Again and again, I am asked “How did you get that?” “How did you get that to happen?” “How did you manage to convince them to…?” And again and again, the answer is, “I asked.” Often, the truthful answer is, “I asked and asked and asked and asked again, and did not stop asking until I received the answer I wanted.” Babies call it “crying,” sales people call it “closing,” business executives call it “getting things done.” I can get anybody on the phone, at least anyone who is alive. Eventually, even Bill Gates or Warren Buffett will call me back at least once, if only to tell me to leave their admin alone.
Before you stop reading, this isn’t an article on assertiveness training. Instead, this is pointing out something about which all of us need to be reminded. You are born into this world naked, with nothing. Everything you accumulate from that point on is acquired by asking. A baby cries when it’s hungry or needs to be changed. A child asks countless questions, begging for someone to explain the world to them. A high school student asks to be admitted to the college of their choice. A recent college graduate asks for their first job out of school.
Right now, two things are happening in the marketplace:
- Demand is weakening slightly for seasonal reasons;
- Truckers are preparing to ask for the largest rate increases ever (and in many cases are almost ashamed of how much they are asking for), conversely, shippers are afraid of how much rates are going to go up (but more worried about whether or not they will have access to capacity in June, September, and October).
It would be negligent if I didn’t warn shippers that the current period of slightly better capacity is only a temporal seasonal event. As the days continue to grow longer, and we get closer to June, capacity is going to get tighter and tighter. Don’t take the current ebb as anything other than the normal seasonal pattern that it is.
It would also be negligent if I didn’t encourage truckers and brokers to ask for as much as they dare. Do not be embarrassed to ask for all the rate you need, all the rate you want, and all the rate you dream of. As soon as you finish asking, make sure you ask the follow-up questions: “how much capacity do you need me to guarantee, and specifically where and when do you need that capacity?”
Shippers should focus on the follow-up questions. Rates are going up and there’s no changing that in the short to intermediate term, but that isn’t why distribution managers get fired. Not being able to secure capacity results in job insecurity, and if current macro-economic trends continue, the shortage of capacity will reach record levels in June, and again in the fall.
Simply put: capacity providers should cry at the top of their lungs for rate increases right now, but be prepared to provide the capacity that they have promised; and when peak demand arrives later this year, let shippers who agreed to higher rates sleep through the night.
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