If you've ever seen the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny, starring Joe Pesci, then you know that bringing in a third party to negotiate anything remotely involving your personal well-being can be a questionable decision.

And while the same logic is often applied to negotiating parcel carrier agreements, the level of expertise required to squeeze every dollar out of contracts often saturated with hidden charges is often underappreciated.

You might think: I know enough about the industry, I've been with my company for years. Or: I like the savings that a third party could help my company generate, but by the time I pay them, I might as well have just done it alone.

While these concerns are certainly viable, failure to understand each and every carrier incentive in granular detail can ultimately be quite costly. And while no one knows your business as well as you do, chances are that third party negotiator you gave the cold shoulder knows the parcel industry better than you might think.

There are a number of factors in play within dense and complex FedEx and UPS pricing agreements that can dwindle away perceived discounts, leaving you wondering what happened to all that money you thought you were going to save. Depending on your company's unique characteristics, things like minimums and dimensional weight factors can result in even the best surface discounts yielding only minimal, if any, actual net reduction.

Say for instance that your current agreement is set to expire. You've been a model partner for your primary carrier. Your key cost driver lies in a premium service, like FedEx Priority Overnight or UPS Next Day Air, on which each carrier respectively turns a pretty hefty profit. Your company has grown during the term of your current agreement, and your rep waltzes in and is willing to negotiate. You run the numbers and ask him to improve that 59% discount you currently receive to 70%, and he obliges.

If you spend $10,000 per week to ship an average of 150 packages via that particular service, then that results in a gross per package average of $66.67. Before your new agreement, that 59% brought the average package down to $27.33. Now that you're getting 70% off, you would think that same package is only running you $20.00.

Not so fast.

If you're a FedEx shipper, the Zone 2, 1 pound Air minimum charge is $23.55, meaning that you will pay no lower than that amount regardless of your discount. Therefore, you will only receive 64.7%, an improvement of 5.7%, about half of the 11% you were expecting.

If you're a UPS shipper, the minimum charge is $22.85, meaning you will receive only 65.7%, or 6.7% of the 11% you were expecting.

A true 70% discount would yield an additional $1,100 in weekly savings ($27.33 - $20 = $7.33 x 150 packages per week); about $57,200 in total discounts over the course of a year. In the above example, though, a FedEx shipper would only enjoy $567 in weekly savings ($27.33 — $23.55 minimum charge = $3.78 x 150 packages per week), or $29,484 per year. A UPS shipper would see $672 in weekly savings, or $34,944 per year. That's a difference of $13,780 and $11,180, respectively, during the course of a year, and that's only on one service level. If your annual net spend with your carrier is $2,000,000, that's an average difference of about 1.56%. If similar discrepancies occur across six different service levels, the impact to your bottom line could be in the neighborhood of 10%.

And keep in mind, all of the above is assuming you even knew to ask for 70% in the first place!

Third party negotiators are watchdogs, adept at surveying the overall parcel landscape, and can properly advise you on where your discounts should fall, by service level, based on your company's unique characteristics.

Regardless of your industry knowledge and expertise, it's extremely difficult to maximize the opportunity contained within the negotiation of your new agreement without an expert to help you validate that the incentives contained in your agreement will net the expected results.

The moral of the story?

It's OK to ask for help — just don't ask your cousin.

Brandon Staton is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Transportation Impact, LLC, and First Flight Solutions, industry-leading parcel spend management firms and No. 547 on the 2013 Inc. 5000 and No. 183 on the 2013 Inc. 500, respectively. Brandon and the Transportation Impact team have helped negotiate small package contracts for some of the most well-known companies in the world, reducing their respective parcel shipping costs by an average of more than 18%. Brandon can be reached directly at 252.764.2885 or via email at bstaton@transportationimpact.com