10 Questions Brokers Should Ask Shippers
As a freight broker, you should never become complacent with your shipper partnerships. Shippers come and go; they also reduce their shipping needs without warning or become unreliable for one reason or another. But if you’re prepared and know the questions freight brokers should ask, you can vet shippers along the way to keep your shipper pipeline full.
Part of this business development process is continuously looking at your standard lanes, opportunities in your network of contacts for new lanes, and service areas where you have the most reliable carrier partners to leverage. Gathering these details to find the shippers that are best for your business starts with asking the right questions.
To help you find the best shipping partners for your broker business, we’ve gathered the top 10 questions to ask shippers before trying to sell them on your services.
1. What does your company manufacture and what challenges do you face?
Before getting on a call with a manufacturer, it’s important to do your research. Take time to search for the company by name and find detailed information about their business, including freight rate estimates. Knowing more about their freight and logistics needs will provide you with conversation starters to help put the shipper at ease.
Understanding the grand scheme of their business from their perspective lets you focus on what’s unique about their freight compared to your other customers. Using those attributes later in the conversation will show them that you were listening and will be a trusted business partner.
2. How do you currently transport freight?
Let the shipper run down their stack of transportation solutions, even if they’re outside your expertise. Write down the areas where you might be able to help, especially if they sound dissatisfied with that solution at the moment.
3. What are your main priorities when moving freight?
Some shippers are obsessed with price, and some with speed or reliability. It all depends on the trickle-down stresses on their business and industry. Let them discuss what’s important for their business and freight management needs now and in the future.
4. When was the last time you added a new provider? Why did you bring them on?
The answer to this question will give you an idea of how open the company and the manager are to changing brokers, and how much scrutiny they use when selecting new transportation providers. It might also give you insight into how other brokers have cracked into the account.
5. Is there anything about your preferred list of brokers that you would improve?
It’s important to listen carefully to their experiences and address what makes your broker business different from your competitors. Here’s your opportunity to use their answer as your lead-in to talk about your record, your carriers, and your niche expertise.
6. Are you having any problems with drivers?
Ultimately, a driver is representing both the shipper and the broker when they arrive at a dock. Bad behavior, late arrivals, or rushed loading and unloading can reflect poorly on the shipper’s reputation. It’s important to know if your contact is sensitive to this.
7. What metrics do you use to judge the strength of your freight brokers?
The shipper may not have a great answer for this, and that’s okay. Simply asking the question lets them know that you have the desire to perform. This can also be an opportunity for you to share how you judge your business’s performance as compared to other brokers.
8. Besides you, who else makes shipping decisions?
Knowing if other parties are involved in the decision will help you determine the effort that might be required to partner up with this company. Be sure to ask for the name, roles, and contact information of other decision-makers. You may need to adjust your messaging based on who you are addressing to have the most impact.
9. What are your other shipping locations?
Find out what other shipping locations exist at the company. Even if you can’t break into the account with this particular shipping manager, you may be able to strategize a solution for another lane.
10. How long is typical detention at your docks?
A shipper’s policy and attitude toward detention time is a characteristic that can hit you directly in the wallet. As a broker, you can’t afford to lose your most reliable carriers due to chronic detention misunderstandings or discrepancies, and you might end up covering the bill. You don’t want to get a reputation for putting drivers in bad situations at the docks. Some shippers simply aren’t worth their loads.
It’s a smart strategy to use your knowledge of the industry and your lanes to get a shipper on the phone, then listen to find the sweet spot for getting your foot in the door. Great brokers that focus on building relationships over the long term, as opposed to making a quick buck, will win the best shipping partners every time.
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