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Get to know your customer’s business as well as your own
This is going to surprise many of my regular readers, who know how much I emphasize the need to know your hauling rate range before entering into freight hauling negotiations. That should not be your first priority when you approach a shipper or broker for those loads you want to haul for them.
What should that priority be?
Focus on the customer’s money, not your rate! Have your rate range indelibly ingrained on your brain, yes. But remember, a shipper or broker isn’t going to focus on what you need to earn; their focus is on how much it will cost them to utilize your services. If you want the highest possible rate for the area you’ll be hauling out of, you need to know a few things about your potential customer. That means looking at the world from the customer’s perspective.
1. What’s important to them? On time pick-up and delivery is obvious; so is no damage to their freight. Of course they want that at the lowest cost possible. Does this mean you have to cut your rate to the lowest amount possible? No, not if you know something about this customer.
2. Where can you gather information about them? First, check the local Chamber of Commerce. Next, if their city has its own issue of the Business Journal (www.bizjournals.com), go to the website and search for the business’ name. Any articles in which that business has been mentioned will come up. Note if they’ve faced any challenges and if they were resolved. Check to see if they have recently expanded their product line or reach. As you assemble facts and information, a clearer picture of who they are and ideas on how you can be of better service to them will form.
3. Ask. The most important question you can ask when you first make contact with the customer: What are three things your current trucking companies are not doing for you that you wish they did?
4. Be observant. Take note of where you can become more efficient in handling their freight. This could be as simple as having needed load bars or straps laid out and ready when the doors of the trailer are opened, so the crew can grab them as the loading progresses, instead of having to retrieve them from the back of the cab or a side box.
5. Make sure you and your drivers ask for details concerning special needs or services they require. For example: Before loading the shipment, call the receiver and ask “Is there anything I can do to make the delivery go smoother?” In one instance when I did this, the receiver told me they were in desperate need of a particular pallet of parts they were running short of on the line, and it would sure be great if it was the last pallet on the truck so it would be the first off at delivery. So that’s the way my trailer was loaded for them.
6. Be aware of trends in the shipper’s and receiver’s respective business segments. Know when their busy seasons occur. Find out when they’re bringing in raw material and when it’s going out as a completed item. Is there a slowdown in their raw supplies, or required components for their products? What about pending government regulations? And, what is their competition doing that could impact their business — and in turn, your available freight?
In other words, the more you think like your shippers and receivers, the more you can anticipate their wants and needs. This ensures that you’ll receive the best hauling rate possible, because you’re far more valuable to them than the trucker who doesn’t pay attention to these things.