Intermodal 101:Why a 3PL?

With both ramp to ramp and door to door options available, there are many approaches that a shipper should take to maximize his freight spend whilst still meeting his customer needs.  But understanding that there are multiple approaches to employ is not the same as executing against that plan.  Shippers work hard to master their core competency; they want to brew the best beer, sell the most fashionable clothing, manufacture the fastest equipment, etc., they don’t have time or capacity to spend on transportation.

What they need is a great relationship with a Third-Party Logistics provider (3PL) to help them navigate the options available to them.  Working with the 3PL and forming a relationship based on trust and understanding will enable the shipper to meet his two goals, satisfying his customer and doing so at a reasonable cost.

The 3PL will work with the shipper to get a full understanding of the items that are most important to the shipper.  For some, the fastest possible transit time is the most crucial factor to consider when shipping, for others it is shipping as cheaply as possible while still other may want consistent transit times at reasonable pricing.  The 3PL will help determine which the shipper is looking for and will work to put a plan in place to meet those needs.

What steps will the 3PL take to meet the shipper’s needs?  We will discuss that in our next update.


Training Tuesday:Sales Listening

Sales listening is patient listening. Don’t anxiously wait for an opportunity to jump in and solve all the customer’s problems right away. After I ask a question I shut up and allow my prospect to speak. Sometimes I wait for several minutes. Most salespeople can’t stand a pause in the conversation. Take a deep breath, relax, and listen. Some prospects want to be listened to more than they want their problems solved. People love to talk about themselves, their jobs, and their companies; encourage them to do so.

Transportation salespeople who have been in our industry for a long time should re-visit how they qualify and maintain accounts. It’s easy to start believing that you have all the answers, but you never know what changes may have happened since your last call.

Never waste the prospect’s time. There will come a point when the customer is ready to move past the small talk, and it’s usually quicker than you might think. Everyone is short on time these days and most traffic managers, purchasing managers, and other decision-makers will appreciate you getting to the point. You can do this tactfully without jeopardizing the emerging relationship.

First, give the prospect a reason he or she should answer your questions and ask for permission to proceed. The prospect always expects to answer questions and will give this permission. When you move on to the questions, make sure you are actively listening and not just mentally preparing for the next thing you are going to say.

Take notes! Taking notes can be one of your most powerful sales tools as it will reinforce the reason you made the appointment in the first place: to learn more about the prospect and their company’s needs.

Taking notes also helps you listen. There’s something about holding an empty notepad in front of you that makes you pay better attention to what is being said and makes it more difficult to miss important points.

Taking notes puts you in a position of authority. It encourages the prospect to open up and generally sends strong positive signals to them. It says, “I’m listening to you and I won’t forget.”

Be sure to pay attention to the fine line between asking questions and making the prospect feel that they are being cross-examined. Be natural and at ease to create a comfortable two-way conversation.

Listen, Learn, and Earn.


LTL 101:Delivery Appointments versus Notifications

LTL 101: Delivery Appointments versus Notify Before Delivery

Last post continued discussion on the importance of freight classifications when shipping LTL. This week we want to switch gears and discuss the difference between an appointment and a notify before delivery.

Delivery Appointments:

  • Appointments cannot be set until the freight arrives at the destination terminal.
  • Contact must be made with the consignee to deliver.
    • LTL Carriers will always make appointments, we cannot make the appointments for them. However, if they cannot get a hold of the consignee we may assist them.
    • We can’t stress enough how important it is to contact the consignee even if they are not your customer in order to understand their appointment process.
    • It is best practice to then get with the carrier to insure they are not having trouble setting up an appointment and causing further delays.
      • It is not the carrier’s responsibility to understand every consignee’s appointment process.

A great example of the above is Grocery Warehouses: If the carrier needs to book an appointment online or reference PO#s in order to get the freight delivered then we need to put this info as clear and concise as possible on the BOL. This info must be entered on the “special instructions” section under the carrier tab in BTMS.

  • Appointments can sometimes delay transit by 1-2 days with the freight sitting on the dock.
    • Don’t forget that LTL drivers depart from their terminals early in the morning and if an appointment cannot be set prior to their trailers being loaded, your freight will be left behind.
    • Regardless if “THE FREIGHT MUST DELIVER TODAY” the drivers will not go back to the terminal once they have dispatched for the day.
  • A few things to keep in mind with appointments:
    • Specific delivery windows can cause a driver to take an inefficient route which has a domino effect on all shipments for that day.
    • Some consignees may have Drop Trailer schedules set up with certain carriers.
    • Some consignees may have standing appointments set up with certain carriers.

Notify Before Delivery:

  • Your shipment does not have to deliver at a specified time and may arrive any time between the standard LTL hours of 8am and 5pm local time.
  • This is typically used when shipping to residences, storage facilities, or even businesses with limited dock space.
  • Drivers do not call ahead to the shipping location. This is done by a dispatcher or clerk at the destination terminal and sometimes even at the corporate offices of the LTL carrier.
  • This can cause a delay in transit while the freight sits on the dock until the consignee can be notified.
    • Due to the high amount of volume in LTL and depending on the size of the terminal, there could be multiple, even hundreds of shipments that need to be notified for the day.
    • If the consignee cannot be reached on the due date of delivery after multiple attempts, it is highly possible that the freight will be held at the terminal until contact can be made.

Remember: If you’re looking to set up a Delivery Appointment you’ll need to select that particular service. But if you’re just looking for a “head’s up,” then Notify Consignee is the accessorial you’re looking for.


Training Tuesday:Mastering the Sales Presentation

Increase your odds of closing more sales by practicing your presentations. After you’ve made sales presentations, they become practice sessions for presentations you’ll give in the future.

Collect the ideas you’d like to suggest or selling points you want to make; then organize them according to your purpose and the needs of your prospect. Give your words greater credibility by backing them up with data or testimonials. Keep your words as simples and direct as possible; use active, not passive language; and vary your tone, volume, and pitch to keep the prospect interested. Illustrate your words with examples and interesting stories to add color to your presentation.

Lastly, get to know everything you can about the transportation business – both SunteckTTS and the competition. When you demonstrate how much you know about your industry you’ll gain the respect of your customers and prospects. When people believe they are dealing with an expert it’s a lot easier to close the sale. Most customers want you to advise them. When they realize that you have a great knowledge of the transportation industry and of available carriers, then they’re happy to let you take control. It’s when a salesperson doesn’t know much about the transportation industry as his or her prospect that people resent a strong sales approach. However, there’s no doubt that traffic and purchasing people are better informed today than they’ve ever been.

The best way to make a compelling sales presentation is by demonstrating that you’re an expert in your business as well as theirs. When you exemplify excellence in your sales presentation, the customer is eager to find out what you can do to offer solutions to their particular transportation problems.

To make the best presentation possible, you must have conviction in the services you’re there to sell. A customer instinctively knows whether you believe in your service. If you do, they in turn will believe in you. Only then can you make a sales presentation that turns into a sale every time.



Intermodal 101:Commitment Pricing

Intermodal 101: Advantages of Commitment Pricing

Use of the Door to Door, transactional programs from the railroads might seem like the best way to take advantage of pricing that may go down at any given time.  Locking in at a rate for a year’s commitment might not seem like a promising idea when the rates could drop next week.

However, it is important for the shipper to remember, what goes down will eventually come back up.  Rates in intermodal have not fluctuated a lot in recent years, but the trend is to take them higher.  Locking in your rate for the next year will enable a level of certainty for the shipper.

Due to its transactional basis, Door to Door pricing typically does not include capacity commitments between the shipper and the railroad.  Locking in with certain programs will allow all parties to commit to each other.  The Shipper commits a certain number of loads on a scheduled basis, the railroad commits to providing capacity to move those shipments.  With expectations set, it is easier for both parties to perform their part of the commitment.

Budgeting is simplified for the shipper when they know the rate they will be paying to move freight in each lane.  When the shipper is creating the budget for the next fiscal year, if they know they have to move 100 shipments from point A to point B, and the rate for the year will be $1,000 per move, they must budget $100,000.  Doing this against all lanes is the best way for the shipper to accurately calculate their transportation spend for the year.

Finally, the operations within the shipper as a company are simplified.  Each person in payables will know the rate they need to pay, which could allow a level of automation.  The personnel in the order tendering department will know who the order is going to, which allows them to focus on shipments that aren’t committed and locked in.

Understanding the two different approaches will enable the shipper to maximize shipping dollars and get product delivered to the customer.  Typically, though, the shipper is not in the transportation business, so their focus is not on minimizing rates.  Use of a 3PL or even a 4PL will allow the shipper to focus their attentions on their core business and leave the program selections to the experts.

In the next update, we will discuss the advantage of bringing in a 3PL to assist with shipping.



Training Tuesday:Managing Stress, Part 2

Training Tuesday: More Stress Management Tips

Last week we addressed ten of our top tips for reducing stress and the negative effects that long lasting stress can have on success. Reducing stress is an important life skill involving techniques that take only minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. Below are ten more tips on reducing stress and improving general happiness and success.

11.Figure out the source of your stress. Focus on whether or not it’s your fault and if so, whether there is anything you can do about it.

12.Talk to people who work in similar jobs – it doesn’t necessarily have to be transportation sales, but preferably someone in outside sales.

13.Talk to someone who will help you develop an objective perspective of your situation. It can be someone at work you trust, a friend, or a professional.

14.Find something that makes you laugh. Hold onto it and pull it out when you need a good laugh.

15.Spend more time with people who make you laugh. Get together with co-workers regularly to share funny stories about daily disasters with an eye towards constructive solutions.

16.Smile more. Smiling is a great way to reduce stress and improve confidence and feelings of happiness.

17.Eat healthy. When we’re under stress, our bodies use up nutrients faster and less efficiently than they ordinarily do. Give yourself a boost by opting for healthier foods, increasing intake of vitamins and proteins, and reducing fats, caffeine, and sugar.

18.Stick to a regular sleep schedule.

19.Write down what you expect to accomplish and then get it done.

20.Start your day prepared. If any one factor will relieve more stress than another, it’s preparation.

Embracing even just a few of the ideas that we’ve mentioned is a great way to work towards reduced stress, greater happiness, and improved success.


LTL 101:Freight Classification Details

LTL 101: Freight Classification Details

Remember the National Motor Freight Classification® (NMFC®) is a standard that provides a comparison of commodities moving in interstate, intrastate and foreign commerce. Commodities are grouped into one of 18 classes—from a low of class 50 to a high of class 500—based on an evaluation of four transportation characteristics: density, stow-ability, handling, and liability. Together, these characteristics establish a commodity’s “transportability.”

These characteristics can be defined as follows:

1.Density (Weight, Length, & Height): Density is the space the item occupies in relation to its weight. The density is calculated by dividing the weight of the item in pounds by its volume in cubic feet. Your item’s volume in cubic feet is Length x Width x Height/1,728, where all dimensions are measured in inches. The density of your item = Weight/Volume, where Weight is measured in pounds and Volume is measured in cubic feet.

2.Stow-ability:Most freight stows well in trucks, trains and boats, but some articles are regulated by the government or carrier policies. Some items cannot be loaded together. Hazardous materials are transported in specific manners. Excessive weight, length or protrusions can make freight impossible to load with other freight. The absence of load-bearing surfaces makes freight impossible to stack. A quantifiable stow-ability classification represents the difficulty in loading and carrying these items.

3.Handling:Most freight is loaded with mechanical equipment and poses no handling difficulties, but some freight, due to weight, shape, fragility or hazardous properties, requires special attention. A classification that represents ease or difficulty of loading and carrying the freight is assigned to the items.

4.Liability:Liability is probability of freight theft or damage, or damage to adjacent freight. Perishable cargo or cargo prone to spontaneous combustion or explosion is classified based on liability and assigned a value per pound, which is a fraction of the carrier’s liability. When classification is based on liability, density must also be considered.

Sub-NMFC Codes

Yes, there is more! There are also Sub-NMFC codes which are noted with a dash after the code (i.e. 41024-04). Make sure to confirm that the Sub-NMFC code matches the correct freight class. Carriers sometimes overlook this, but it’s also not uncommon for them to charge you at the higher class; whether it be the class that was listed, or the class corresponding to the Sub-NMFC codes on the BOL. These can often be disputed, but usually require a manufacturer’s specification sheet and a packing list proving the correct class. That’s more work for all parties and can be avoided by simply double-checking to make sure your class and NMFC code match.
Don’t forget we are participants of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association which means we have access to multiple ways of obtaining the correct NMFC number/code for your shipments. If you have any questions or doubts regarding your product’s freight class, please reach out to the LTL Team at ltltms@suntecktts.


Training Tuesday:Managing Stress

Training Tuesday: Stress Management to Improve Success

Selling offers more highs and lows than most other professions. Most salespeople suffer through periods of stress that are direct results of their sales jobs, but salespeople who succeed in the long run never let disappointments get the best of them. They know rejection goes with the territory and learn not to take it personally and instead, they view mistakes and failures as lessons that will help them improve. On the other hand, some very promising sales careers have died premature deaths due to stress. Stress sometimes causes sales people to lose confidence and then fill their day with nonessential activities and hide from their customers or prospects. We’re also faced with lots of rejection on our daily search for success. If you dwell on the negatives, they’ll bury you. You have to lighten up and look for ways to lessen the stress caused by your job.

Below are our top 10 tips to reduce stress:

1. Focus. Focus on what’s truly stressful to you about a situation and why – the idea being that understanding the stress lessens it and gives you some control over it.

2. Put stressful situations in perspective.

3. Postpone thinking about problems until an appropriate time. Successful people learn how to compartmentalize their thinking.

4. Take a deep breath. Size up stressful situations and decide which are worth worrying about.

5. Take vacations and occasional time off. 

6. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

7. Talk to others about job pressures.

8. Expect the unexpected. Allow time and reserve energy to deal with the inevitable stressful events that occur daily.

9. Do something for yourself.

10. Volunteer or do something in the community that is rewarding to you.


Check back next week for more sales training and tips.