Agents act in much the same way as manufacturers reps. They represent logistics providers and are deeply ingrained in the industry, using their experience and knowledge to help their clients grow their operations.
“Logistics agents are recruited when a logistics provider is looking to grow into new markets or otherwise expand their business,” says Kevin McLaughlin, vice president of sales and business development at AMWARE Companies.
“Agents can be productive partners if logistics providers work with them in identifying the right industries and markets for growth. Two-way partnerships with the right agent are worth their weight in gold.”
Smart Business spoke with McLaughlin about independent agents and how they help logistics providers grow.
Why does a logistics provider typically work with an independent agent?
Typically, providers decide to work with agents when they want to gain access to customers that are outside their current reach, often because those customers are in new geographic or vertical markets.
Agents offer expertise in reaching these targets and have valuable relationships that can be leveraged to make introductions. They provide tremendous return on investment as they are normally compensated solely on their ability to produce results.
What are the two types of independent agents and how does one differ from the other?
The two types of agents are traditional and non-traditional. Both types of agents work closely with logistics providers to grow their businesses, but in slightly different ways.
Most agents would be considered traditional. They have myriad industry relationships, deep industry knowledge and a background of success in business development or sales.
Non-traditional agents may operate their own businesses and use the provider’s service as a platform to add logistics support to their existing suite of services. As an example, a 3PL may physically house and move materials, but not offer a robust logistics solution to its end user.
Acting as an ‘agent,’ that organization increases its value to its customers within a proven model. The types of organizations are endless, and effectively apply to any company selling goods into a specific vertical.
What should a logistics provider consider as it goes through the process of choosing an agent?
Choosing an agent should be done with the same care a company would use to hire an employee. The person should fit culturally and have strong professional integrity, which are important because agents are out in the field representing them in the market, so it’s important to know they’re acting on shared core values.
Experience also matters. Companies should consider agents’ past experience in the vertical they’re looking to enter, as well as their success in sales or business development in that vertical.
But the key is relationships. Agents can only be effective if they’ve developed a network of relationships that enable them to bring a provider into conversations that it hasn’t been in before.
What should logistics providers understand about the agent/client relationship that will help them get the most out of the arrangement?
Regardless of their industry experience, connections or sales ability, agents are only as good as the service and support that their logistics providers give them.
Agents need partners that are working as hard as they are, otherwise they’ll become hesitant to spend the time it takes to grow a business and might be unwilling to put their hard-earned relationships at risk. Providers that can’t or won’t support agents working in the field on their behalf won’t get their full effort, and that can lead to disappointing results. ●
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