There is something up with shippers. I sell transportation services, so I talk with shippers most every day. They look and act normal, but there is something weird going on with those people.

Most of the shippers I know work for manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. Nothing really out of the ordinary there.

When you first deal with shippers, they seem normal. Most are really good people, courteous, professional and fairly open-minded. Of course some shippers are a little guarded because they know I am a sales guy. Shippers talk to a lot of sales guys, which might have led to their weirdness.

Even though they are pretty busy, most shippers will take the time to talk. Some shippers even engage with me, talking about their shipments and showing interest in our services. They seem to have a problem that I can solve. Well at least I think they have a problem and I think I can solve it.

At this point, I typically ask my seemingly normal prospect to provide me with some freight bills so I can assess their current situation. Collecting some freight bills is easy enough, especially since I am going to fix their biggest problem – not working with me.

If the shipper gives me some freight bills, I will analyze them and most likely present them with a proposal to win their business.

My proposal will always show hard dollar and soft dollar cost savings. It will typically address some of the problems they described when we talked. My hope is they will sign on the dotted line after seeing my proposal. It all makes perfect sense.

This is when it gets weird…

The vast majority of shippers won’t give me their freight bills, so I can’t provide my brilliant analysis. I can’t save them money and I can’t fix their problems. What initially seemed like a great sale for me has faded away. This isn’t just my observation. Every logistics sales guy I know shares the same sad story.

So what gives? Why are shippers so irrational? Why won’t they share their freight bills? I have done some investigating, but I still don’t completely understand the problem. I will share what I know.

Shippers Don’t Share Their Freight Bills Because:

  1. No Time. Believe it or not, shippers are busy and sometimes they don’t want to allocate the time and resources to gather up the freight bills. If they really thought I offered a better way, they would find the time.
  2. My Solution Is Not As Special As I Think. Shippers are usually polite and they don’t tell me that my solution is the same as a lot of other logistics companies.
  3. Existing Relationships Matter. Shippers have working relationships too. They don’t want to dump the current transportation guy just to save a few bucks. I suspect, that sometimes my wonderful insights are shared with the incumbent supplier.
  4. Risk. Shippers aren’t stupid. They realize that the biggest risk is transition risk. Saving money is great, but not at the expense of missed / late shipments.
  5. They Don’t Believe Me / Trust Me. Sometimes shippers just don’t believe I can save them money or fix the problems like I said I could. Why should they trust me when we just met? I said shippers are weird, not naïve.
  6. They Can Get the Results Without Me. Once the problems are out in the open, the shipper can solve the problem without me. Why turn everything upside down, when a few improvements can be implemented with minimal effort.
  7. Just Conducting Research – Not Really Interested. Sometimes shippers just meet sales people to gather intelligence and catch up on current trends. Have you ever gone shopping with no intention to buy?
  8. I Can’t Share My Freight Bills Because It’s Not Ethical. This is just a ruse. I think when a shipper says this, they mean one of the other 7 reasons I listed above.

Maybe Not So Weird

Hmmm, maybe shippers are not so weird after all. Maybe the transportation / logistics companies that sell a commoditized service are the weird ones. Perhaps, us service providers will win more sales when we add more innovation and value for our prospects.

Shippers are the rational ones. Switching suppliers to save 5-10% doesn’t make sense. Taking big risks to save a little money is silly. Maybe, shippers are looking for a supplier who adds more value or one who has something new to say.

Maybe there is something wrong with transportation and logistics sales guys.

Soooo shippers, please educate me. Why don’t you give up your freight bills to transportation companies? What are you looking for in a 3PL, broker, carrier? What would it take for you to switch logistics providers?