1318: DSR of the Month Paul Dame from Harbor Foodservice

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“There is no reason for a cold call to be cold.” ~Paul Dame

Paul Dame of Harbor Foodservice has earned the honor of being inducted into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame and is the DSR of the Month for April 2020! Paul has been a DSR for 40 years!

Dame lives about 40 miles from his warehouse with his territory being downtown Seattle, Washington.

Paul began his foodservice career working in the customer service department with a local distributor in Seattle. One day when an outside sales rep left the company, the boss tapped Paul on the shoulder and said, “You are doing this tomorrow,” and the rest is history.

Dame said he had a smooth transition from inside to outside because he had some basic product knowledge and four or five of his customers taught him some of the other basic products and business practices. He pointed out that most of his customers really wanted him to learn because he asked them questions about how they used their products. Paul says that most everyone in our industry wants to teach other people in the industry how things work, they have a training mentality. Make sure that you ask questions every day even if you think you might know the answer.

This Hall of Fame DSR veteran goes into great detail in his interview about prospecting. Paul says, “there is no reason for a cold call to be cold” because if you really want to find information about any operator, it is all over the internet. Find information online you can use so when you walk in you actually know something about the person and the place. There is a pretty good chance if you do enough homework, you’ll find some common ground that you’ll be able to have a conversation about. Dame says it’s much easier today than it was 40 years ago to find those things you might have in common.

When making his first attempt to talk to a prospect after doing his discovery work, Paul likes to “transact.” Be a customer first, then ask some questions about what you purchased. It helps him get a feeling for the place and the prospect appreciates the fact then he took time to learn more about their operation, not just push another product.

In his long career, 65 to 70% of prospects use the backhand comment that they are happy with their current supplier and they do not need another one when first approached. Paul says it is not lost at that point, just slowed down…

Paul and Dave discuss the current environment that COVID-19 has left this industry with and how DSRs might move forward. With so many fewer DSRs today than there was a month ago, how do you help those customers who are left without the DSR they have been doing business with? Might be a great time to tweak your go-to-market strategy and make sure you bring relevant information that is going to help them, such as new carry out containers and packaging for their type of food, online ordering systems, mask/custom mask manufacturers, sanitizers, etc. Engagement is going to be highly centered on what you bring to the party.

Dame describes how he considers his job and all the people that he works with as a “team selling business.” He likes his customers to know his entire company is involved with the selling process. He is not the only one who is trying to help them, but it is the whole team. Customers really appreciate that an entire team is trying to help them.


  • Ask questions each day from everyone.
  • When first meeting a prospect, you need to walk out of the place asking yourself the question, “Can we do business with them?” This is a good idea just as much as it is for a prospect to size you up and ask the same question.
  • Prospects will usually allow you to come back if you are genuine.
  • Bring some clarity (to your customers and prospects) to the absolute unknown because of COVID-19.
  • Help operators understand the entire supply chain, all of it.
  • Learn and teach your customers “what’s clean” at their operation moving forward.
  • Establish benchmarks (labor costs, utility costs, food costs, dumpster costs, etc.) for your customers using trade information you learn between your own customers to help all your customers because most independent operators do not have the resources to find this information.
  • Help your operators teach their employees business acumen (the ability to make good judgements & quick decisions) so they can help the operator run a more profitable business.

DSRs, Be a Resource…and Sell Something!