The Best Freight Brokers Use these 5 Questions when Prospecting

Prospects are not all created equal. The best freight brokers ask the right questions in freight broker sales when prospecting for new business. Knowing the right questions to ask makes it much easier to determine whether you should pursue a new shipper, or whether it makes more sense to move on to a better opportunity.

Listed below are essential tips on how to qualify prospects at the beginning of your sales process.

The 5 Questions the Best Freight Brokers Ask when Prospecting

Load volumes 

This is one of the most important qualifiers for the best freight brokers when prospecting shippers. Knowing how much freight a prospect moves will let you know where to take the conversation. If the volumes are high, it will lead to more questions covering the sections below. If the volume is too low it might lead to a polite good-bye.

You never know until you ask though. Remember, it’s not all about outbound loads either. Usually, it’s a mix between inbound and outbound loads for shippers. Another variable to ask about is the mix between freight your prospect controls and the freight the company’s vendors and customers control. A rule of thumb for most freight brokers is a minimum level of 20 full truckloads per month. Anything less tends not to move the margin needle enough to devote the time and resources to work.

Sample questions the best freight brokers ask:

  • How many loads do you move per month?
  • Do you or your customers control this freight?
  • What’s your mix between inbound and outbound loads?

Cargo types

Since freight or transportation costs are factored into the final costs of goods sold (COGS), the value of the cargo determines the margin premium a freight broker can charge. If transportation costs account for 50% of the final COGS, then the margin premium a shipper is willing to pay will be low. If the cargo is a custom-built piece of machinery for which transportation costs might account for only 5% of a shipper’s COGS, then the margin premium might be higher.

The best freight brokers should know beforehand what commodities a shipper moves. This isn’t the whole story though. While knowing the value of shipments will give you a sense of the tangible value of the cargo, you also need to dig deeper to find out the intangible value as well. This includes the importance of the cargo to the shipper’s customers. This will steer the conversation into how valuable service levels are for each shipment.

Sample questions the best freight brokers ask:

  • What’s the value of an average shipment?
  • How do your customers use or sell your products?
  • How are your customers affected when your products are damaged during shipment?

SONAR-White-Paper-freight brokerage toolkit

Download the White Paper


Delivery windows 

Time is money. When delivery windows are tight, margin premiums climb. It’s all about the urgency of moving products from A to B. Often this is transporting products to customers, but it also includes moving products internally from manufacturing plants to distribution centers, or from distribution centers to retail stores.

Sometimes products are needed on the shelf as soon as possible. Other times the urgency isn’t as straightforward. Retailers often need fast-moving merchandise to stock the shelves. Manufacturers often need raw materials at the last minute or a plant will have to halt production, leaving employees idle. On construction sites, crane crews are hired to unload trucks. When shipments are delayed, real costs outside of the products are realized.

By understanding how urgent the shipments are, freight brokers can quantify the opportunity.

Sample questions the best freight brokers ask:

  • How many of your shipments have flexible pickup and delivery timelines?
  • What percentage of your shipments would you say are expedited?
  • Are your shipments mostly appointment-only or first-come, first-serve?

Shipping modes and lanes 

How does your prospect move its freight now? Is it by dry van, refrigerated, flatbed, intermodal and/or ocean? What’s the mix between all of the shipping modes?

More importantly, which shipping modes is your company or network of carriers best at moving? How does your carrier network line up with the prospect? It’s tempting to try to close every deal, but often it pays to walk away if it’s not a good fit. Time is your most precious commodity to concierge yourself one of the best freight brokers. If your carrier network doesn’t fit with the shipper’s modes and lanes, then you must be prepared to spend the time and resources to build a new carrier network. Will the time invested yield profits in the future? Could you better use your time talking to prospects that align with your strengths?

These questions are ultimately up to you. But choose wisely, because you may end up spinning your wheels and working harder for less money.

Sample questions the best freight brokers ask:

  • What type of equipment and trailers do you need?
  • Which lanes are the hardest to cover for you?
  • Are you expecting to add to or lose any of these lanes?

Decision makers

Last on the list, but certainly not least, is knowing who you are talking to. Is he/she the final decision-maker? Is he/she an influencer of the decision-maker? Or is he/she someone who has no decision-making power or influence? Freight brokers and salespeople often spend too much time on the phone trying to persuade the wrong person.

Most of the time it’s better to be upfront about this question. It doesn’t often offend your prospect. Most people who are not decision-makers are happy to pass you off to the person who is responsible. It is one less thing for them to worry about.

It isn’t all about the final decision-maker though. It is also about the influencers. These are the people who influence the decision. It is important to stay engaged with them. But it is important to realize when you need to go directly to the person who can write the checks when the time is right.

Sample questions the best freight brokers:

  • Are you the decision-maker for bringing on a new freight broker?
  • Who on your team handles the day-to-day responsibilities of working with freight brokers?
  • Who has the most influence on whether or not you add a new freight broker?

How SONAR aids the best freight brokers

FreightWaves SONAR provides the fastest freight market data in the world, across all major modes of traffic. The SONAR platform is the only freight forecasting and analytics platform that offers real-time freight market intelligence-driven off actual freight contract tenders.

SONAR has proprietary data that comes from actual load tenders, electronic logging devices and transportation management systems, along with dozens of third-party global freight and logistics-related index providers like TCA Benchmarking, Freightos, ACT, Drewry and DTN.

Whether you’re working from the office or from home, SONAR can provide the best freight brokers the data and intelligence you need to stay ahead of your competitors.

Find out more about FreightWaves SONAR for brokers.You can find more information on freight brokerage and carrier sales on the popular FreightWaves sales show, Put That Coffee Down.

Request a SONAR demo and see SONAR in action.

Related Posts


Why Freight Brokers Are Overpaying This Week (with video)

How to Be a Successful Freight Broker: Driving Value Through Bundling


Five characteristics of the best freight brokers



What's the SONAR ROI?

By increasing the number of loaded miles per day your drivers drive by 1% and your rate per mile by $0.03 you will make more per week #WithSONAR.

#WithSONAR you can save up to per week through better bid negotiations and more effective management of your routing guide.

#WithSonar you can add 1 more load per person each day and increase $5 margin per load, earning your company an extra per week.

Disclaimer: Every company’s circumstances are unique. Fixed and variable expenses, market conditions and operational factors vary. Unforeseen events may also affect results. Calculated potential results reflect the consensus expectation of FreightWaves’ experts. Actual results may vary.

Read Recent Posts

November 28, 2023

SONAR introduces improved market-level pricing methodology

November 13, 2023

Flatbed spot rate APIs now available

October 25, 2023

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze? Assessing FreightWaves SONAR vs. the Competition

White Papers
November 1, 2023

Index-Linked Contracts: A New Solution for Shippers’ Dissatisfaction with RFPs

August 3, 2023

Catering to the winners – SONAR subscribers beat the market

July 20, 2023

Navigating the Yellow Corp. Crisis: Implications and Strategies for LTL Shippers