Josh Christie is the VP of Marketing & Recruiting at D&L Transport
We’ve found Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® to offer sound career and life advice. With that fantastic book as our inspiration, and based on our experience as freight agents and a top broker in the industry, we’ve captured what we feel are the seven habits that make for highly effective freight agents.
1 — Goal Setting
There’s an old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” We’re also partial to Yogi Berra’s version, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Both are undoubtedly true in their own ways. It’s critical to set your goals and review them often to determine your progress. Just the act of setting goals will move you closer to achieving them. Not only that, but you’ll consciously and even subconsciously make decisions that help you achieve your goals. But step one is to set those goals.
Your goals don’t need to be sophisticated, but they should be time-based and ideally have some measure to help you objectively gauge your progress. Examples include monthly sales targets, adding critical staff members, or gross profit.
2 — Planning
Hand-in-glove with goal setting is planning. Once you have your goals in place, it’s then possible to make plans to achieve them. Your plan doesn’t need to be multiple pages with graphs and charts. But it does need to set timelines for actions you’ll need to take and what milestones you want to hit.
One example is assessing your current freight broker arrangements to determine if you’re in the best relationship. That, in turn, can help you map out the following steps to improve things and align with your overall goals. See our blog, What to Look for in a Freight Agency Program, for more insight on that possible step.
Planning isn’t limited to long-range strategic planning. There’s also daily planning and prioritizing. It’s essential to plan your day and week so that you’re working on the critical priorities in your business. It’s all about making great use of your time through a highly effective habit. In a recent video in our BETTERLIFE with D&L series, we sit down with a subject matter expert in the areas of Organizational Behavior and Self Awareness. Our subject matter expert discusses the difference between “To Be” and “To Do” lists.
3 — Listening
Stephen Covey calls this “seek first to understand, then to be understood®.” That comes through listening closely to your customers’ needs and perspectives. Perhaps even more importantly, as a freight agent, you must capture shipment details and requirements.
Should any problems arise, you’ll need to listen to many different perspectives, first to define the problem and second to solve it. That takes a high degree of listening skills and recognizing that when your mouth is open, you’re not listening. Understand, too, that managing conflict takes a strong understanding of self-awareness and a healthy dose of ego management. It’s important to remember to keep the resolution to the issue in mind. This approach can remove feelings of personal attack.
As your listening skills improve, you’ll find that your efforts are much more effective in connecting with customers and shippers. Plus, your shipments will go much more smoothly. For any problems that do arise, you’ll be ready to take them on, armed with the facts you’ve learned through listening closely and carefully.
4 — Learning
There’s no end to new technology and new regulations. Plus, there’s the naturally topsy-turvy world of freight snags and materials shortages. Keeping on top of all that requires ongoing and continuous learning.
And, of course, there are a whole host of skills that need to be at least polished if not learned anew from time to time. That includes telephone selling skills, negotiating techniques, and customer service insight. Plus, you can even learn multi-tasking and organization skills. In short, learning is vital to staying up to speed on everything an Agent does.
It can be straightforward to find the learning opportunities that fit your time and requirements in today’s online world. There are online articles, like this one, newsletters, podcasts, and webinars. There are also opportunities for in-person workshops and courses. Make it part of your monthly or even weekly routine to find something new to learn.
Peer leaning is one of the best ways to grow your knowledge.It’s almost guaranteed someone you work with has experienced and overcome the same obstacles you’re currently facing. Reach out to them and you may be surprised what you’ll learn.
5 — Networking
Another avenue for learning is connecting with other agents, your freight broker, and customers to keep up with what’s happening in the industry. That’s also a big part of networking — making connections and building relationships that can help you and your business.
Networking is the key to unlocking the full potential of your business. For example, a discussion with one of your customers can lead to connecting with people they know who could also use your services. It can also lead to finding new approaches to your daily tasks by comparing notes with your network.
Most networking happens in person at a conference or other event. Try out your local business networking groups. While they may not be directly related to your freight business, you’ll find many in attendance who need your shipping services or could benefit from your insight into the industry and its current challenges.
You’ll find that networking works best if you first seek to share. Only then will people begin to trust and reciprocate. Networking is a smart way to grow your business and provide an outlet for what can be a very solitary life if you stay in your office, on the computer, and on the phone.
6 — Communicating
A big part of a Freight Agent’s job is communicating with shippers and carriers. Highly successful Agents provide updates frequently. That includes sharing the good news and the bad news. Perhaps it’s even better to share the bad news more quickly. Make sure you bring along some potential solutions when communicating bad news. Timeliness can alleviate many instances of heartburn and anxiety for your customers and your operations team.
Another aspect of communication is using social media to engage with the industry and current and potential customers. LinkedIn is a great way to post your thoughts and ideas. Plus, you can engage in group discussions. It’s yet one more way to network.
Communicating to keep your customers informed and doing so honestly and professionally builds trust. That communication and demonstrated thought leadership on social media further builds your reputation as a successful Freight Agent. Check in with your customers on a personal level, not just when the business requires it. Stay top-of-mind, even in slower times.
7 — Teamwork
Working as an independent agent can be lonely, but it certainly doesn’t need to be. Your team includes everyone on your broker’s staff. Take the time to connect with them and learn the aspects of their jobs that can help your business. Then lean on them when needed for support.
If your freight broker leaves you on your own and fails to provide the full teamwork and support you need, it may be time to move your business. If your support team doesn’t act like their success depends on helping you succeed, there may be a big gap in philosophies.
Take the time to check in with your operations team. Freight brokering is a relationship-based business. Cultivate the areas closest to your business. These subtleties will pay dividends in the long run.
We’re biased. We feel that our freight agency program is the best in the business. To see for yourself, look at our Agent Opportunities page. You can also hear directly from our successful agents. Then, get in touch, and we can get started.
Call toll-free: 866.559.0203. Or complete the form at D&L Agent Requirements.
D&L Transport. Your Family in Freight.