Retail Distribution: Finding the Right Broker For You

No matter the size of your company or stage of your business, distribution is crucial. You want to get your product portfolio in front of the right consumers with the right retailers. For many companies, one of the best strategies for getting listed is through a broker.

We talked to Stuart Bosch about how to find a broker that works for you and how to make the most of the client-broker relationship.

  • Strategy
by Braden Douglas
June 3, 2021

In this sense, a broker is someone who sells directly to the national head office, and deploys a team at the local level to help monitor in-store displays and manage growth.

The cost is usually a monthly flat fee until sales reach a specific annual, then a percentage of gross sales that ranges from three to six percent.

As a marketing partner, Crew has had a hand in introducing clients like Hardbite to brokers and along with developing channel strategies for various products and SKUs. It’s how we met Stuart Bosch, Executive Vice President at Concord National, one of Canada’s leading brokerage firms.

With over 30 years in consumer packaged goods, he offers some advice.

"First and foremost, it’s all about fit. You should approach hiring a brokerage firm the same way as you would a key employee. Do they share similar values? Would they fit and represent your company culture in the right way? Do they have the right business acumen, experience and competence to get results?

Stuart Bosch

Finding the Right Firm for You

If you are not sure where to start when looking for a broker, here are three things Bosch says to keep in mind:

    Not all categories are equal and the strategies to grow a brand can vary wildly. For example, strategies for the dairy category are very different than bakery or salty snacks. Ensure their sales team has prior experience in your specific category, and have them show you their results.
    Progressive sales management is all about managing category data and having the proper technical reporting systems to ensure accuracy (Nielsen, Aztec, Retail Link or SPINS). Some brokers rely too heavily on relationships or soft skills to get results, but real progress and growth comes from balancing data discipline with knowledge and charisma.
    There is a learning curve at the beginning of any broker relationship where the teams learn about your products and growth plans. For consistent results, it’s important to keep the same team working on your business. When interviewing brokerages, ask how long the core team has been around. Firms that invest in their people and have a well-defined HR strategy will have higher employee retention.

Making the Most of Your Relationship

Once you have found the right brokerage firm, remember that this is a relationship like any other and requires some attention.

Bosch had five tips for making the most of this unique working relationship:

    The best relationships are built on effective communication. Like many of us now, a brokerage firm works remotely – meaning there is a greater need to ensure that good communication is in place.

    Start by agreeing on the long-term goals for the next three to five years. Next, establish annual sales objectives to make sure that clear targets are created. Break these objectives into monthly or quarterly goals and review them in regular meetings with the senior team. Ensure weekly update meetings are happening to align on the activities and tactical details needed to achieve results.
    It might sound easy but too often companies keep their brokers at an arm’s length. Remember this is a partnership, which means you are on the same team. It means sharing confidential information, participating in decision-making, and planning and brainstorming on new products, sales techniques and market direction.
    Believe it or not, brokers want their clients to be engaged in the realities at the retail level. This ensures everyone is on the same page and has a shared reference for strategy and execution challenges. Plan a quarterly market visit with different sales reps in different regions and join a key account manager for major customer presentations when the opportunity arises.
    Feedback and accountability are the best tools to make sure clear expectations are set while allowing for improvements. Even though feedback loop should occur regularly, a specific time once a year where you evaluate the relationship can be key.
    Feedback and accountability are the best tools to make sure clear expectations are set while allowing for improvements. Even though feedback loop should occur regularly, a specific time once a year where you evaluate the relationship can be key.

    Relationships and partnerships take effort, so don’t be afraid to express concerns or points of frustration; this is a great venue to work through them. Then, together, establish goals and measures to ensure continued success.
    Sales teams are often built on extroverts who love having a good time. So think of fun ways to reward exceptional performance and recognize individuals or regions that go ABCD (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty).

    Get to know key individuals on a personal level through social settings, when possible. Friends will always go to extra mile for friends.

If you’re interested in talking more about whether a broker is a right fit for you, we would love to talk. Whether you’re launching your very first product, expanding your product line or looking to increase distribution channels, we can help you find the right partner. Let’s talk.