Written by Adriana Pulley
Advice from Tim Higham, Founder of AscendTMS
We’re combing through past podcast episodes to bring you a series of our all-time favorite pieces of sales advice for those breaking into the freight broker business. Today we flashback to episode 22, where we got to pick the brain of Tim Higham, President, and CEO of AscendTMS, the world’s most popular TMS software.
Higham talked to us about the journey of his company and gave solid advice that can be useful for anyone looking to gain new business.
Solutions for Now and the Future
When you’re approaching a potential client, think about what problems they are currently facing that you can help solve. Next, think about trends, current events, upcoming regulations, etc. that could contribute to problems they may be facing in the future. If you can get a client to start thinking about how they can get ahead of an issue, that’s golden.
Higham says to look at how you “need to solve today’s problem that will bridge people into the future, you can’t just build one end of the solution.” Try to solve the mess of today’s world and anticipate the messiness of the future, he explains.
Don’t Mistake Your Exuberance for Knowledge
Charisma does play its part in the business. However, you need to back that up with being knowledgeable about the logistics industry. People are initially drawn in by charisma, excitement, and youthful energy, but will it keep them? So, you have to have the knowledge or no one is going to take you seriously. Although Higham spoke more about creating a startup, the same advice applies to making sales.
Really it all boils down to being prepared. Study the company’s background, load data, market stats, and more. This shows that you know what you’re doing. When you know what you’re doing, you can better meet a client’s needs.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Walsh, #1 sales agent at Echo Global Logistics and co-founder of TrophySmack.com. We discussed his passion for sales, the freight industry, and his journey with TrophySmack, featured on Season 12, Episode 9 of Shark Tank.
Were you interested in selling as a child, and what did you do after college?
“Even to this day, I do not inherently think I am in sales,” Matt said. His dad is a NASA engineer, and his mom is a teacher. “From three, I’ve been trying to sell them. I’m selling them carnival games and coming up with games of chance. I’m hustling my parents at the age of 3.” Matt’s parents were supportive. At seven, he made crafts, knocked on neighbors’ doors, and sold origami in the schoolyard. Matt has always loved marketing and sales. He considers it a fun game.
When he finished college, Matt attended a traditional job fair where he learned of a small, local freight brokerage. “It was a franchise, small office, and the owner was in his thirties,” Matt said. “The salary was half of some of the other opportunities.” There was something about the freight life that instantly sucked him in. He liked the feeling that he got when he was covering freight.
How do you think automation will change the freight industry?
“You’re seeing it now regarding availability of information and honing in on the right KPIs for shippers,” Matt said. “Not just feeding that information but coming up with solutions.” On the other hand, he does not think that sourcing and carrier sales can be replaced. “I am in a very fortunate position where Echo acquired our company over a decade ago,” he said. Echo has the technology and human capital, allowing Matt to focus on closing deals.
How did you make $18 million in revenue two years after Echo logistics acquired your company?
When he was working for his first brokerage, Matt was on a trajectory to be just a good salesperson. “There was no opportunity for me to take it to the next level,” Matt said. When he started a brokerage with his friend Eugene, he said: “I went from hundreds of thousands of dollars to nothing, and that’s where I thrive.” He knew it was up to him to make the brokerage a success, and there would be no excuses.
Within two years of opening his brokerage, it was acquired by Echo Global Logistics. It was exciting, but he had this sense of, now what? “It’s this big corporation, and I don’t know who. Where am I in this?” Matt said. However, within a year, he caught his stride.
What are your tips for success in sales and getting customers?
- Genuine interest in your niche
- You have to have a good team
- Have good service
- Be willing to work hard
- Invest time
- Old relationships
- Customers that might have stopped working with you
Can you share your thoughts on failure?
“To be good at sales, you have to be loose; you can’t take things to heart,” Matt said. He recalls when he started and had to make hundreds of cold calls. “I remember thinking, how do they not realize how much value I’m going to add?” He promised himself that when he became a decision-maker, he would give people like him a chance. “Now that I’m getting blown up like crazy on LinkedIn, it’s impossible.”
Tell me about TrophySmack and going on Shark Tank.
“I’ve had the barrier-to-entry low for e-commerce. After coming up with the idea for the company, he realized: “I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t gone through the wringer for a decade in the freight business,” he said. “We launched January 2018.”
Matt was on season 12, episode 9 (January 2021) of Shark Tank. “It’s a trip for me still because I watched it since season 1,” he said.
When did you get your first customer at TrophySmack?
“The day we launched, I vividly remember spending $2000 on ads,” Matt said. “We did like $1000 revenue. We lost a bunch of money.” They were operating out of their garages and had their wives help them to build trophies. Because of their packaging at the time, they had a 20% damage rate. “Every little step, we are tinkering, optimizing the ad spend, packing, and how we assemble,” he said. “The bigger picture energizes me to deal with the never-ending challenges.” Sales teams thrive and are motivated by trophies.
What was your experience on Shark Tank?
“My business partner was an on-air talent at TMZ for ten years,” Matt said. “He left TMZ, and now, he’s partnering with me, and he’s got an engraving machine in his garage.” They wound up doing $900,000 in revenue in their first year. Three weeks after launching, they attended a fantasy sports conference, and Matt gave an elevator pitch on stage, and they won. The Senior Vice President of NBC loved the idea and approached them. TrophySmack signed a deal with NBC a couple of months later.
Matt said about Shark Tank: “There are five distinct levels, and each is like a whole endeavor. “
- Step 1: You apply.
- Step 2: Fill out the information on all your press, products, background, metrics, etc.
- Step 3: Produce a video. TrophySmack made a 20-minute video that took two weeks to complete.
- Step 4: The mock pitch.
- Step 5: The taping. You do not know whether you are airing or not till two weeks prior. “We produced custom trophies for each shark with a fun quote,” Matt said. They drove to Las Vegas and had to quarantine for eight days before the shoot. On the day of filming, Matt was nervous. “I thought I had a little more room to rehearse and think about things, but he said all of a sudden, we were thrown in,” he said. “It was an out-of-body experience when you step to your line, and all the sharks are sitting there staring at you.” Fortunately, they had practiced, and the pitch went well. It lasted almost two hours. “We set in our minds where each shark would make sense for us and what that means for our valuation.”
Click here to listen to the entire conversation.