About the Author:
Jeremy Prescott is President of NTR Systems, a firm that consults with radio stations in
the development of non-traditional revenue. He can be reached at (207) 363-5950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food Brokers are one-stop sources of NTR leads. Be sure to develop
relationships with this potential revenue source.
What is a Food Broker?
A food broker is a hired sales force that represents many lines or products. Some
companies like Hershey Chocolate USA or Frito-Lay may have a direct sales force. However,
many companies either do not have the financial resources or choose not to employ their
own sales staff. Such companies often employ food brokers.
A food broker company is split into two sides. One side is the Strategic Business Unit;
the other is the Customer Team. The Strategic Business Unit is responsible for overall
planning. The Business Manager or Account Executive works with the Principal to determine
the direction of the their business in the area. The Customer Team executes the plan. They
write the orders at the account level and see the customers needs are met.
Another key individual, the Principal, works for the manufacturer and
represents its interests with the broker.
Your first contact should be with the Strategic Business Unit and
particularly the departments VP or the Account Executive/ Business Manager. While
the VP is a good source of leads in his department, the Business Manager is more closely
associated with the Principals resources. Trade-marketing money (your
potential funding) is likely to come from the Principal, not the broker.
A broker may represent dozens of companies. There may be several business managers in each
department, each responsible for the business of one or two Principals.
A food broker has two bosses. On one hand he has his customers (grocery
chains, convenience stores, etc.). On the other is the principal, which is the
manufacturers representative. Dont assume that the Business Manager and the
Principal agree on how products should be sold and what promotions (i.e., your programs)
will be effective. Meet both. Make sure what they both say jibes, or you may get stalled.
Get the names of Business Managers that represent brokered products. If you have a
regional trade publication, look at the "whos on the move" column for
people or accounts that are moving around.
Look at the ads in those publications. You may see a food brokers
ad promoting their product lines. Call and ask, "who is the Account Manager for [a
Other sources of Food Broker info:
- Search the web for food brokers and check out their home pages
- Contact local/regional food associations & grocery organizations
- Talk to your grocer
- Call a grocery buyer and ask who represents the products they buy
Another way to get to know some of the players is simply to call the VP
of the department and set up an appointment by telling them that you help food brokers and
their principals put together "trade-marketing" programs. Tell the VP you would
like to come in and discuss how your creative ideas can help move product and boost their
If you do not know how many departments a broker has (some are small),
ask the secretary. Tell her briefly what you do and let her know you want to call on the
decision-makers. She may say its small, with only three key people, or she may tell
you its huge, with many VPs. Pick a department head and move forward.
Understanding the Prospect & Makingthe Call
Food Brokers are salespeople just like you. You both want to be successful. The
differences are what will bring you together for a common goalmaking more money. The
food broker is NOT creative. They deal in pennies and deals. They need creative sizzle to
help them sell. The food broker has little time to develop NTR promotions with any depth.
You, on the other hand, are in "show business." You have great cross-promotion
partners, ideas, hospitality sizzle. You can provide these resources to the broker
so he can look good to his customer.
Prepare for the call by having two examples of successful programs
youve done with food brokers. Talk to others in your company that have worked with
food brokers; ask them for success stories you can use.
Getting the Appointment
As a sales professional, youve probably established a successful method for getting
the appointment (call RAB if you need ideas or help with this). Just be prepared to answer
any questions the broker has.
The Needs Analysis
Before you meet with the contact, get ready for the appointment. Make sure you have a
prepared set of questions, re-cap booklets of past programs (if possible), details of
recent successful programs, and any POS materials.
A first call is always a challenge because the goals are twofold. On
one hand, you want to zero in on the prospects needs and how you can meet them. You
also want to ask lots of questions to help you identify other leads in the organization.
Remember: If you cant do both, establishing the prospects needs must come
One of the most memorable pieces of advice given to me by a broker was to get to know
something about the brokers customer before you call to ask for an appointment. For
example, if you call a broker and you already know that Shop N Save has an "every
day, low price" philosophy, then your programs may be tailored to that philosophy. Or
if you know that Kroger has a big push on for its home meal replacement efforts, maybe you
can suggest a tie-in with that idea. In either case, you will show the broker you know
something about their customer already. Its a big plus.