I interviewed a very good friend of mine on how is to be a yacht sales broker in a male dominated industry.
-> Jelena Vezia, yacht sales broker from Ocean Independence
Kazakhstan-born Jelena Vezia is the company’s only female sales broker and one of only a handful in the entire yachting industry, where female brokers usually specialise in charter. Jelena completed her comprehensive economics and international affairs studies in Poland, France and Germany. With a proven sales background combined with a good level of understanding of Russian and Eastern European clients’ operations, she has an excellent track record. Her successful business approach, can-do attitude and attention to detail represent her core expertise as a yacht broker. Having completed three years as a yacht sales broker in charge of CIS market development prior to joining Ocean Independence in 2016, Jelena delivers a valuable experience with dedication to her clients, respect for main industry players and a work ethic that is second to none.
How did you started in the industry?
I started as a hostess working in parallel with my studies at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2010 for one of the leading brokerage houses (our direct competition today). As a hostess I was accompanying brokers during yacht viewings, working at the stand preparing marketing materials and helping with translations where needed. At that time, the head of charter department told me that I have all the right credentials to make a successful charter broker and provided me with a glowing reference letter. This is how my career in the yachting industry started. 10 years later here I am, bringing my own clients on board during MYS – a huge achievement for me and a sign of destiny, I think. I was not planning to pursue a career in yachting at any point of my life, having successfully graduated with a master’s degree in the Economic International Relations and targeting a position in one of the main European Institutions.
How did you started as a sales broker?
My first position at Sunseeker Monaco was Junior Sales Broker in charge of CIS market, so I have been trained to sell boats from the beginning. During my first job interview my boss, Nigel Bristow, said to me, “It would have been more appropriate to offer you a charter broker’s role, but we don’t have a dedicated charter department here in Monaco, so let’s try to sell.” And we did sell. I still remember him making a drawing to explain the difference between shaft drive and stern drive propulsion systems to me. That was the beginning of the learning curve which was and still remains very challenging – in this business, you never stop learning.
My first real experience in the industry as a broker was at Cannes Boat Show 2012. That year, as one of the main yacht manufacturers, Sunseeker had at least a dozen models on display, one of the biggest stands, hundreds of clients, and a lot (I mean really A LOT) of information to remember – not an easy task for a beginner. Believe me, I was terrified, but the result was brilliant and some of the prospects who I met at that show are among my best clients today.
How is it to be a female yacht broker?
The yachting industry is male-dominated, and it is not easy to gain the trust of clients and peers. I wouldn’t ever call myself a feminist, but one thing is certain – to be recognised in this industry you have to know your subject at least as well as male yacht brokers do, if not better. You don’t have a right to make any mistakes, especially at the beginning. If you do something wrong, people are quick to blame the fact that you are a woman. It gets easier once you build a reputation.
To become a female yacht broker you must be not only intelligent, hard-working, personable and communicative, but also lucky. I would also add that successful business approach, can-do attitude and attention to detail make a good sales broker.
How is a day in the life of a broker?
‘For me, every day at work is different because there are no two identical clients, two identical boats or two identical deals. The biggest challenge is when I start working with a new client because we have to get to know each other, and in the yachting industry, it is a very long process. It is not always easy to get the trust of a new customer, but extremely exciting and rewarding at the end.
Viewings are crucial because every broker has to know the product he or she is trying to sell. And the more yachts I visit, the better market intelligence I get. Nothing is worth a personal visit onboard and a constructive chat with the captain and the crew.
Travelling is part of this job, and I really enjoy visiting shipyards and participating in the boat shows. However, this can easily become extremely tiring, especially when travelling in a different time zone. BUT this is the only way to move things forward. A client will rarely come to see his broker apart from the Boat Shows time. A good Broker has to go and meet his or her client instead! The amount of money a Broker makes at the end is directly proportional to the amount of time he or she spends travelling.
Admin work is my least favourite part of the job, but in our digital world, there is no way we can escape from it. When I am not visiting yachts or travelling to see the existing clients, I am following up with leads by telephone or via email trying to convert them into prospects, scheduling future marketing campaigns and customer mailings, updating notes and opportunities in the CRM.
All the above makes part of a broker’s day to day work, and it is a good mix of activities to keep us busy every day.’
This was a very interesting perspective, and I hope you liked it and if you wish to learn more about careers in yachting visit my page: https://www.onboard.mc/careers/