In our past articles we have talked extensively about scams, broker chains and bad practices in the industry, and we even received some feedback that we criticize all too much. Therefore, to preserve the balance between positive and negative, I decided to write an article that actually can help PPE brokers getting transactions done especially after the hardships of 2020 we all have faced. 5 simple rules to win as a PPE broker, nothing more.
However, I’m not saying that these five things will automatically get your deals done. But they can help to build up trust from your clients side, avoid the most rookie mistakes and help you tremendously in your efforts to source or sell PPE.
1. Know thy industry
Too many intermediaries neglect this ground rule, however it is of utmost importance. Knowledge is power, and as a broker you essentially get your commission for the information you provide. You know who are vetted suppliers or buyers, you can warn your client if you see something disturbing, and you can even educate on prices, availabilities etc. Do not give in to lazyness. Many brokers think that by simply forwarding everything, sooner or later there will be a deal that will eventually complete. This law of great numbers does not apply to this industry. If you are not surrounded by professionals, you will never find real suppliers and buyers simply because these automatically ignore joker brokers. Do you think that a hospital would reply to a message like 100B Cranberry OTG must close in 24h or if you don’t know the difference between 3M and Cardinal? Or that a representative of a governmental agency would sit on a call with 10 brokers listening to them arguing about how commission gets divided? Let’s face it: this is not how business is done. As a broker your number one task is to cut through all this nonsense. You represent the first line of defense against all the scams in this industry, so try to become an expert on them and make proper due diligence. This way your clients will be happy, because they get pre-vetted, warm leads from which they can purchase directly, and you will get a handsome commission for your work. The only thing you need to do is to educate yourself about this industry and its mechanics: learn the real capabilities of different suppliers and manufacturers, the differences in transport methods, the applications of financial instruments etc. Trust me, it will be rewarding even in a short time.
2. Never lie to your client
Another common problem: brokers tend to lie if they are unsure about something. That is a rookie mistake because as the transaction progresses, sooner or later you will be exposed, and you can lose your client forever. Let me demonstrate this with an example. You plan to bring your client, a buyer, to a supplier where you are confident, but you have never transacted with them. When your client asks you about this, and you claim that you already closed several deals with the supplier, he will either ask you for proof on spot, or later, while he talks with the supplier, he will eventually find out that they barely know you. And the buyer will be angry, even if the deal finishes and he gets his product, simply because you have lied into his face. On such occasions, it is better to tell the truth: you have not transacted with them, but you are confident in their abilities, because… (and at this point you can share all information you have on them, like previous track record, BOLs etc.).
This kind of honesty is rare, and it makes a huge difference. You will grow in your client’s eyes by being honest, and if you indeed have rock solid proof about the genuinity of the supplier, they will work with them.
3. Keep confidential documents confidential
Every now and then sensitive documents start to circulate in the brokersphere: I have seen ICPOs, BCLs, BOLs, even SGS reports of products being passed from one broker to the other. Do not do this. Never. Your client has entrusted you with these documents, you have signed previously some confidentiality agreement with them, and by presenting these to the public, you essentially help fraudsters in committing crimes by giving them templates they can edit and re-use for scams. This way you betray your clients trust, violate your agreement, and actively give ammunition to fraudsters.
4. Avoid chains at all costs
The sad reality is that nobody likes a broker chain. They are noisy, they tend to kill the deal, circumvent you and often they are associated with scammers. Most suppliers and buyers don’t even tolerate them to the point, that they immediately terminate contact with the broker who presented the chain to them, and they have all the rights to do so. Let me demonstrate this with an example again: last week we were approached by a company that was looking for a specific brand of nitrile gloves for $7.50. This is a price way below the normal range of our suppliers, so we had two choices: either try to ask around in the brokersphere or leave it. We decided for the latter, because even if by some miracle we would have found a real supplier for that, there would have been layers of brokers between us and the selling company – something we try to avoid above all.
So, the moral of the story: try to be reasonable and only accept requests that you can fulfill. Don’t run around in the brokersphere trying to find a supplier, because the only thing you will get is a huge broker chain, and an un-vetted supplier that either performs or don’t. Play safe, only work with companies you have direct contact to.
5. Quality over quantity
As a rule of thumb, we can say that only one of twenty leads qualifies in the end. That means, in 95% of the cases the client is either a broker, a proxy buyer, a windowshopper, or a fisherman (someone who just wants to get the companies in our suppliers’ network for his own dealings). It would be a foolish mistake to concentrate on the 95%, so we try to root them out as soon as possible with targeted questions, or if they fail to introduce the actual buyer to us after a certain time period, we cease communication. Sounds like an arrogant approach, however it saves us enormous amounts of time. Time what we can spend on nurturing our real customers, the above mentioned 5%. We always smirk when we hear a broker bragging, that he is working on 20 deals simultaneously. For us it means, he is just forwarding whatsapp messages and doesn’t spend time to understand his clients needs; otherwise, he would not have time to pay attenion to the other 19 clients at once.
Don’t do this: customer support is essential in this business as well, especially in 2021, when almost all buyers have developed some kind of a PTSD from the scams they have encountered last year. Try to be on good terms with them, make them sure you understand their needs and doubts and provide a “safe space” for them in this crazy industry.