The Art of Sales with Belal Batrawy

Happy New Year! 3PL Systems is excited to share an interview with Belal Batrawy, a top voice on LinkedIn for tactful sales advice. Occasionally we will interview people outside of the supply chain industry if the person is exceptional at their trade.

In this episode of 3PL Live, we explore how Belal ended up being the number one sales rep at four startups and dead last at two. We learn that Belal achieved this success without being motivated by money.

We explore some of the tactical ways people can sell better, such as giving the price upfront, talking about competition, and changing social paradigms in the buyer-seller relationship.

We also speak about psychological safety and a prototype to fail fast in the art of sales.

Rise Transportation with Chris Wilson

At 3PL systems, we enjoy highlighting entrepreneurs in the supply chain and their founding stories through our podcast 3PL Live. 

If you enjoy our content please comment and share

In this episode of 3PL Live, Chris Wilson from Rise Transportation shares his entrepreneurship story about bootstrapping a 3PL right before the pandemic hit!

Chris shut down his freight brokerage for two whole months during the pandemic but weathered the storm. Rise Transportation is expecting a strong Q4 with several hundred shipments in the books.

We talk about entrepreneurship, marketing, and running a small business.

If you’re in the freight brokerage business, having a reliable partner in Transportation Management Software (TMS) can increase your revenue potential.

STARTING A FREIGHT BROKERAGE BUSINESS — KEEPING COSTS DOWN IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS

Starting a freight brokerage business can certainly seem like a mountain of a task—and it is.

Look, I’m not going to pretend that starting and running your own business is simple, straightforward, or in any way easy. It’s hard. It takes time, discipline, effort, great ideas, greater people, and a willingness to bend over backwards for clients and carriers.

We’ve written before about how to be a freight broker, how to set yourself apart from the crowd, how to convince shippers that you’re not like the other guys, how to make a name for yourself (and keep your reputation squeaky clean) …

How to differentiate yourself from the competition, basically.

It requires a certain type of person, but it can be done—and the modern freight broker has access to tools that allow them to do things that just weren’t possible ten or twenty years ago.

STARTING A FREIGHT BROKERAGE BUSINESS REQUIRES DISCIPLINE, HARD WORK, STRONG MARKETING AND BRANDING, AND A DEEP KNOWLEDGE OF THE INDUSTRY

Now, marketing and branding play a role in this, specialization plays a role in this (if you can focus tightly on a specific niche industry that you serve, you’re set for success down the road), working hard and hiring the right people plays a role, picking the right customers (and turning down the wrong customers) plays a role, carefully choosing which carriers you will and won’t work with plays a role…

But, as someone who’s starting a freight brokerage business, you have a unique opportunity that brokers who’ve been in this business for a while would do just about anything to have:

You have the opportunity to build an extraordinarily lean business from day one, a business that doesn’t rely on outmoded ways of doing business, that doesn’t rely on a large staff to be successful.

Someone who’s been in the business for years, or even decades, has a lot of baggage. They might have employees whom they know don’t pull their weight but whom they can’t quite seem to get rid of. They might have old processes in place that would require extensive retraining of already-overworked staff to replace (not to mention a staggering cost to boot). They might have customers who just aren’t interested in new technology, who are never going to want to do things any differently than they’ve always done them.

YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO AVOID A GREAT DEAL OF THIS—ALL YOU NEED IS A POWERFUL TMS ON YOUR SIDE.

We live in the age of robotics, and TMS software (transportation management system) is the robotic helper that old-school freight brokers always dreamed of

Except, for an established broker to bring a new technology to their team, they’re facing an uphill battle.

You’re not.

If you’re starting a freight brokerage business, you get to call the shots from day one. You get to decide if you want to put out an ad for an assistant and start your business with the monthly recurring cost and stress of providing someone else’s livelihood…

Or if you want to bring on a powerful software platform for a fraction of the cost.

You get to decide if you want to rely solely on your knowledge of the industry, of shippers, of carriers, of lanes, of fluctuating prices, of shipping requirements, of transit times (and how they vary from carrier to carrier) … You get to decide if you want to rely on your steel-clad memory and luck.

Or if you want to have a powerful tool on your side.  One who can look at load boards and carrier websites at once, help you find a quality carrier with decent pricing and transit times quickly.  One that can quickly pick a solution that makes your client happy and guarantees you a higher profit margin.

Imagine a solution that can auto-generate a great deal of paperwork and emails that would normally have to be created by hand. You get to decide if you want to make things easier on both you and your customer by providing a customized customer portal where they can track and rate shipments based on tariffs you’ve designated.

You get to decide if you want to hire a team and dig a hole in your nonexistent-currently-but-it’s-definitely-coming revenue, or if you want to take on a TMS at a fraction of the cost and see how far you can go before ever having to even consider hiring staff.

IF YOU’RE STARTING A FREIGHT BROKERAGE BUSINESS, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IS TO GET A TMS—BECAUSE IT AMPLIFIES YOUR EFFORTS, INCREASES EFFICIENCY, AND KEEPS YOU FROM HAVING TO HIRE FOR A WHILE

There are a variety of features a good TMS needs to have to really be as beneficial as I just described. It will take a little time to learn how to wield this powerful tool appropriately, but it’s nothing compared to trying to implement one down the road with a large staff who’s not interested in learning new things.

You eliminate a lot of the busywork, you make things easier on both shippers and carriers, and you give yourself the ability to seem like 1 person doing the job of 10.

BrokerWare™ can help you do just that.

Not sure you’re ready for software as comprehensive and robust as BrokerWare™?

We’ve got you covered there, too.

Enter your information below and let us know if you’re interested in hearing about the next big thing to happen with transportation management systems.

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LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT FOR BROKERS: IF YOU CAN’T DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF FROM THE COMPETITION, EFFICIENCY IS CRITICAL

We’ve been on a bit of an efficiency kick lately — it’s a topic that constantly comes up around our office as we consider how to perfect logistics management for brokers and how to help them become as lean as possible.

You see, in the brokerage industry, lean is the name of the game.

Fortunately or unfortunately, many people view what brokers do as a commodity. Now, that may not sound so bad, but I’m using a very specific definition of that term:

A commodity is a product or service that can be bought from anyone, because the product doesn’t change from supplier to supplier.

Now that may sound good to the customer, but that’s bad for brokers.

Whenever something is viewed as a commodity, the industry that creates that product or service suffers, and eventually, the customer suffers too, because quality goes down the drain.

THE PROBLEM WITH BEING A COMMODITY

Take steel. There was a time in this country when steel was one of our greatest points of national pride. American steel was the best steel you could buy, period.

Then, other countries jumped on the steel train, so to speak. Not having the infrastructure or experience that we had, they obviously weren’t just going to start out making incredible steel. So their steel was lower in quality.

Which meant they could sell it cheaper.

Now, a discerning customer can tell the difference between high and low quality steel, but at that time, all steel was viewed as a commodity — it’s all relatively the same.

So, they bought the steel that cost the least — because it doesn’t matter, right? And the American steel industry took a hit (and never really recovered) because all that additional value American steel held, the sheer quality of our steel, was not being seen.

CAREFUL LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT, FOR BROKERS, IS CRITICAL BECAUSE OF HOW THE SERVICE IS VIEWED

Now, I want to make something very clear — you don’t have to be viewed as a commodity.

If you can provide a superior service, if you can make it clear to your clients and your truckers alike that you’re not like the other guys, that you’re different, that you’re the go-to broker when things are tough, that you’re trustworthy and easy to work with and maybe even a little fun…

If you can do that, you don’t have to spend quite so much time worrying about extreme efficiency.

However, getting to that point takes time, hard work, and a dedication to building and maintaining relationships on both sides of the business.

That being said, no matter if you’re an industry veteran or just taking your first steps into the business, you can benefit from increased efficiency.

The more efficient you are, the higher your profits. One of the keys to logistics management, for brokers just starting out and for brokers who’ve been doing this a while, is efficiency. A TMS can do that, but there are other ways to increase your efficiency as well.

What you really need to do is take the time to look at your logistics management processes. Ask yourself the tough question: Are we being as efficient as possible?

If you’re not, a TMS is an excellent place to start.

And once you’ve become as efficient as possible, you can start thinking about differentiating yourself from the competition, getting out of commodity land, and getting to a point where efficiency isn’t the ONLY way to turn a profit.

Take the first step with a TMS that’ll grow with your business.  See BrokerWare in action by entering your information below:

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HOW TO FIX THE WASTE YOU DIDN’T REALIZE WAS IN YOUR TMS

Anyone in supply chain management, manufacturing, or hospitals is probably already aware of the principles I’ll be reviewing here: Lean Systems.  Alternatively, Lean methodology is referred to as Kaizen, referencing where it was first pioneered as a part of Toyota’s manufacturing in Japan.

A brief background of Lean manufacturing (where the methodology got its start) will help you understand the concepts I’ll be suggesting you apply to your transportation management systems.

LEAN CONCEPTS, FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T HEARD OF IT BEFORE:

The core concept behind Lean manufacturing (alternatively referred to as Lean production, or just “lean”) is to make it extremely obvious what adds value by reducing anything that doesn’t.  It was first pioneered by Toyota, who implemented it as a management philosophy back in the 80s.

The primary goal of lean is reducing waste, plain and simple.  Different schools of thought emphasize waste reduction or the ‘flow’ of work, but the end result is generally the same: drastic improvements in the speed at which products are manufactured, the efficiency of producing those products, and a decrease in the cost needed to make the products.

The main focus, above all else, is on the value the customer or client finds in your product. 

There are three types of waste that the Toyota system identifies: non value adding work, overburden, and unevenness.

Non value adding work is busy work, to put it another way.

For TMS, that would be the need to double-enter your data, copy documents multiple times, or otherwise do tasks that don’t really add any value to your end client, as far what your end client sees.

Your end client doesn’t care about your administrative needs – so administrative tasks are non-value adding tasks, and should be reduced as much as possible.

Overburden is when too much is required of a single step, such that it becomes too complicated to identify areas of improvement.  Does generating a quote require clicking through 20 different screens and entering in information that isn’t directly relevant at that stage?

You can avoid overburden by simplifying your steps, making it clear and obvious what each step of your process is, how long each step should take, and how to make the process efficient and repeatable.  Generating invoices, bills of lading, or simply managing the accounting – it should be simple to move from one step to the next.  You shouldn’t have to hunt for documents, data, or resources at every stage.

Finally, there’s unevenness, which can also be referred to as production bottlenecks.  This happens often in systems where there’s an expensive or unwieldy tool, so managers will pause production or wait until they have a lot to process, before actually using the tool.

They’ll place undue emphasis on a single point of production, which in turn, slows the entire process down.  That unevenness, while it seems to make sense to try and get the most out of a single tool, actually costs more than it saves by slowing down production.

Is your process uneven because you’re trying to get more out of a single tool?  You might be able to become more efficient by evening out the process – improving the “flow” of work and streamlining your system.

WHAT’S LEAN GOT TO DO WITH TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS?

When a company’s manufacturing process becomes Lean, and there’s been a heavy focus on efficiency and waste reduction in their manufacturing, the next logical step is to Lean their supply chain.  It’s no use having Lean manufacturing if your supply chain isn’t equally as efficient, right?

That’s where the transportation management system used needs to keep up.

We’ve discussed wasted time and the impact that has on your bottom line before, but the ramifications of how much all of the waste in your freight management can add up become excruciatingly clear when you view it from a Lean methodology perspective.

One cent of wasted money (in time, personnel resources, or materials) isn’t much on its own, but when you add up one cent of waste in each step, for each client, for each truckload… that becomes a lot of dough.  And when you’re working in slim margins to begin with, you (and your clients) don’t want to lose a single cent you don’t have to.

One of the aspects that Lean really excels in is finding tiny improvements (often sourced directly from your employees) that add up to big savings.

One major source of savings is having an all-in-one transportation management system, rather than piecing together several solutions for all of your needs.  It seems like a simple thing to have just a single window for inputting all the necessary data, rather than clicking through window.

After window.

After window.

After window.

You or your employees might just be used to clicking through 5, 10, or 20 windows to generate an invoice, shipment, or bill of lading, but once they experience a single window to do it all, they’re never going to want to go back.

Another waste-eliminating ability is having the relevant documents get pulled into each customer record, allowing you to view all the necessary information in one place.  The same with accounting – just eliminating double entry alone reduces the risk of errors and saves time.  It’s the idea of that single penny that adds up every single time you have to change windows, look for data, or copy and paste data fields.

While a Lean evangelist will tell you that you can’t get the full benefits of a Lean system without embracing it fully, you can still see significant improvements in your bottom line, your efficiency, and employee satisfaction by implementing certain Lean concepts.

WHERE TO START?

The Lean concepts you’ll want to implement are practical, actionable ideas that you can start using today.

The first step is to take a moment to actually sit down and document your entire process of generating a quote or booking a shipment.

How many steps does it take?  What, exactly, are those steps?  They should be clear, simple, and easy enough to follow that someone who’s never seen your system before should be able to follow along.

Once you do that, you may already see areas that can be improved.  Things like organizing the tariffs that need to be applied to certain shipping areas, how much information is needed for a shipping quote, or just what information is needed in reports generated for clients – these are all potential areas for improvement.  Above all else, keep in mind the value your customer sees in the process: what can you eliminate, reduce, or make more efficient that would make them see your services as more valuable?

There’s an easy way to simplify large amounts of work – and that’s with an integrated, efficient TMS.  Any step that involves finding documents, copy pasting information, or duplicate screens can and should be possible to turn into a single step or eliminate entirely with a more advanced TMS.

The use of APIs in the more advanced TMS systems means that much of the data you need can be pulled directly from your carrier’s websites.  This decreases waste in the form of time spent looking for that data, and increases value by providing your clients real time information about their shipments.

The (hopefully) easy part that you can start today is identifying your shipment booking or quote generating process.  It may seem simple, or a bit mundane, or obvious, but it’s important to think about it from the perspective of your client.

How much value do they really see in the process?  Is it something that they see as an asset to their business, or are you just a necessary evil they have to deal with?

The way to increasing your profits is through making your customers happier.

And a smoother, more efficient shipping process is the best way to do that.

See how you could improve your shipping process – enter your information below for a personalized demo of BrokerWare:

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WHAT, EXACTLY, IS TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE ANYWAY?

We might think we can easily identify what transportation management software is, but as was pointed out in a recent discussion on LinkedIn, it’s often confusing what actually makes up TMS.

To the point, JP Wiggins pointed out in a LinkedIn group discussion –

“The issue is qualifying ‘what’ a TMS is. It can mean anything from parcel labeling software to fleet management to global multi-country fulfillment.  Our research is showing that buyers of TMS are getting lost when trying to find solutions for them.” 

So what, exactly, is a TMS?

STARTING SIMPLE:

A TMS, as the acronym is commonly used, is a transportation management system.  It’s usually the subset of your supply chain that handles most aspects of your transportation operations, and is often part of an enterprise resource planning system.

The system for transportation management, due to how varied the supply chain for any industry can be, needs to adaptable.  It needs to be able to assist with procurement, shipping, and all the details to ensure both routes in the supply chain take place smoothly and as cost effectively as possible.

That’s where transportation management software comes into play, and due to the integral nature of an effective software solution to any transportation management system, the acronym is often used interchangeably for both.

Transportation management software, however, isn’t necessarily your entire system.  Some software options are limited, only allowing a certain number of shipments, or syncing only with certain carriers, or lacking the option to connect with essential programs like Quickbooks.  When using these limited management software options, your system will include multiple software tools to help you manage the entire shipping process.

The system includes everything – every piece of software, every tool, every method you use to manage all aspects of your shipping lanes, your shipments, and how they get from point A to point B.

That’s a transportation management system.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SYSTEM AND SOFTWARE

Often, to cut costs, companies will use a free or low cost transportation management software, which doesn’t sync with load boards, utilize the web services of carriers, or offer document collection or management within the software.

More comprehensive software options allow for syncing with various load boards, accounting tools, and also provide a way to manage documents and contacts.

Ultimately, your system is made up of all the software and tools you use to make it work.  That’s common sense, right?

While a system encompasses the whole, software is typically meeting a specific need.  Organization, ease of booking, collecting all carrier data into one place, or accounting – often, there’s a single software solution that’s available to help you manage these things.  When using multiple tools to manage your system, you often need a system to manage the system.  It gets extremely complicated, extremely fast.

This is where free or low cost options become more trouble than they’re worth.  Are you really saving that much when you have to spend additional hours of your own time, or your employees’ time, to make the software work within your system?

There are software options, however, that are comprehensive enough to become your entire system.

Software that doubles as a solution for a system integrates with your warehouse management tools, your carrier web services, your accounting software, load boards, document organization, your address book, not to mention the basic needs of generating labels.

Software handles a few of the tasks your supply chain needs to keep running.

A system is what makes the entire thing run smoothly.

THE FOUR FUNCTIONS OF AN EFFECTIVE TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

There’s four main functionalities any effective transportation management system needs to manage in order to be productive.

  • They need to aid in planning and decision making: finding the best shipping route based on various needs – fewer stops, transport costs, lead time, partial or full load, and so on. An effective system makes this kind of planning and decision making as easy as selecting your priorities as you book a shipment or request a quote.
  • Actually executing the transportation plan: Once you’ve chosen the shipping plan that best fits the needs for that shipment, an effective software solution should allow you to actually book the shipment. This means checking and confirming the carrier’s rate acceptance, dispatching the carrier, and generating any needed labels or bills of lading.
  • Tracking and following up the shipment: You don’t just click “ship” and wait for the package to show up – shipments need to be tracked (preferably in real time), notifications sent when the shipment is received, invoices generated or updated, and alerts sent to you or to your client of any delays or problems along the way.
  • Measuring effectiveness: Any system needs to be checked and monitored to ensure it’s really as effective as it can be. Generating custom reports to review the key performance indicators that you’ve decided on for your business is essential to monitoring if your transportation management system is as efficient as it should be.

These are all the functionalities a system needs to have – not all software offers all of these features (Pro Tip: Brokerware™ does).

In order to determine what software solution, or solutions, you need to utilize to improve the management of your transportation system, you’ll need to sit down with your business managers and clients to determine what their priorities are.

There’s a few essential features that even a basic transportation management software should offer, and you can read more about those here.

SO WHICH IS IT?  SOFTWARE OR SYSTEM?

It’s important to distinguish between your entire system and the software you use to manage it.  No software can replace the human element of your system – it can help identify smart decisions, and improve on your process, but it’s no replacement for experience and knowledge of the industry.

That’s why you need a software that works with you and your team to make your system work as efficiently as possible.

The most effective transportation management software allows you to manage your entire system within a single portal.

The best transportation management software allows you to manage the system within a single portal – without having to open multiple windows, copy and paste information into each field, or double enter information.

An ideal software solution integrates seamlessly with your other systems, without requiring complex navigation to do so.

You should be able to easily update information for tariffs, shipping lanes, contacts, and labels, as well as track your shipments in real time.

In addition, it should integrate with your accounting software – if you’re using QuickBooks, your transportation management software should allow the ability to sync the necessary data to keep your books accurate and up to date.

Software helps you manage your system, plain and simple.  That’s why we designed BrokerWare™ the way we did – because we’ve actually worked in the freight broker industry, and we know what a freight broker is looking for in their software.

It’s important to choose the software that’s the best fits the needs of your system.  Software that can be customized as needed for your business needs, or a combination of software solutions that accomplish the same thing.

See why our customers love BrokerWare so much – see a demo by entering your information below:

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