A lot of carriers are now on the cusp of their “slow season,” a lull in freight activity that typically carries over into the New Year. I’ve seen lots of different ways to cope with seasonal slowdowns, from parking trucks to cracking whips. But perhaps the most successful—and appropriate as we enter the holidays—involve a little reflection.
1. Reflect on your customers
Plan to spend time with every one of your best customers at some point between now and the end of the year. Reflect on what’s happened since the last time you met. New products, new suppliers, and new accounts for your customers may mean more freight for you. You won’t know unless you ask.
At the same time, ask your own dispatchers, customer service reps, and salespeople for specific examples of outstanding service. Julie in dispatch will hear about how your flexibility on a delivery schedule kept a production line humming because she talks to your customer’s traffic manager every day. Get into that loop. Collect those stories. These tidbits are important when you’re making your case for a better rate or more work.
2. Reflect on your personal contacts
Mike McCarron, a former fleet owner and sales guy extraordinaire who’s now on the non-asset-based side of the business, uses whatever "slow" time he has to research customers and prospects and find a meaningful, personal connection with each one.
"I was calling on a prospect that I never met before, so I Googled him," Mike says. "I found out he coaches a youth hockey team that won a regional tournament last season. I coach hockey, too. Instant connection. When we got together, we talked hockey, kids, and coaching for 20 minutes and then comfortably eased into the business side of the meeting."
It used to take a year of sales calls and lunches—a long, expensive process—to figure out what you can now learn during one trip to Facebook or LinkedIn.
The real skill is to put this information in context.
"That hockey coach/traffic manager? From my own experience, he’s probably a family man who’d rather spend Saturdays at the rink than on the phone,” says Mike." He wants peace of mind when his freight goes out the door on Friday. I emphasized our reliability and customer service when I sent my proposal."
3. Reflect on your contracts
Tools like DAT RateView can help you improve rate accuracy by analyzing true broker-buy rates based on actual transactions and contract rates based on 14 million actual freight bills. You can also explore new market possibilities via Hot Market Maps and TriHaul opportunities. Check out Mark Montague's latest blog post “How to Increase Profits on Your Shipper Contracts” for tips on the bidding process.
Whether you've been working with an account for three months or three years, your customer deserves a pricing package that’s thoughtfully structured. These are some of the industry's best resources when it comes to building well-reasoned bids. Your customer will respect you for it, have a deeper understanding of the value you provide, and be less likely to want to haggle away your margin.
A slow season may be inevitable given what you haul and where you haul it. Make the most of these quiet times and pause for a little reflection—about your customers, your personal contacts, and your contracts.