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Owners and operators of 3PL warehouses are experts in all things “logistics” – from conducting cycles counts and implementing bulletproof receiving procedures to batch picking e-commerce orders and adhering to the toughest routing guide orders for B2B customers. But for many 3PL companies, implementing and executing a sales plan to find and grow a 3PL customer base is like speaking a foreign language.
Whether it’s a lack of sales and marketing experience, being slim on time to devote a full effort to grow sales, or a limited sales and marketing budget, many 3PLs fail to generate sufficient prospects into their lead pipeline. In fact, for many 3PLs, the one and only “sales rep” is the owner or president. Furthermore, the 3PL industry doesn’t necessarily have the greatest reputation for following up with and responding to prospects’ requests for pricing information, oftentimes resulting in loss of sales to competitors that are more experienced in sales or have larger sales teams.
If you fall in the boat of warehousing companies that are currently underperforming in the sales department, it can seem like a daunting task to overcome. But the opportunity is tremendous, considering that most warehouses aren’t generating many new sales leads, don’t respond timely to prospects requests, don’t know the best structure to consistently follow up with leads, and don’t have the technological infrastructure to organize sales and marketing efforts. With a little planning and effort, your company can rise to the top of the pack and grow your 3PL business to new heights.
Getting better results from your sales efforts starts with a plan. High performing sales organizations have a clearly defined set of lead acquisition channels, a codified process for selling to prospects from start to finish, and a system for organizing prospects – and you should too!
At best, some 3PLs rely upon the growth of existing customers and referrals from existing customers for sales growth. While this is a useful part of a complete and cohesive system and making existing customers happy should be the foundation of any sales program, it’s only the beginning. For starters, referrals are a common source of new business for 3PL warehouses and should be nurtured. To grow referrals more proactively, 3PLs would be wise to:
While referrals are worth their weight in gold, they are not by a long shot the only method you should be employing to generate new business. The following are other examples of commonly used sales channels for 3PLs to grow their customer base:
Most of the above-mentioned channels for acquiring leads are self-explanatory. However, it is important to make a few notes on the “other lead generation services” within the 3PL space.
In the 3PL world, brokers are commonplace. Whether it’s a 4PL scenario or simply an introduction from another company that leads to business, commissions are usually at the heart of these connections.
While there isn’t anything unethical about structuring arrangements like these, be careful to structure them in such a way that will not only put your 3PL operation at financial risk, but also that will not shine a negative light on your 3PL company if the customer was ever to find out about the arrangement. Furthermore, be careful to hedge the risk of losing a customer acquired by a broker, as this is common and can be potentially disastrous – especially if they are a large client.
There are other examples of lead generation services within the 3PL space, the best of which operate in such a way that they do not charge a commission and “fairly” match businesses with 3PLs. Our company, WarehousingAndFulfillment.com, is a great example of this setup.
Our service acquires prospects using online marketing, screens the leads for quality, and matches them to up to five 3PLs that most closely fit their specific needs. The project scope and contact details for the lead are emailed to the selected 3PLs, and each 3PL then contacts the prospect, ultimately provides a price quote, and competes for their business.
This type of lead generation model is great for both 3PLs and businesses looking for outsourced warehousing alike. From the 3PL side of the equation, this lead generation model:
WarehousingAndFulfillment.com screens each 3PL by:
Because the company isn’t affiliated with any of the 3PLs, and because our operation champions honesty and integrity of the entire process, only high performing 3PLs are allowed on the platform. Many companies do not make the cut. Furthermore, we have had to remove a few vendors from our network and aren’t bashful to do so if warranted.
By not playing favorites and never wavering from our one price per customers model, WarehousingAndFulfillent.com operates in a truly unbiased fashion. In fact, we have received numerous requests from 3PLs to pay us more to get more leads or preferred leads and have consistently denied these requests to maintain the integrity of the platform.
For those time crunched and lacking in sales time or experience, it’s a quick and easy way to get immediate results – leads simply get delivered as they come through.
For the 3PL customer, an unbiased and “fair” matchmaking service without commissions offers specific advantages:
When shopping for outsourced fulfillment services, business consumers are tasked with weeding through all the claims online. This makes for a difficult discovery process because there is no standard for truth online. Fulfillment companies put their best sales pitch forward. The primary driver of the decision-making process tends to be Credibility – is the company everything that they promise online?
Seemingly the only credible source to decipher through all the noise is online reviews – and even those are flawed. Sometimes, companies are attacked by disgruntled employees. Other times, customers give one-sided opinions on “how the relationship went wrong”. So even this method of finding a provider is flawed.
Compounding this challenge is the fact that there are numerous directories and brokers that add to the deception, pushing companies towards 3PLs that pay them the most money or provide the biggest commission kickbacks underneath the table.
Ultimately, there are very few places that businesses can turn to truly have someone that is unbiased and “on their side”.
In addition, searchers for warehouse outsourcing face the challenge of finding someone that performs the services they need, in the desired location, using the right technology, and fitting other intangibles, such as size and scope of order volume or warehousing needs.
At the heart of all these strategies is knowing your ideal customer. Knowing your ideal customer involves having a thorough knowledge of “who you want to do business with.” This can include:
Once you know your “ideal customers”, it becomes a lot easier to brainstorm “where they live”. What types of things do they do? What tradeshows do they attend? What online materials do they read and consume? This will lead to ideas of “where you need to be” to interface with them.
One last point on knowing your ideal customers: Keep in mind, everyone wants to win the “big fish”, but it comes at a great cost. And small fish sometimes become big fish!
Now that you know who you’re targeting and where to find them, the final step in creating the best gameplan for finding 3PL customers is to create a full sales process, including any system needed to support the process. You must map out from start to finish, the entire process from first point of contact until they eventually become a customer, including:
In terms of frequency, it’s important to implement a process that is lightning fast to respond to initial requests. Many a deal has been won in the 3PL world simply because they were the fastest to respond. In the least, high performing 3PLs respond:
Responses can be made by email or phone – and it’s usually a best practice to use both.
Speed, persistence, and follow up consistency are all positively impacted by a formal system, such as a CRM. Using a CRM allows the 3PL to receive all leads into one central place, conduct automated email responses, notify sales reps of when to respond, conduct mass follow ups to prospects at given intervals and in mass if desired, and generally organize prospects much better than manual methods.
One final note on systems and follow up processes – many companies change 3PLs, so timing of follow ups is important. By continuing to follow up with leads each year, you will ensure that you will be “top of mind” at the right time.
Having been in the warehousing business before we started WarehousingAndFulfillment.com, we know full well how difficult it is to grow your fulfillment company. And we’ve learned even more about the sales process through our lead generation service. There are so many options to pursue, from sales reps to online marketing to lead generations services, which makes it increasingly difficult to manage the entire sales and marketing process. And since we’ve been generating leads in the warehousing and fulfillment market since 2005, we’ve noticed that many 3PL companies, in particular the small to medium sized businesses with fewer resources, are having an increasingly difficult time not only acquiring leads but also cultivating them into new business.
We want to provide you with all of the help necessary to perform at the highest of levels, so we created this section of our website in order to help you by sharing our experiences and those of other fulfillment companies in the hopes that you will find something useful. In addition to sharing monthly articles on issues related to SEO & PPC Marketing, Website Optimization, and general Sales Management, we’ll also be posting links to helpful resources. From time to time, we’ll also have various experts contribute articles on hot topics, sharing their insights. We hope you find this resource extremely helpful.
Whether you get a lead from us or via other marketing channels like your website, the first challenge is to turn that lead email into an interaction. Over the years, we’ve learned a great deal about getting quality responses from prospects. This often overlooked area represents a tremendous opportunity, if done the right way.
Most companies use this initial interaction to showcase all of the wonderful things about their organization. They tell the prospect how amazing they are, how many years they’ve been around, what services they offer, among other miscellaneous “company facts.” Sometimes, they also include another listing of questions that they need answered in order to provide an accurate quote. This may work sometimes, but we’d like to challenge you with one question:
“Does this separate you from the pack?”
First, if most companies use the same approach, it’s going to be particularly difficult for you to stand out. Second, consider the context that this prospect is also speaking with other companies and that the ease and comfort ability of communication and degree to which a relationship begins to formulate may sway the decision making process. Third, remember that most people are self-centered, so a focus on your company rather than their company, albeit subtle, plays a role in their reaction to your pitch.
We are confident that there are two things that help companies put their best foot forward. First, and most important, you’ve got to find a way to stand out from the crowd. This could be your unique corporate culture, your unintimidating approach that serves more as a consultant than a “sales rep”, or a host of other approaches. Needless to say, the less you look like a sales rep and the more you look like an advisor, the better you will find your interactions. You have to find a way to break free from the mold.
Second, we’ve found that companies that focus on the prospect and their needs have the best chance of success. Are you looking at the prospects website, if applicable, before you fire off the email? Is there common ground that you can introduce into the correspondence? When prospects hear you talking about them, it’s much easier for them to engage. One of the secrets of high performing sales teams is that they find pain and show the prospect how they’ll take away that pain. And the pain can be completely different for each prospect.
We know that many leads aren’t going to provide enough information initially for you to be able to accurately quote right away. However, we’ve found time and again (by talking to prospects) that when they get another big list of questions, the chances of them responding decreases exponentially if done before some common ground and relationship building has been established.
Unfortunately, some of your competitors are firing off a pricing sheet right away. This doesn’t mean that you have to change everything you do…but knowing what others might be doing can help you achieve great results.
The big challenge here is to create some value outside of pricing. If everything boils down to a pricing game, then it becomes a numbers game and the lowest price wins. Creativity is extremely important in deciding on an approach.
There are so many factors in getting people to respond, from timeframe of response to quality of content to actual pricing. And we believe that by finding ways to separate from the pack and by focusing on the prospect you’ll find yourself in a very strong position versus the competition.
Some companies are relying way too much on their website and automated responses. The first job of any company is to build credibility. How credible is your company, if you do not follow up within that 24 hours.
So my next questions is “How have you trained your people to follow up after that first contact? How many of you get a second and third call? If you do, is it the just checking in call, or just touching base call? You check into a hotel, and you touch base in baseball. The idea in following up is to show that you can add value to their business, and to build a further level of trust and credibility. It is best to first ask the prospect for permission to follow up. Have a purpose. I have read that the average sale takes 7 touches. Today it probably takes more, because people are more reluctant to trust someone. Remember to deliver value on every call, and every correspondence. So here is my list of ways to follow-up. If you have more, please add to them.
Send Competitive Information – Your buyer always wants to know what competition is doing. Just make sure that it is public information, and that you are NOT sharing any trade secrets.
It may seem a bit daunting to begin with but formalizing your 3PL lead generation system within your organization will pay huge dividends for the growth of your business. By identifying your ideal customer, targeting the specific channels that will earn the highest return, developing a formal sales process, and implementing any necessary technologies, you will no doubt out-perform the average 3PL.
We were named a “2016 Best Fulfillment Service” by Fit Small Business”. As a part of their review process, they conduct “undercover” surveys, interview customers, and speak with industry experts, factoring in the service level of each provider. Their list of top fulfillment services includes the top 3-5 businesses in the sector.
In 2017, we were named the Best Fulfillment Warehouse Matchmaker Service by Fit Small Business. It was noted that our company “reviews, screens, and constantly updates their listing of more than 500 individual fulfillment warehouse solutions, large and small. Plus, they understand the many factors that make up a successful logistics partnership, from warehouse locations, to price, to shipping specialties, to customer service.”
In 2017, WarehousingAndFulfillment.com was awarded top 25 status for best Warehouse and Fulfillment blogs on the Web by Feed Spot. This particular list of blogs is the most comprehensive list of warehouse blogs on the Internet.
In 2018, WarehousingAndFulfillment.com was awarded top 50 status for best Warehousing and Fulfillment blogs on the Web by 6 River Systems.
“Our family owned and operated logistic company was at a serious turning point when we reached out to Warehousingandfulfillment.com This decision was the best move possible as Warehousingandfulfillment.com provided instant success landing B2C clients. The solid leads we received allowed us to change the course of our business. We were able to connect with businesses requiring our exact services. The greatest asset is these potential clients are real leads not tire kickers. We plan to continue growing through this long term relationship.”
We just wanted to thank you for your innovation in business leads. We had a close ratio of 35% in 2015 which equated to a 60% increase in our warehouse division. We are pleased to notify you that 2016 started off with a BANG! We officially closed the biggest deal from the website with a customer out of California. Because of this sale, we are expanding into a bigger footprint to sustain their current business and expected growth. Thank you again and Cheers to you and your team!!”
WarehousingAndFulfillment.com has helped grow our business through their qualified leads. We use several different sources for leads but the highest percentage of closings come from WarehousingAndFulfillment.com.
WarehousingAndFulfillment.com provides us with pre filtered leads based off of our company profile. We only get the leads that we can provide a service to the customer.
As the owner and president of DFW Distribution, I am always on the lookout for a better, cheaper, more efficient way to find new customers. WarehousingAndFulfillment.com provides all that and more with their pre-qualified leads.
Merlin Logistics is proud and values our partnership with Warehousing and Fulfillment. Warehousing and Fulfillment services is so vital to growth of our company. The difference is astounding in the sales numbers we saw increased from the time we started services with Warehousing and Fulfillment. We saw these numbers increase by 98.5% in our sales volumes in our first year with this great service. Our Sales Manager didn’t get just prospects or cold calling numbers, what they found were warm reception on the other end of the line. It just goes to shows the quality of these prospects were really well harness and thoroughly verified by the great folks at Warehousing and Fulfillment.
When we first started our business of providing third party logistics services, we did numerous marketing campaigns to drive in customers, but these campaigns can be very expensive to implement and not to mention the time spent managing each project. With prospects from Warehousing and Fulfillment, we found to be very cost effective. So the only thing we manage now is customers. We also found that if we had any issue we were able to get a warm voice on the other end of the line with solutions to our problems.
To make this long story short, Warehousing and Fulfillment expect nothing but the best service, great product, and a great partner to grow your business. They are heads and shoulders above any prospecting lead sourcing companies in the U.S.A. Best in the business. I highly recommend Warehousing and Fulfillment.
I have been a client of warehousingandfulfillment.com since August of 2010. I love them! I started out by limiting them to $250 per month, however as time went on, I’ve set it up where they notify me in any specific month when I have reached that point and then I get to decide if I want more leads for that month. I do say yes when that happens.
The leads are always within my specifications. Occasionally, one of my sales reps is already working on a lead that they send me. All I do is email them, and they deduct it from my invoice. They’ve never questioned me and their response time is EXTREMELY Timely!
Our capture rate for turning their leads into clients is about 18%. The response rate to my initial inquiry is 90%. The leads are real.
Warehousingandfulfillment.com is built into my marketing budget indefinitely. I like to use them when I’m training new sales people, because the information provided is set up for the salesperson. They are also great incentives to my seasoned sales team as well.
We have really grown with your program…You have a great program!
WarehousingAndFulfillment.com has helped us grow our business dramatically and is well worth the investment.
Our four largest clients all came from WarehousingAndFulfillment.com and we have actually had to stop taking leads for the next several months as we need to add space. Over the years I have been extremely impressed with the quality of leads that truly are searching for a fulfillment solution.
I want to say thank you for your help in finding a warehouse so quickly. Your service was amazing. I received replies the same day and have selected a company that will work well for us. I definitely recommend your services.
I wanted to express my gratitude for your services and let you know that it was a very enjoyable experience! We have selected one of the companies and they are awesome!
You are doing such a great job and this service that you provide is a life saver for people especially startups like me....We cannot spend budgets on researching as much as the big firms can...and you provide us one stop solution which will answer all our questions.
I just wanted to let you know that I selected one of your vendors as our fulfillment house. They can do what we need and we’re looking forward to working with them. They can handle our “special projects” fulfillment, which was key to our decision in bringing them onboard. I appreciate this service. It was great for our company.
I didn’t know there was so much difference in fulfillment companies — this was my first time in need of this sort of service. After a Google search I luckily stumbled upon WarehousingAndFulfillment.com. They saved me an incredible amount of time and money. Within minutes I had a couple of emails from good companies that fit my situation. I am very appreciative of their help.
Warehousing and Fulfillment was the perfect matchmaker in finding us a fulfillment partner. They provided several great options, all of whom were very responsive and willing to take the time to talk through our needs. We ended up going with W&F’s top match and we couldn’t be happier. I highly recommend W&F, particularly to anyone whose business relies on a strong fulfillment partner.
We were having multiple issues with our 3PL fulfilling warranty replacement parts. Our company needed to make a change and make one fast. I reached out to WarehousingAndFulfillment.com to facilitate my search for a reputable, service oriented 3PL that can handle the demands of a highly seasonal business to pick, pack and ship parts quickly. I received several qualified 3PL leads that matched what we were looking for. After reviewing and speaking with many one stood out from the rest, and we found a great partner. We could not recommend WarehousingAndFulfillment.com enough.
We found the perfect third-party fulfillment vendor through insightQuote. We never would have found them on our own. We can’t thank you enough and our customers thank you too.
Thanks for all of your help. This was a huge undertaking for us and your guidance was extremely helpful!
Thank you so much for your excellent service. We have chosen one to go forward with. This has saved us a great deal of time.
They really listened to our requirements and then matched us with great vendors that could meet our specific challenges.
I just wanted to say thank you so much for setting me up with these vendors. I have found pricing better than I ever expected to find.
Legit, this was such a good experience ... I was shocked how fast the vendors contacted me and got the ball rolling. This was such a pleasant experience
What an awesome service. A problem I fought with daily for over 3 weeks, solved in less than 24 hours.
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