You've got your laptop and tech equipment. You either received your operating authority or you joined an agency. Now it's time for you to go find some shippers to help move their freight.
The easiest place to start? Google.
But this article is meant to help you be as resourceful as possible to find shippers that align with your carrier network and allowing you to prospect smarter, not harder. That's your goal, right?
Quick perspective before we jump in
There's an abundance of freight out there. You are one human. In using the right resources to find shipper leads, you can find all of the shippers in the world. There's no need to go grab a thousand shippers.
It's about being tactful and smart about which ones make the most sense for you to go after.
Starting as small and as niche as possible is going to help you be successful earlier on.
There's a big difference in your selling and relationship building process between:
1. I'm a freight broker that can service all of your needs.
2. I'm a freight broker that has a reliable carrier network of reefers moving full truckload out of the metro Dallas area that prefer to go to the Southeast or Midwest.
And yes, it's fully understood that if you're a non-asset based brokerage that you can run more than just Dallas to those two regions. The goal here is to guide your prospective shipper in the direction of what you specialize in. From there, you can work to provide solutions for any other needs they have.
You will often hear shippers say that they like brokers that specialize in one area and are honest about not being the "everything" broker. Find a specific type of shipper to make your pitch aligned with what they do and onboard shippers faster. Let's do this.
7 Resources to find shipper leads
1. B2B Contact Database Systems
B2B contact database systems are going to be your most efficient and effective source to find shipper leads and contacts.
Depending on the database you subscribe to, affordability can range depending on data quality.
The benefits of these systems are that they scrape contacts across the internet for companies, they enrich and update data when people switch jobs, it allows you to be targeted in your prospecting, they save you HOURS compared to Google searching, and they can integrate with your systems like a CRM.
These systems have filters for industry, job titles, employee size, estimated annual revenue, website keywords, NAICS codes, and more.
An example would be where you could find companies in Food & Beverage, with 100-500 employees, and contacts with the job title of Shipping Manager and Shipping Coordinator.
It's a quicker way to find the companies your interested in, but more importantly, those with the job titles that are most likely the decision makers to get you onboarded as a carrier.
Do your due diligence to take a look at their features and pricing to see which may make the most sense for you.
Old reliable. Not much to go in-depth here. You should be familiar with these roads.
You can make a simple search of "metal companies in Houston, TX" or anything more tailored to your services that you provide as a broker or trucking company.
3. BOLs (Bill of Ladings)
If you are already moving freight for shippers, then you already have some leads.
Your BOLs will have information on the shipper or receiver that is not your customer. It's a good practice to always do your research on the one that's not your customer.
If they have freight that you're capable of moving, you want to make sure you're communicating well, providing timely updates, and giving them a follow-up call after your load has been successfully delivered to try to establish a relationship.
You've had to have heard about ChatGPT by now. It's hard to be on the internet and not find a company that boasts about their AI capabilities.
The question is, how do you use it as a freight broker to find shipper leads?
You simply just ask it like you would Google, but you can ask it for a list of companies within your ideal shipper profile. Now, you will find ChatGPT referring you to B2B database systems because it hasn't had an update since September of 2021.
With this, you can sometimes just ask it to provide info that it has even prior to that update. Below is a simple example.
5. Chamber of Commerce
Your local chamber of commerce is a place to build business connections, attend events, workshops, and networking sessions.
Often they will have a business directory that can help you find companies that you may be able to help with transportation. If you're both affiliated with the chamber, it's already an area of common ground that you have as you'll most likely run into each other.
Sponsoring events may be a fast way to get your name and brand out there. And as you build partnerships, and if you stay consistent, it could be a good area to build referral business (the best!).
6. Grocery stores
All of that produce and that delicious food you bought came from somewhere. You didn't move it there, so that means a competitor of yours did if that company or food manufacturer doesn't own their own trucks.
Take a look at the labels for the food throughout the grocery store. Take pictures, scan bar codes, and build a lead list to reach out to. Maybe send them a personalized email with a picture of their food that you bought -- don't forget to let them know that you love the food!
This may be more applicable for those in the open-deck space, but if you're on a long distance road trip or if you have a commute to work that requires you being on the highway, just look around.
If the freight is not tarped, then you will sometimes be able to see the logo of the manufacturer of the product on the truck.
If the freight is not being transported on a company truck of the manufacturer, then chances are you have an opportunity to potentially help them out because they use outside carriers.
About the Author
Josh Lyles is the founder of Salesdash CRM, which is a CRM specifically for freight brokerages, 3PLs, and logistics companies to manage shipper and carrier relationships. Josh is a former sales advisor and head of sales. He has worked at New Balance, Tesla, KeepTruckin/Motive, and SiLo.
Josh helped his teams in freight onboard over 180+ shippers within a two year period, leading his organizations in new shipper onboarding.