrier, be sure you can keep them. If rates change, tell your carriers why. And, if you are considering using another carrier because of pricing, let your preferred carrier know. He or she may be able to work with you. Sometimes communicating the reason for a rate change, such as the season, supply and demand, location, fuel cost or miles, can help a carrier understand your point of view and avoid an awkward conversation.

Building relationships with carriers takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Of course, carriers also value relationships with brokers who pay quickly and reliably. If you need assistance with capital funding, contact Triumph, formerly known as Triumph Business Capital. We look forward to forming a mutually beneficial business relationship with you.