If you’re unfamiliar with the logistics world, you might ask yourself: exactly what does a logistics account executive do? What kind of accounts do they handle, how often are they dealing with customers, what’s their everyday work like? A logistics account executive is one of the best positions to get started with a logistics career because it’s at the base level, doesn’t require a college degree, and you don’t necessarily need prior experience.
A logistics account executive is responsible for generating leads, building relationships and producing sales with potential and current customers while providing superior customer service. Much of their time is spent communicating with customers and carriers in matters relating to freight shipments. They are often the first impression of a company that a potential customer has so it is imperative that they represent themselves and the company to a high standard at all times.
A logistics account executive is technically a sales job—and we know what you’re thinking. “Sales? As in, tied to your headset all day making cold calls? Who wants a job doing that? I’ll stick to my retail job instead.” Before jumping to any conclusions, you should understand that a logistics account executive is not your stereotypical sales position. Plus, when you compare your earning potential to that retail job, your retail pay will seem like pocket change.
Better yet, the skills you learned in retail will benefit you as a logistics account executive. Working a register while simultaneously handling other duties parallels the multitasking ability needed as an account executive. Not to mention all of the customer interaction that happens day-to-day, which strongly resembles a sales interaction.
There are several benefits to the logistics account executive role:
A quick and simple logistics account executive definition for a 3PL (third party logistics) company is a position in which you blend sales, customer service and strategy together for the purpose of managing transportation and shipments for your clients.
Logistics account executives must research potential clients and establish their own book of business, or collection of customers, in the process of arranging clients’ shipments. Account executives are the first experience many clients have with the business and therefore must well-represent the company by being friendly, helpful, efficient and knowledgeable.
A logistics account executive spends much of their time communicating with potential customers, current customers, and carriers. A carrier can be defined as a company that specializes in transporting freight (cargo, goods, products, etc.) from one location to another location. An account executive must be adept at giving and receiving information verbally or online as they rarely speak with customers or carriers in-person.
This description gives you a quick glimpse into the role of account executive but there’s a lot more to it. Before diving into the full scope of a logistics account executive, learn about the background, education and experience that may be a good fit for the role.
Let it be said from the start that there is no specific required experience or higher education for a logistics account executive position. A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary but you do not need a degree in order to work as an account executive.
However, as employment within the logistics field continues to grow, a bachelor’s degree could help your odds of being hired and promoted within the company. The bachelor’s programs most helpful as a logistics account executive are:
Even a small amount of college education or experience can put you ahead of your coworkers without any college education. Basic skills learned in college, such as writing, technical skills on a computer, and critical thinking can help in an account executive role. However, you don’t need a degree to hustle and talk to people as you build a relationship and provide a service. The ability to problem-solve, negotiate, and be detail-oriented, assertive and social can all be positive traits in your favor.
Experience can also set you apart from your peers and that doesn’t just include prior logistics experience. Of course, having experience in shipping, receiving, logistics and warehousing is beneficial, but a basic understanding of business, sales and marketing can make a difference as well.
Fortunately, if you have neither higher education or experience in the logistics field you can still pursue a logistics account executive position. Many of the daily duties and functions can be taught on the job as long as you’re willing to learn what’s necessary to succeed in the position. Having the right attitude and taking the initiative can be just as important and advantageous as a bachelor’s degree or prior experience.
One of the biggest factors that can correlate to success as a logistics account executive is having prior technological experience. Workers must utilize many different types of software systems, programs and websites in order to carry out account executive duties and to properly manage their customers’ shipments. Proficiency in Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, and Outlook and being able to use and navigate the internet are highly desired skill sets.
The primary goal of an account executive is to generate leads and build relationships with potential customers, thereby consistently producing sales and increasing revenue. The majority of their day is spent on the phone either speaking with leads, clients or carrier agents.
The most important duties of an AE are to provide superior customer service and make decisions that would be in the best interest of the customer and the company. While maximizing profits is important, that should not be done at the expense of the customer experience. The account executive should balance producing sales and increasing revenue for the company against creating an ongoing, positive relationship with the customer.
There are three specialty areas within the logistics account executive job field: truckload account executive, international account executive and trade show account executive. All three are similar when it comes to essential job functions but branch off into their own sections when meeting the needs of their customers. Those essential job functions include:
Job functions change depending on if the customer wants to ship goods via truck within North America or if the goods are being transported internationally across different land borders or bodies of water. In addition, there are specific duties associated with clients who transport their goods to and attend trade shows.
A truckload logistics account executive is responsible for moving freight by truck across North America. The only work with domestic carriers and most truckload account executives only move freight within the United States. The truckload account executive role provides the most comprehensive, fundamental transportation services.
Some account executives focus more on moving freight outside the United States. A transborder account executive is a designation given to those within the truckload account executive position who handle shipments from the United States to Mexico and Canada and vice versa.
The logistics account executive position is a good fit for someone who likes working in a diverse, fast-paced environment, that requires problem-solving. The landscape changes on a day-to-day basis and the position is not mundane. A worker who is interested in having a personal book of business and likes to manage their own daily work would also enjoy the position.
An account executive (AE) makes decisions and runs their workload themselves, acting as more of a consultant towards their clients when finding solutions to get the job done. The role is well-suited for the individual that enjoys building relationships with customers and then providing good, reliable, quality service to them on an ongoing basis.
The daily duties of a truckload logistics account executive are centered around constant and frequent communication and updates between carriers and customers. A truckload account executive starts their day by checking on previous shipments and listing out every order that is currently being shipped. They will check which ones are in transit, which ones are being delivered that day and which ones are being picked up that day. This process is called tracking and tracing.
The AE will then reach out to the carrier agents and get updates on each order and then contact the customers to update them accordingly, while also checking if the customer is in need of anything else. From the times provided by the carriers, the AE will follow up with said carriers to ensure they are in their correct location.
Concurrently, the AE will prospect and look for new businesses and clients in between communications with the ongoing carriers and customers. This can mean being contacted first by the new businesses or researching to find new businesses on their own and making cold calls to those businesses. The AE will then try to create new orders from the prospects and provide quotes to the potential customers, sometimes multiple quotes, to gain the prospect as a customer.
Account executives are placed onto teams with multiple account executives and one senior account executive. A senior account executive is in charge of managing the other four account executives. Their role goes further into problem-solving, monitoring the account executive’s orders and customers in their absence and working on any order discrepancies.
A senior account executive will also help to resolve any hot issues and periodically check-in with their team members to see how they are doing, how their week is going, what their daily work looks like, what type of support they made need and how they’re trending for their month towards meeting the team’s goals.
All account executives are coached to be on the same playing field and can provide assistance to each other. If the matter cannot be resolved by non-senior account executives, then it can be escalated to a senior AE. Furthermore, senior account executives are available to everyone, not just those members on their team. Employees on other teams can ask another senior account executive for assistance or to get a second opinion.
The essential job functions are handled by the truckload logistics account executives in the following ways:
The TMS has information on everything the account executive needs to cover during their daily duties: customers, carriers and shipping orders. It is used for order implementation in addition to customer prospecting. Having prior technical knowledge with computer systems is a tremendous asset when using and navigating the TMS.
After researching a customer in the TMS, the AE will do an internet search to see what type of facility they have, any alternate phone numbers, different branches or locations, what type of sales they have, who their key employees are that should be contacted and how much the customer normally spends on freight. The AE wants to learn as much about the potential customer before contacting them in order to build a relationship from the start.
This is where the AE position becomes more of a consultant as they work to solve the customer’s supply chain problems and make their processes more efficient and seamless. The most common entrance involves pricing but the AE should tailor their strategy based on the customer.
In some instances, the potential customer will use the AE to fix a supply chain problem which is not related to pricing. However, once the customer receives good service and the AE proves their capability, the customer will continue to use the account executive to solve other shipping challenges.
The AE cannot extend a line of credit indefinitely so it is imperative that they confirm that the customer can pay the required amount for the shipment.
The AE must consider various factors about the product, loading/off-loading and delivery to correctly determine the type of transportation to provide. Fortunately, there are limited options so the customer generally knows how they want to transport their product. Even so, there are times in which the AE must offer a mode that the customer didn’t have in mind.
The account executive may find a driver or carrier through the capacity procurement or carrier relations team that stays in the same geographical area and has the capacity, or ability to transport the goods, on a regular basis. In those situations, the AE may not have to look for a driver for that route in the future because the same carrier can consistently move the freight where it needs to go.
Although not an official measurement, teams encourage the use of emails to share success stories when helping customers or when solving a complex problem. Emails help to increase employee morale and also serve as a teachable moment that other employees can learn from for future use.
Pricing is a common challenge with the truckload logistics account executive role. Pricing can change based on the market. The market can be described as what’s happening in the world that directly affects the logistics industry, such as changes in the economy, weather or demand. It is based on external factors and is cyclical in nature with ups and downs.
Pricing can also change based on the capacity, the number of miles per shipment or the cost of fuel. A truckload AE must also compete with other logistics companies when it comes to pricing, which can cause multiple changes to quotes. Some pricing and lanes, or shipping routes, don’t change much depending on the market or geographical location.
Other common challenges are time constraints within the transportation process, such as the customer’s hours of shipping and receiving and finding an available carrier within the geographical area the AE is moving the freight.
An international logistics account executive is focused on the international side of shipping and transportation. The basic parameters are similar to that of a truckload account executive but with slight variations. This is due to the fact that truckload AE handles domestic transportation but an international AE handles importing and exporting between different countries.
One difference is that an international account executive is less focused on constant customer prospecting as many of their leads come from existing customers, previous customers or brought to them from affiliated businesses. An international account executive does not perform all the same duties as a truckload AE. Developing entrance strategies and a carrier base are generally only covered by the domestic side of transportation, not international shipping.
Some of the day-to-day functions overlap, such as providing quotes to new and existing customers, tracking and tracing shipments and giving status updates to customers on existing shipments. Functions specific to the international position include making transportation arrangements with overseas partners, submitting shipments for customs processing and clearance, and submitting shipments to customs for the necessary paperwork.
A positive aspect of international business is the fact that there are industry standards across international transportation, so cultural differences are not much of a factor. Moreover, most of the agents and departments that the international AE communicates with speak English so language barriers are not an issue, either.
As mentioned above, you don’t need a higher education degree for an international logistics account executive position and it can be helpful to have prior knowledge in shipping, receiving, logistics, business, sales, and marketing. If you’re interested specifically in the international side of transportation, it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of international shipping terminology, freight movement between countries, import and export practices, and customs clearance regulations.
Important soft skills to have as an international logistics AE are listed below. It is imperative to use these skills interconnectedly as the smallest mistake could significantly impact your profit.
The most common challenge for an international AE is handling day-to-day communications with customers and making sure you’re able to clearly convey the situation to the client. It can also be difficult to meet and exceed customer expectations.
The customer can have certain expectations and aren’t prepared for any delays or hiccups that can accompany international shipping. As an international AE, you must constantly be in a position to try and stay ahead of any anomalies or changes during the life of shipment.
Similar to the international AE, the duties of a trade show logistics account executive do overlap with a truckload account AE. A trade show logistics AE spends much of their time covering the same functions as a truckload AE, like tracking and tracing, booking freight, handling sales, and resolving issues with shipments. The main difference is that the trade show AE position covers the niche market of trade show logistics and clients.
Trade show logistics account executives don’t necessarily target clients that attend trade shows but instead prospect clients that ship to trade shows, such as exhibit houses, or companies that manufacture the trade show booth itself. Exhibit houses are companies who specialize in the design and production of trade show displays and booths for trade show exhibitors.
A trade show AE prospects customers in a similar manner as the truckload AE but also brings in new clients based on current customer referrals. For that reason, the sales process is faster than a truckload AE because they already have identified a potential customer that can use their services. They spend less time on sales and more time on making shipping arrangements and tracking and tracing.
Furthermore, many trade show account executives have clients that have worked with them at some point in the past. They also utilize a company-paid service that gives them access to a large database of potential businesses that may need their service.
There are additional factors to take into account when handling a trade show shipment. A trade show AE must qualify their client’s transportation spend using the density of the shipment as well as the booth size. Also, there is more emphasis placed on date and times when arranging a client’s shipment for a trade show event. There is usually a smaller window available for trade show shipments to arrive and leave, making it essential to have carriers meet the deadlines given.
Although the majority of their time and business is trade show-related, a trade show AE does spend time on other shipments and clients. About 35% of their collective business is not trade show related, focusing on other aspects of transportation like truckload transportation and other specialty modes of transportation. Often times a customer will come to them for trade show purposes but continue using the account executive for their non-trade show shipping needs.
The trade show logistics AE position has desired soft skills as well. Trade show shipments are less straightforward with more variables, with many different hands involved in the transportation process. At the same time, the shipments are very important and must be delivered on time. The following soft skills are critical:
Carriers not meeting the dates or times necessary is a common challenge for trade show account executives. One of the most important ongoing goals for a trade show AE is to have shipments delivered within their desired time frame. Consequently, a trade show AE is perpetually tracking and tracing shipments in order to fix any problems as soon as they come up and thereby avoid any delays.
For example, if a shipment is not moving fast enough, the account executive can choose to stop the driver and move it to expedited shipping. The trade show AE must ensure that everything is getting done when they are supposed to be done without causing any stress to the customer. They identify and then resolve issues before contacting the customer to inform them of any changes to their shipment.
Holding a logistics account executive position, regardless of your area of specialty, means you’ll be tasked with balancing many variables while simultaneously prioritizing and reprioritizing your day’s work. There are a few additional points to keep in mind when pursuing an account executive role:
It takes time and dedication to build your book of business and you should be constantly reaching out to potential customers in search of a sale. At the same time, long-term success as an AE is built off of trust and repeat relationships as opposed to a quick sale.
Don't feel too bad if a potential customer tells you no. Building a book of business is a process that requires relationship building, and the best relationships are built on being open and honest. If the customer can't utilize your services yet, give it time and try again. Logistics is an ongoing need for most companies. For that reason, you're more likely to hear a "yes" than a "no," especially when compared to a typical sales position.
There’s more to being a logistics account executive then picking up the phone and making phone calls to clients and carriers. Yes, you must have phone skills but you must also be able to problem-solve, negotiate, get your foot in the door through charm or patience, have good communication skills and be detail-oriented and assertive.
Consider R+L Global Logistics if you’re interested in becoming a Logistics Account Executive. R+L Global Logistics is a 3PL, global international logistics company that provides everything you need in order to succeed and supports continuous career development and advancement and career changes. If you’re not quite ready to pursue a career within the logistics field, take a look at a Logistics Internship instead. An internship can give you a taste of the real-world environment while giving you vital experience.
The largest indicator as to if you will succeed as an account executive is whether or not you’re willing to put the work in. Regardless of your prior experience or higher education level, being coachable, willing to learn and making the customer’s satisfaction your priority will lead to success as a logistics account executive.