When I started recruiting in Transportation and Logistics in 2004, I had no real interest in going to work for an established recruiting firm to “learn the recruiting ropes”, and was in fact encouraged by a couple excellent recruiters/mentors to jump right in with both feet and just start my own practice.  Best advice I ever got, but would never say it was easy at first (what business start up is??).

My advice to Transportation Clients and Transportation Professionals on a “Book of Business”

The most difficult part of recruiting, is finding clients i.e. a Transportation or Logistics client willing to sign a contract with you and pay you to find them key personnel.  I never worked so hard in my life making calls and networking to find companies to give me a shot.  One thing I noticed was that many Trucking Companies and especially non-asset freight brokerage companies seemed a lot easier to talk to and get their attention than say an Ocean Carrier, Freight Forwarder or 3PL organization.  I can’t tell you how many conversations I had that went something like this….”oh man, we are the hottest thing since sliced bread….. you can’t even find us enough sales reps to keep up with our growth etc..etc..blah..blah..”  Well, when you are hungry for work, you take what’s in front of you and I recruited like crazy for some of these early clients with some success and some dismal failure, but man did I learn a lot.  One thing I learned was all about the “Book of Business”.  The older you are the more you will relate to this term, but if you are reading this and are unaware of what this means, it is basically a salesman’s list of clients and contacts that he does business with and the volume of business that the customers do with him/her on a yearly basis.  The slang would be “yeah….I rock a $2.3 million book in truckload brokerage” as some salespeeps are prone to brag.

Transportation Sales Reps

Years ago I think it is fair to say that Transportation Sales Reps where in the driver’s seat.  They really did control their “book of business” because it was all about their relationship with the shipper and the shipper relied on them heavily to “make it happen and move their freight”.  Over time however, companies got tired of losing business when a Rep was “enticed” (shall we say) to move to a competitor and they had the power to take most if not all of their business with them, and several things happened.  For one thing companies started requiring non-compete agreements for new sales hires and they also started entering in to serious contracted agreements with shippers which included rates, electronic sharing of information, service agreements and who knows what else that each party considered important to do business together.  In short , the Sales Rep still plays a key role in building a company’s business, but they (in my opinion) have lost a great deal of that leverage in being able to move business from one company to another.

OK, getting long winded here so let me bring this home.  What I discovered when I was desperate for business, was that many clients just wanted Sales Reps for the “Book of Business” that a Rep could bring with them, and in fairness some candidates were frustrated with their current companies change in commission structure or the new boss was a jerk or who knows what and where touting their “Book of Business” to land a job at a different and hopefully better company to work for.  In my opinion these scenarios rarely live up to expectations, and certainly not in the quick timeframe hoped for.  It is just too hard to “flip the business” these days because shippers rely more on the transportation provider as a company than just their Sales Rep.  A straight Freight Broker, probably has a better chance of flipping business, because of the nature of brokerage, but still if the new company the broker works for fails from a service standpoint they may not get many chances to prove themselves.

So my advice:

To clients; do not hire to gain a “book of Business” hire on the qualities, salesmanship and demonstrable success a Sales Rep brings to the table.  Take the attitude that this Rep has proven he/she can build a “book of business” and with our capabilities they can certainly build one again.  Many customers will come over time, but you have to give the rep the time to earn the trust of the shipper again.

To Candidates; If you are looking at a job opportunity and you get the feeling that all the company cares about is your client list and volumes, no matter how good you think you are, run fast and far away from the opportunity especially if it is a straight commission job.  Rarely have I seen a Sales Rep be able to convert his business fast enough to get back to the income levels they need to make the job work.

How do I know all this?  I read resumes for a living and interview Transportation and Logistics Sales Reps on a daily basis.  I have easily had over 1000 conversations about a job move gone bad all because of expectations on a “Book of Business”.

At the time of writing this BLOG I Goggled “ “Book of Business” in trucking” and all kinds of things popped up including:

At Crabtree & Eller we recruit specifically in Transportation and Logistics and focus on a high level of service in the areas of Ocean Freight, Air Freight, Logistics, Trucking and Rail.  If you have hiring needs we can help.  Give me a call at 303-278-2001 or email me at mark@crabtreeandeller.com .