Before joining Parade, I was a Carrier Sales rep at CH Robinson, and co-founded a freight technology startup, building freight tech internally. I’ve had hands-on experience with the essential activities required to adopt and implement new technology in a company. These include technical and people requirements.
One of the essential components to successfully digitize your freight brokerage— getting your people (carrier sales reps in particular) to adopt the technology fast and start benefiting from it. This can be challenging without a systematic and properly incentivized approach because:
People are already time-constrained. Therefore, getting them to take time out of their day to adopt new technologies can seem like ‘more work’ than it is worth.
People are generally resistant to change. We all get used to existing systems and methods, no matter how archaic and inefficient they may be. New habits need to be trained— technology needs to be simple, fast, and intuitive to adopt.
People haven’t viscerally experienced the benefits of digitization. ‘Intellectualizing’ the value and ‘experiencing’ the value is not to be confused. It’s great to ‘talk’ about increasing Return on Investment (ROI), reducing time-spend, stress, and operational inefficiency, but until people experience it for themselves, the message won’t stick.
The benefits of technology exceed their imagination. If a carrier sales rep is accustomed to contacting 30-50 carriers per day to book about 10 loads, telling them that technology can help them reach and engage 1000’s of carriers per day— with limited human touch— this can seem unbelievable.
Traditionally, freight brokerages have resorted to one of two short-lived strategies: 1) Forcing technology adoption by cutting off access to old technology, for example, and 2) Gamifying rewards and incentives by issuing lunches, gift certificates, etc.
While getting carrier sales reps on board can be a challenge, the right approach can help reps quickly adopt new technology and experience tangible benefits rapidly (e.g., booking more loads in less time, and with ease). Using our adoption strategy, we have seen carrier sales reps quickly gain benefits in a matter of days, leading to rapid adoption and full-scale implementation.
In this post, we share our simple process to successful adoption. One that is as much driven by your employees (bottom-up) as it is by you and your leadership team. Carrier sales reps will see the benefits in action and want the new technologies for themselves. As a result, you will be able to:
Reduce the time-frame (Payback Period) to achieve your ROI on technology investment, and
Cultivate a better performing work culture with less stress, and more energy and time to focus on relationships and engagement.
The 5-Step Strategy for Rapid ‘Tech-Adoption’ in Freight Brokerages
Successful adoption of technology doesn’t work like a light switch— you can’t just flip it on. You need an initial roll-out before full adoption. Just like a pair of shoes that need to be broken in. Without implementing technology the right way, you could do more harm than good for your company; adding unnecessary stress and confusion to your employees.
Step 1: Identify & Engage Technology Champions
Technology champions are your first-adopters. Typically, they are experienced brokers who understand your company’s specific workflow and will be the first to migrate to a new technology platform.
You want to identify who these champions are and quickly immerse them in the new technology platform to undertake all their workflow activities such as; identifying carriers, booking freight, and taking inbound quotes. Champions will use the new platform for an initial pilot period of a few weeks (maybe a month) and start to experience the value of the technology.
In our experience, champions can start benefiting from the technology platform overnight. If not overnight, then definitely within a week— more loads booked, and more inbound quotes and emails from carriers. As a result, other carrier sales reps start to get curious because:
The champions are booking the same (if not more) amount of freight with less effort.
They see the champions taking more trips to the coffee machine.
This generates employee-driven interest in the platform. At Parade, we usually engage champions in a 1-2 hour meeting— they are taken through every aspect of the technology platform so they understand how to maximize its potential.
Step 2: Incentivize Your Technology Champions
Most carrier sales reps are paid on commission. If you want them to adopt new technology and change the way they work, carrier sales reps must feel sufficiently comfortable with moving away from their ‘Business-As-Usual’ methods.
In their eyes, adopting new technology introduces a potential personal risk— will I lose my regular commissions? What if this new platform isn’t as great as it is promised to be?
Therefore, we recommend restructuring commissions for technology champions during the early-adoption period to compensate them fairly. This could be a promised base rate or increased commissions for loads booked. Doing this helps them focus all their efforts on using the new technology platform.
Step 3: Address Concerns with a Kick-Off Meeting
You want carrier sales reps to understand that tech can help them book more freight with less time, effort, and stress. Setting up an initial meeting between management, your tech champions, and your technology vendor, will help:
Get the team aligned with expectations.
Address any misperceptions people may have.
People feel supported.
Manage risk and position benefits.
Step 4: Find a Vendor with Great Person-Person Support
Customer success is much more than just training videos, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and email snippets. Customer success is about providing live, ongoing support to help your carrier sales reps succeed. At Parade, this means taking a proactive approach to help customers identify what is working, what additional support they need, and to anticipate areas for improvement.
Step 5: Scale Roll-Out Throughout Your Company
The key lead indicator for full-scale implementation: your technology champions can’t imagine doing their jobs without the new technology platform. As your champions start experiencing the benefits of digitization, and the number curious ‘carrier sales reps’ grows— this is a good time to scale the rolling out of the technology solution throughout your company.
The main part of the roll-out is the training of your subsequent users. At Parade, we deliver trainings to the rest of your company, teaching your staff:
We also help our clients design and deliver specific internal training programs for their teams and unique workflows. The aim is to help them succeed just as fast as their initial champions did. This build momentum!
We don’t limit training to a single meeting. Because it is essential to continually collaborate with users so they can maximize the benefits made available by our technology.
The best way to engage and convince people about the value of new tech: help them convince themselves. The best way to do that is to quickly help them experience the benefits of the latest technology solution, and capitalize on the ‘social-proof’ phenomenon. Once employees start experiencing the power that proper digitization can add to their roles, others will want to benefit from it too— this is the power of employee-driven engagement.
By implementing the Parade technology platform in this manner, our clients have quickly and successfully scaled implementation across their entire company. But more importantly, they are booking more loads, engaging their carriers at scale, and create a more enjoyable high-performing work environment for their carrier sales reps.