Getting new customers is part of the trucking business that most truckers have to struggle with.  Shippers don’t just call up a new business, nor does a single call usually produce a great, long term contract for a profitable lane.  I’ve found that it’s a constant effort.  I work on my contacts every week.

It’s important to have a good customer relations management (CRM) program.  I use Insightly,

Insightly is a great CRM program that I use to track my customer relations.

Insightly is a great CRM program that I use to track my customer relations.

which I can access anywhere – if I’m at home, or the office, or on the road.  It keeps track of my customers and contacts.  I think it’s easy to use, and that’s important.  If a program isn’t as easy to use as TruckingOffice, I’m not likely to use it.

1.  Create with a customer lead list.

There are lots of ways to get together a list of potential customers, but I have a few sure ways to create the list.

If you’re a small company, don’t go looking for the biggest manufacturer in the area.  They’re not looking for a small contractor – they want a big company that they can deal with on the big scale.  Chances are you’ll be overlooked, even if you do get an odd load from them from time to time.  It’s better to find a smaller company who can use your specialized attention.  Mom-and-pop shops are ideal for the smaller trucking business.  Don’t think because they’re small that you won’t get much business from them.  I’ve got one small company that you’d never guess I get some 50 loads per month from – but they have some of my trucks scheduled for lanes for years.

Take a drive through the local industrial parks and take down their names.  Using Google to check out their businesses and you may find some steady work for the long term, if not the long hauls.  Many of these small businesses are regional, so their loads may be in state or in the surrounding states.

Consider seasonal businesses.  Here in Ohio, the season for shipping loads of fencing is strongest in the summer, so I’ll call those businesses starting in the early spring to try to pick up some of their extra seasonal shipping.

2.  Start with an customer email or phone call, but don’t expect to get far.

Sometimes you’ll get the computerized answering machine and have to find your way through the maze of “Press 1… Press 2” options.

Voice mail instead of real customers - keep trying! (Image from Boians Cho Joo Young at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

You might talk to a lot of computers instead of real people, but keep trying. Your potential customers are behind those computer voices.

When you’re lucky, you’ll get a real person receptionist who may tell you the shipping officer’s name.  That’s gold – that name means you’ve got a person to talk to, not just a random “shippingoffice@business.com” email.

It takes persistence.  You have to have a sense about what contacts you’re making – are they ignoring you?  Or are they just not interested?  It’s your job to make them want to talk to you.

This one method gets me plenty of customer call-backs.

“What problems are you having with shipping right now?” 

I don’t have any sales books to recommend to you, but this method is in all of them.  Your job is to solve your customers’ problems.  In order to do that, you need to know what their problems are.  So ask them.  “What’s your problem area?”

  • Do they need an extra quote?
  • Do they have a bad lane they’re having problems with?
  • Is their current inventory stuck on the dock instead of on the road because another driver didn’t show up?

In my first contact, I’ll mention what I have – how many trucks and what kind of trailers I have available to help them solve their problems.  I’m nearby and ready to step up to help.

It’s not foolproof, but it’s effective.

3.  Weekly contact with my customers keeps my name in front of them.

Every week, I send out an email or call.  Every week.  But I don’t expect to see an immediate increase in contracts.  This is the long game.  I have a system that works for me.

I send my first contact to a potential customer – either email or phone call – and wait a week.  I send another contact out a week later, telling them I’m in their area and ready to help them out.  The next week, I’ll do it again, asking if there’s a lane I could bid on, or if they have a bad lane that I could help out with.  I try to keep it positive and friendly.

At that point, if I haven’t gotten any response, I try to figure out why.  I might put out another contact, but I might also put them on the back burner for a while.  I’ll wait two months before I send them something again.  I don’t want to be stuck in their spam filter by continuing to send them emails that annoy them, so backing off after three contacts works for me.

I don’t use snail mail any more.  No one responds to it.  But I’ve found that if I stick to this plan, in three months, I’ll find I’ve gotten some new customers and started making way into a few new businesses for the future.

This plan does not produce immediate, miraculous increase in customers.  It’s a slow but steady pace.  Over time, I believe you’ll find it works for you too.

What ways have you discovered that help develop your customer base?  When you have a small load, having many shippers who might want to fill up the rest of your trailer is good business sense.  With TruckingOffice Pro, managing that additional load’s paperwork, billing and IFTA reporting is simple.  Why not give us a try?

*Insightly logo © Insightly.com
*Computer/headset image from Boians Cho Joo Young at FreeDigitalPhotos.net