RFX Blog

4 Keys to Success for Independent Freight Agents

July 15th, 2014

Photo Credit: Creative Commons - Patrick Dell

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Patrick Dell

Becoming an independent freight agent means having the freedom of being your own boss, running your own business, choosing your own work hours; the idea that the harder you work, the more successful you’ll be; the notion that you are making a direct impact on the world by arranging for the transportation of goods across the United States or even the Globe.  These are all fantastic things to look forward to as you open your own freight business.

On the other hand, there is certainly something scary about going off on your own, flying solo and making every decision for yourself.  There is no magic 8-ball that will tell you how to be successful as a freight agent in this industry.  However, we know that there are certain qualities that our most successful freight agents posses.  If it will help you be successful with your own business, we’d like to share some of our ideas.  Here are four qualities of a successful freight agent:

Carve a niche (but don’t try to be something you’re not): Perhaps a better way to put it: Don’t try to be everything to everybody.  Understand your own personal strengths and weaknesses.  Ask yourself what industries have you worked in previously?  What products do you understand the most?  If you have a background in agriculture, perhaps you’ll understand the how produce makes it’s way through the supply chain, the various sensitivity levels of each food and how the USDA and Blue Book operate.  If you have a background in construction, perhaps you could build your niche in shipping raw building materials and critical commodities.  If you got your start as a motor carrier and are now going off on your own as a freight agent, perhaps you learned a specific skillset, such as LTL.  Maybe you happen to have a great relationship with some key car haulers in the northeast.  Wherever and whenever you can find an opportunity to build some personality and distinguish yourself from other brokers, you need to take advantage of it.  On the other hand, if you have made a career out of moving raw building materials across the U.S., don’t try to pretend you are an expert on fresh poultry (a commodity that can be really dangerous to move if you don’t know what you’re doing!). Find out what you’re good at and stick to it! By all means, branch out, take on new accounts in different areas, diversify your customer-base, but do this in a way that makes sense.  Give yourself time to learn about new opportunities before diving right in.

Embrace Technology:  Take advantage of any tool you have available to you that will give you an edge and help you serve your customer’s needs.  Utilize a customer relationship management (CRM) system to help you stay on top of prospective and existing customers in all stages of your sales pipeline. Adopt a rate index system so you can keep track of contract and spot-market rates in any lane. Take advantage of mobile technology to keep track of your loads on-the-go.  Sometimes, working “smarter” trumps working harder.  Having the tools and information to service your customers faster and more effectively over your competition can make all the difference in your success as a freight agent.

Set Time Aside for Sales: One of the challenges that we often see in the transportation business is that we get so focused on putting forth quality customer service on already-existing business and the day-in day-out grind of managing our customers’ freight, that we rarely find the time to allow ourselves the opportunity to grow the business.  If you find yourself treading water, managing a good business but not expanding on that venture, then perhaps it is time to re-prioritize your day or seek the assistance of a part-time employee.  Setting time aside for business development is so important.  Diversifying your customer-base, challenging yourself, allowing yourself to grow beyond what you believe your potential is… these are all reason that you started your owns business in the first place.  Please do not deny yourself the opportunity to expand your horizons, simply because “there are only so many hours in the day.”  Of course, providing that high level of customer service to existing accounts is extremely important, but you should always set aside a block of your time, whether it is daily or weekly, to making sales calls and having the enjoyment of growing your business.

Be Personable and Build Relationships: Part of being a salesperson means getting in front of people, disc0vering their needs and coming up with a plan to service those needs.  In the transportation industry, people often assume that this means only talking to shippers.  However, as an intermediary, you must also build strong relationships with motor carriers.  Having a core carrier-base that you work with, and acting as a carrier’s “agent” to fill their backhaul lane is an important piece of the puzzle.  The most successful freight brokers are those who have taken the time to get to know their carrier-base, rather than rely on loadboards and looking for a truck in the 11th hour.  Take the time to speak with your carrier and customer-base on a regular basis, either on the phone, or face-to-face, regarding any shifts in their needs.  Businesses shift their strategies all the time.  Your success will be measured by your ability to react to your shippers’ and carriers’ ever-evolving needs.

It truly does take a lot of time and energy to be a freight agent.  It takes experience, hussle, innovation and some out-of-the-box thinking.  It takes face-time, personality, strategy and resilience.  Sometimes you will find yourself looking down at everything from ten thousand feet and most of the time you will be knee deep in the thick of it.  Our hope is that if you embrace some of these key traits, you will take your business to new heights.



Posted on July 15th, 2014 in business strategy, freight agent, Freight Agent Broker