How to Build a Book of Business [In Transportation]

Grid-line notebook with paperclips and the word business written in blue.

Are you a little confused about building your book of business in transportation? Are you unsure what a book of business is or how you should get started?

You’re not alone. 

Building a book of business (a group of customers or clients a salesperson manages) is the core function of being a sales representative. It can seem like a daunting task for someone who is just getting started in the industry, which is why I’ve put together a guide to building a book of business. 

I’m a senior national sales representative here at Anderson Trucking Service Logistics (ATS). I’ve worked my way up from the national sales representative (NSR) position to the position I currently hold. I started with zero customers when I joined the team and slowly built my book of business from the ground up. 

In this article, I’ll help you not only understand what a book of business is, but I’ll also help you understand how you can grow and maintain yours. 

What is a Book of Business? 

A book of business is a group of customers or clients that a sales representative manages for their company. It includes the names and contact information of the customer contacts responsible for buying decisions at their respective companies.

As a sales representative in the transportation world, you’ll hold a book of business with shippers you’ve arranged to transport freight for.  

Your book of business should include past customers (or accounts), the ones you’re currently working with, and potential customers you’re pursuing. 

Your book of business isn’t kept in a handy dandy notebook. In the transportation world, this list of clients is organized in a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). 

A CRM allows sales representatives to keep track of their activities with prospects and customers. It logs all communication activities between companies, which allows sales representatives to keep a historical record of conversations. 

This historical data is crucial to building and maintaining relationships. Using a CRM will arm you with important information about prospects and customers and can improve your outreach.

Many companies also use CRMs to create “ownership” of certain prospects or customer accounts. This prevents multiple salespeople from trying to work with the same customer.

Using a CRM will help you maintain and strengthen relationships with existing customers. 

By building trust and strengthening existing relationships, you’ll keep your book of business strong and increase profits for your company (and subsequently yourself if you’re paid commission).  

Three people sitting at a table in full-window conference room. Two of the men shake hands as they smile.

How to Grow Your Book of Business in Transportation

When you start at a new company, you may or may not have to build your own book of business. When it comes to transportation, many brokers start with zero customers and have to build their book of business — sometimes with the help of their company (for example, ATS has a training program for new sales representatives). 

Successful sales representatives typically follow these steps to do so:

  • Learn the ropes
  • Prospect
  • Cold call
  • Build on and maintain relationships 

Learning About the Transportation Industry

You’ll get started building your book of business by learning the ins and outs of the business you’re working for and the transportation industry. There’s a lot of information you should know before you start talking to potential customers. You should be able to talk the talk before you get on the phone.

First and foremost, this includes understanding what your company can and can’t do for potential customers and what your company’s core competencies are.


Once you have a general understanding of the transportation industry, you’ll start prospecting. Prospecting consists of searching for potential accounts and businesses that your company isn’t already working with as noted by your company’s CRM.

Everyone has a different way of going about this. Examples include:

  1. Acquiring a list of leads
  2. Targeting one specific industry at a time
  3. Searching LinkedIn for decision-makers
  4. Researching the Internet for businesses in a geographical area where your company already serves customers
  5. Staying current on industry news to learn about emerging customers and distribution centers

The key is to find customers who are a good fit for your company and play into your company’s core competencies.

Sales representatives should cross-check their company's CRM to make sure another sales representative does not have ownership of an account before making any communication attempts.

It should be noted that some transportation companies have parameters around the size of an account that a new sales representative can try to onboard.

At ATS, we do not have parameters based on company size. As long as a company is available in the CRM, a new sales representative can add them to their book of business.

Woman wearing a headset talking to a customer in a call center as a coworker looks on.

Cold Calling

Cold calling and emailing go hand-in-hand with prospecting. Once you have a pool of prospects, you’ll begin reaching out to potential customers to try to earn their trust and eventually their business. This can be one of the most intimidating parts of building your book of business. You have the potential to hear the word no often.

Related: Cold Calling Tips 

Building Relationships

The key to building your book of business is to focus on relationships first and foremost. Instead of simply asking, “Are you happy with your current transportation provider?” it’s important to present yourself as an industry expert and show how your company can provide value. 

Research the company before you call them; understand what they do and how you can potentially make things easier for them. 

Be authentic. Be trustworthy. If you’re only focused on closing a sale and aren’t focused on building and nurturing a strong relationship, there’s a strong chance you will hit a dead end with a prospect.

As the phrase goes, “No one likes being sold to, but everyone likes to buy.”

If you focus on relationships over business, you’ll find that the business comes with time. Your newly formed relationships will hopefully look to you for assistance when new work comes down the pipeline. 

Build off your book as you go. As you continue to build your book of business, you can add more customers by building on your current relationships. You may potentially find new areas of your customer’s business that you were previously unaware of.

There’s also a chance your customer might be willing to give you a referral or testimonial to your company’s level of service.

Leverage current customer relationships whenever you can. If you’re doing a good job, chances are your customers will be willing to put in a good word for you.

Referrals can make cold calling easier because you’ll already have an in with the company. 

How Long Does It Take to Build a Book of Business?

While it depends on the sales representative and the company, on average, it takes about a year to build up a solid book of business in transportation. 

How Big Should My Book of Business Be? 

The short answer is, it depends. You’ll want to keep your book of business large and diversified enough to maintain your margin and new customer goals but not so large that you can’t foster relationships with current customer contacts.

For some, that means having a lot of smaller customers who haul only a few loads per week/month. For others, it means having only a few big customers who move a lot of freight daily. It comes down to what works for you and what you can manage. 

Seasonality can be a large factor, so make sure you understand when your customers will have peaks and lulls in their shipping needs. A well-diversified book of business will have different customers that peak at different times of the year. This creates steady volumes throughout the year.  

How to Maintain Your Book of Business 

Maintaining your book of business is all about building and strengthening your customer relationships. 

The key to good relationships starts with trust and high customer service levels. Being responsive and available to your customers, as well as friendly and helpful, will go a long way. Do everything you can to earn your customers’ trust and do everything you can to avoid violating it.

Being personable with customers is also beneficial. It shows you’re trying to foster a relationship with them rather than just getting their business. 

Be proactive. If you know something is wrong with a shipment, don’t wait for the customer to call you and ask about it. Stay on top of things by regularly providing updates, transparency, and solutions.

Bad news doesn’t get better with time. Anticipate challenges so you can get ahead of them. If the customer can see you care about their shipments, it’ll help build trust.

Some of the strongest customer relationships are forged through proactive communication in the middle of a service issue; it can create a level of long-lasting trust. 

Try to put yourself in a customer’s shoes. They also have a boss to report to and goals to meet. Be mindful of their situation because every customer is different. Always ask questions so you can better understand the types of challenges your customer is up against.

A laptop screen with emails pulled up.

Join the ATS Team as an NSR

Building your book of business in transportation might seem daunting at first, but it’s achievable with the right steps and mindset. Remember, with a supportive company in your corner, you’re not alone in this journey.

A book of business is like your customer rolodex, except it’s stored digitally in a CRM system. It includes past, current, and potential customers, all crucial for your success as a broker.

To grow your book of business:

  • Learn the Ropes: Understand the transportation industry and what your company offers.
  • Prospect: Find potential customers through various channels like industry research and networking.
  • Cold Call: Reach out to prospects and focus on building authentic relationships.
  • Maintain Relationships: Provide excellent service, be proactive, and stay empathetic to your customers' needs.

It typically takes about a year to build a substantial book of business, but remember, quality is more important than quantity. Balance your customer load to manage effectively without losing focus on nurturing relationships.

By following these steps and staying dedicated, you’ll not only grow your book of business but also cultivate lasting partnerships in the transportation world.

If you’re looking for a rewarding career in transportation, look no further than ATS. We have open positions for national sales representatives across the country and offer competitive pay, training programs, and growth opportunities. 

Tags: Career Resources

Aaron Winter

Written by Aaron Winter

Aaron has been with ATS as a national sales representative since July 2018. During this time, Aaron has enjoyed using his finely-tuned analytical skills and industry knowledge to solve his customers' problems. He also has a passion for mentoring other sales reps and acted as a mentor in ATS' inaugural national sales representative mentorship program.

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