For starters, they spend almost half their day on admin tasks. Download a free chart showing a typical broker’s day.
1. You’re not a priority
Most food brokers and food distributors rep 25-plus product lines. It doesn’t help that manufacturers are cutting commissions and operators are squeezing them on price, forcing them to take on even more lines to hit their profit goals. And with the consolidation going on within broker and distributor organizations, things will only get worse.
The fact is, brokers and distributors get roughly 22 minutes with the operator on an average call, and they focus the majority of it selling their top three lines — typically protein lines. If yours isn’t one of them, you need to give them a good reason to include your products in the mix. Make your products more relevant by connecting them to center-of-the plate products. Give them bundling programs and ideas that make it easy to show your products with their top sellers. Remember, you are no longer just competing with similar product brands. When it comes to face time with operators, you’re competing with every SKU your broker or distributor carries.
2. Your timing is off
Brokers and distributors run their own promotions, aligned with distributor sales drives. If your programs don’t align with those drive periods, your products won’t get sold. So sync up. Find out when key drive periods are (usually quarterly), and plan your promotions to be a season ahead. Running your own promos, no matter how good they are, won’t get results if brokers and distributors can’t easily integrate them into the initiatives they’re already running.
3. Broker and distributor sales reps don’t know your products
Just because you pay them, don’t assume broker and distributor sales reps know how to position and sell your products. With 13 very different foodservice market segments, they need help to understand which segments to focus on and what talking points to highlight.
Simply offering training isn’t enough. We’re talking about busy sales guys with short attention spans, and the last thing they want to do is study your boring PowerPoint presentation. Capture their attention with engaging training tools that make it easy for them to learn on the go. Provide a short smartphone video to help them brush up before going into a sales call. Or give them a cheat sheet that aligns your product to critical operator needs.
The same goes for your selling tools. Support food brokers and food distributors with high-touch sales tools that make it easy to share information about your products with operators. Remember, they represent hundreds of SKUs so if you’re not delivering dynamic, memorable support tools, you end up paying them to take orders. On the other hand, if you help them target their efforts where they will succeed, success will beget more success, to the benefit of both of you.
4. Your broker or distributor doesn’t like you
Brokers and distributors admit they sell more for people they like. A knowledgeable, highly involved regional manager is critical to a successful relationship. That means you need to do more than sit down twice a year with your broker or distributor and look at spreadsheets once a month. You need to engage them on a personal level and work with them from a strategic perspective to help them grow their business.
According to a 2009 study conducted with a national sample of foodservice brokers and manufacturers, brokers appreciate manufacturers who are professional, market in an objective manner and offer good products and brands. They don’t like manufacturers who are poor planners and poor communicators, including those who don’t provide sufficient marketing guidance. They don’t like manufacturers with poorly trained or unresponsive regional managers, or those with products that have been allowed to degrade to commodity status. They don’t like manufacturers with unreasonable sales expectations or excessive admin requirements that take valuable time away from selling.
What tactics have you implemented to get your food broker or food distributor’s attention? Do tell!