How Do Freight Brokers Find Shippers? 11+ Proven Methods To Build Your Business

Freight brokerage competition to lure shippers is as strong as it’s ever been.

Aside from working tirelessly round the clock to connect shippers to carriers, freight brokers constantly scour the land for potential customers – after all, you have to keep the funnel full! Thankfully, the process is much easier than you can imagine.

It just requires some dedication and hustle to see it really pay off for you.

How do freight brokers find shippers?

To find shippers, freight brokers must employ a range of traditional and new-age marketing techniques. These include knowing what resources to use, conducting in-depth research to scout for potential clients, making relentless cold and warm calls, sourcing for referrals, creating specialized marketing campaigns and even leveraging the power of digital marketing to fill your book of business.

But which of these methods is the most important?

How do you create a fantastic broker-shipper relationship?

Why do shippers use freight brokers agents?

How much do freight brokers earn?

What are the best research tools to find shippers?

Keep reading – below we’re covering some fantastic ideas to on how to connect you with shippers and build your book of business.

How Do Freight Brokers Find Shippers?

The freight business is $700 billion business but slow times and dry spells are not uncommon.

The bottom line is that you have to become the first name shippers think of when they need to move their freight.

Your name has to become synonymous with excellent service and the go-to resource in your field.

Otherwise, you’re just going to keep getting beat out by everyone else who’s doing the same thing you are.

What are some of the best ways to find shippers?

The methods mentioned below are just a few of the many ways freight brokers can find shippers. There are several others which include:

1) Using the Yellow Pages

2) Searching through trade publications

3) Talking to current clients

4) Referrals

5) Networking

6) Advertising

7) Word of mouth

8) Cold calling

9) Direct mail

10) Online advertising

11) Social Media

12) Trade shows

13) Trade associations

14) Industry events

15) Incentives

16) Freight broker referral programs

17) Freight broker networking groups

Let’s go into details on a few of these ideas.

Can Freight Brokers Find Shippers on Load Boards?

Yes, they can! A load board is a web-based platform, more like a marketplace that connects all the shipping industry stakeholders, including freight brokers, shippers, and carriers.

Since it is an online medium, it can easily be accessed from any internet-powered device. A load board is also an avenue to connect with other professionals and potential customers. is a perfect example of an online resource you can use to find new shippers.

Another tool,, is a new service that you can also use to help you find shippers and carriers too.

DAT is another tool that’s used throughout the industry. Not only can they help you with finding carriers in the lanes you need, but they’ve also got load boards for shippers and carriers.

123Loadboard is another great source to find available freight.

Conduct In-depth Research

A few hours of smart research can give you massive leverage over your competitors and help you find potential customers.

This can be done using a web-based simple interface research tool. Adequate research will give you an idea of what the client is into and how to approach them.

Cold And Warm Calling

Cold calling is an old-school way of doing things, but it works.

That means that you “let your fingers do the walking” as you make a ton of phone calls and go through the phone book to find new shippers.

Ok, so maybe not a phone book – who uses those any more?

Business directories are a good tool to use.

You can also beat the pavement and make visits to places where you know your shippers are.

Cold and warm calls is one of the less exciting activities you do as a freight broker, but it can work for you.

Many brokers and all marketers, in general, would skip it if they could. However, It is an unavoidable task to succeed in the freight industry.

As soon as you determine who you’re supposed to talk to, hit them up at frequent intervals and sell your services to them.

Let the shipper know that you’re readily available to move their freight. You’ll most certainly get rebuffed a couple of times, but it will pay off in the long run if you stay consistent.

Do Cold Calling Different

Pharmaceutical reps are known for being able to get in the door to get face to face with doctors and it’s because the good ones are really creative in how they approach the task.

Showing up with lunch at the warehouse of a shipper will definitely get someone’s attention, even if it’s just the guys working in the back.

What if you took the shipping manager and his family to dinner?

What if you remembered the birthdays and anniversaries of your existing shippers and sent them a good gift on those dates?

Referrals From Satisfied Clients

Getting referred to a potential client is more like having someone do 90% of your marketing job for you.

Your carrier relationships are vital to being successful in the business.

So, if you’re experiencing a drought or you’re looking to ship more loads, reach out to old clients that you’ve worked with in the past.

You can also ping other freight brokers who are operating a different lane from yours and ask them to refer you to others who might be interested in your services.

Every time you win a new customer you should ask them if they know the names and contact info of 3 to 4 people that could benefit from the service you provide, then shut up and listen.

It doesn’t what types of products they’re moving, everyone you work with knows someone that you can help too, and since you’ve done a good job to win that customer, they’re much more inclined to refer you to others you can help.

Find Similar Businesses in Your Client’s Industry

If you’re looking for companies who ship similar products, look at the ones in the same industry as those of your clients.

This could be companies who’s products are complementary to those of your client that have similar shipping needs, or could even be the competitors of your clients.

Since you’re already working with a client in the industry it’s possibly that they may be more inclined to speak with you since you’re already familiar with their type of shipping business.

Look At Your Own Competitors

When you’re cold calling or even calling warm leads most of the time, if you get through to someone, they’re going to tell you they already work with a broker and they’re not interested.

But if you stop then you’re going to waste an enormous amount of time doing your prospecting calls, and miss out on numerous sales opportunities.

You have to remember that these people are busy and really don’t have time to be bothered with cold calls.

But if you’re offering to give them something that only YOU can give them that’s valuable to them, then they may be more inclined to listen to you.

One of those things could be a completely free no-obligation audit to see if you can deliver a better service at a better rate.

If they do give you the chance to look at their rates, but you find out that there’s no way that you can currently do better than what they currently have, at least you will know what rates your competitors are charging so that you figure out other ways you might be able to compete or find a way to reduce your own costs.

You should thoroughly know your ideal customer profile so you should know exactly what they need, what their pain points are, and how you can help them.

If they’re not interested in your audit and all else fails you can at least see if you can get on the list as a backup service provider so that they have someone that they can call in the event of an emergency, or need extra help that their current provider can’t handle.

Go Through Old Business

Who used to ship with you but no longer does? Do you know why? Was it a former agent that they didn’t like working with? Did they change the way they ship? Was it someone new to their organization that wanted to switch, but is no longer there?

In order to be a good steward of your business you need to stay on top of these things and make sure you keep open lines of communication with all your former clients.

It could be an opportunity where it’s time for you to get back in the door, but this will only happen if you keep lines of communication open and know what’s going on in those businesses.

Same thing goes for your contacts: maybe the person you worked with at that business is now at a different company and if you play your cards right, they could put in a good word for you and your service at their new company.

Marketing Campaigns

Creating specialized marketing campaigns for a specific audience can be really helpful, especially when targeting shippers in a particular industry.

If you’ve not read Guerrilla Marketing, this should be one of the next things you do. It’s available as an audio book, a Kindle version and a traditional paperback, and can give you tons of great ideas for how you can connect with new customers.

Any new kind of marketing campaign could involve traditional methods too.

That means things like direct mail campaigns, loyalty programs, discount offers, and other kinds of incentives.

Implement a Rewards Program

What if you had your clients doing the hard work of finding shippers for you – wouldn’t that be great?

By implementing a referral reward program you can have your customers working for you to help you build up your shipper list.

The reward could be something like sending lunch to the one who referred you the new customer, or even giving a discount on their next job.

In addition, you can offer discounts to those who refer you new customers.

Freight brokerage is a tough business. But by following these proven strategies you can make sure that you’re always ahead of the competition.

Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing may be a foreign concept to most brokers and agents, but it holds to potential to tap into a virtually limitless supply of both shippers and carriers.

By figuring out the biggest pain points that your dream customer faces, then providing them with solutions to those problems, you can keep your funnel full of people looking for the help that you provide.

A good digital marketing campaign will also have an email marketing element where you’re able to nurture leads over time.

In most instances, not everyone is ready to work with you the first time they encounter you.

However, if you deliver value to them and nurture your relationship with them via email, you can eventually reap a harvest of new customers that would otherwise have been lost to another broker or service.

What Are The Best Research Tools to Find Shippers?

If the ideas we’ve covered so far aren’t appealing to you then there are still options.

Buy A Shipper’s List

It’s a list designed especially for brokers and trucking firms. You don’t need to spend hours researching everything yourself – it’s already been done it for you!

A shipper’s list provides the essential information needed for finding shippers and long term customers. It’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Once you’ve identified potential customers through the directory, it would make sense to go online and check out their sites. You could then determine what they do and what they might need, which will help you better understand how you can best serve them.


Freight brokers tend to underestimate Google as a research tool because they’re unaware of how effective and efficient it can be.

As the largest internet database in the world, Google has tons of information on just about anything you’re searching for.

It can be used to search for potential clients based on any location; however, we like to think that it is much more effective for localized searches.

So if you’re looking to work with shippers around your neighborhood, all you have to do is visit Google and input the freight niche plus your location.

For instance, let’s say a freight broker lives in Houston, Texas, and wants to work with grocery distributors. He’ll need to access the search engine from an internet-powered device and input the phrase “grocery distributors around Houston.”

This query will return a list of all the grocery distributors around and links to their websites, as well as their social media platforms.


While Google is by far the most effective way to discover shippers, it doesn’t necessarily provide explicit data like LinkedIn and the other research tools that we’ll feature in this article.

A simple search on LinkedIn will reveal more detailed information about the company. This would help you determine who or where to send your proposals to.

USDA Business Listings/ MacRae’s Blue Book

Alternatively, you can find shippers using the USDA business listings. Unlike the first two research tools highlighted, this list is specially curated by over 80 different USDA offices to serve freight brokers, export agents, importers, trading companies, etc.

Furthermore, the USDA database features over 500 product categories as well as information about more than 3,000 American shippers.

Another efficient shippers list that’s popular amongst freight brokers is  MacRae’s Blue Book. It is quite similar to USDA business listings.

These platforms will provide you with a detailed and well-arranged list of shippers and their products. The research time is significantly refused. However, a lot of other freight brokers using this method to get clients might be a lot more complicated.

How To Create A Fantastic Broker-Shipper Relationship?

Now it’s time to walk the talk that helped you land the contract. After securing clients, you’ll need to maintain a great relationship with them to ensure they’ll continue using your services for a long time to come.

The bottom line is that you have to care.

And your clients need to know that you care.

But it’s not just about caring.

You have to be excellent at your job.

You have to be better.

Remember, there is an entire world of other freight brokers and agents who are out there competing with you trying to take business from you.

Only those who really excel at their work, who have built amazing relationships with their carrier network as well as their shippers, will continue to thrive.


As a freight broker, shippers are the air that you breathe and the sole reason why you’re in business in the first place.

Freight brokerage is a tough business, but the time and effort are worth it. By following these proven strategies you can make sure that you’re always ahead of the competition.

Jim Casey

Freight Broker Training Headquarters is a hub for all of your Freight Broker training needs. Whether you are just getting started in your transportation, shipping and logistics career, or want to advance your existing career, we strive to provide you the resources to maximize your career aspirations.

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