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Industry Voices: Brokers Share Best Practices

Working as a broker comes with a host of challenges, ranging from the navigation of new technology to persistent post-pandemic economic pressures. At a time when the industry is in a state of flux, it's important to stay agile and open to improving processes that may no longer be working as efficiently as they once were.

SFA News Daily spoke with Jose Teigeiro of Specialty Products Inc., Mike Reich of Hanson Faso Sales & Marketing, Inc., and Becky Yehia of Becky Yehia and Associates about common questions budding and veteran brokers may have about the industry.

Q: What attributes do you find to be most useful in an organizational business tool for brokers?

All three shared that customer relationship management systems or unified commerce platforms are key to tracking orders and ensuring each client is well cared for.

Teigeiro said that his company uses Act!, software that is designed for small and mid-sized businesses to organize their client information.  Yehia uses a similar service called Aleran, which helps support customer orders. Additionally, she added that her firm has created a website that customers can use to place orders directly, which has proven to add efficiencies.

The most useful organizational tool, “allows you to track orders both year over year and for comparative periods,” shared Reich. “Not all clients work on a [classic] calendar or fiscal year and you need to be able to track their business as best you can compared to how they view it, which tends to be in their [unique] fiscal calendar.”

Q: Do you have any advice for brokers looking to keep track of their client information?

Teigeiro said that, in addition to using a CRM system, Specialty Products Inc. employs someone part-time to manage the system and keep it up to date. A service of this type can be powerful but requires crucial time and effort to implement and update before experiencing its benefits. Yehia also recommended services like Aleran or Brandwise.

Reich noted that it can be beneficial to keep an anniversary grid by account or client which includes all major events from the prior year, which can help to benchmark and keep the client on track.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing brokers today? How do you or your company address these issues?

A lack of loyalty is hurting business, according to Teigeiro. Services like ECRM, which owns RangeMe, make the process “feel like a ‘back door.’ Principals take it on; however, many lack the ability to follow up in a way buyers need,” he said. Specialty Products works closely with the principals to communicate key opportunities and design merchandise solutions on key accounts.

Preparing clients economically is key to Reich’s success.

“The current financial pressure on the manufacturer community is slowing down cash flows downstream which tends to lead to slower payments to service providers like brokers,” he said. “We allocate a lot of resources and time to making sure our clients have everything they need from us to pay us on time and in full.”

Yehia added an additional issue to the mix: oversaturation. She said that it is difficult to work when there are multiple representatives for the same product lines within the same territory. Her team works to decide the best representative to best serve an oversaturated area.

Q: What methods do you employ to find and recruit brands you can help?

To gain potential new clients on the retail side, Teigeiro said that his team goes into stores to identify a grocer’s “white space,” the categories or offerings that are not being merchandised but can help lead the grocer to experience dramatic gains. Then, they help communicate the opportunity to these businesses and provide solutions by advocating for good-fit partners.

As an example, he shared that with one of his company’s retail partners, Menards, a hardware store with 350 locations, his team found that they only merchandised “cheap” candy, but that there was a “white space” of gourmet delights.

Reich and Yehia gave insight into gaining clients on the maker side, advocating for trade show attendance. Yehia said that her team goes to the Summer and Winter Fancy Food Shows to find new, relevant lines that fit into their niche. When Reich’s team attends a show, they plan to be on the lookout for specific client types that match market trends.

Reich added that clients often beget clients, with many connections resulting from referrals from current clients and customers.

Specialty Food Association compiles an annual Broker Directory available for SFA members and non-members. It is in the SFA Learning Center. 

Related: Specialty Food Buyers Mission at Winter Fancy Food Show; Mastering the Trade Show: Wow Buyers, Press