“The more you communicate with everyone you deal with,
the more you learn how to work with them all.” ~Jeff Warner
Jeff Warner is AFDR’s latest inductee to the AFDR Hall of Fame as the September DSR of the Month. Jeff works with Holt Paper & Chemical out of Salisbury, Maryland.
He has been a DSR for 17 years. His warehouse is 45 miles, about 1 hour away from his territory in and around Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Jeff got into the foodservice business while in college waiting tables then switched to bartending, and then ran a franchise for a couple of years. He decided to get out of the restaurant side of the business but wanted to stay in the foodservice business, so he began interviewing with distributors until he felt it was the right fit. Jeff decided on a smaller independent distributor.
Jeff says it takes two to three years to really feel comfortable, meetings with brokers training you, and food shows to help learn more about the products. It took about 5 years to learn his “best style” of selling while watching others and trying out his own styles.
Warner says one of the hardest things to learn after becoming a DSR was hearing “NO” from people he was calling on. After some time of hearing “NO”, he drew on his knowledge from being an operator and why he would say “NO” or “YES” when DSRs called on him. He remembered that he began saying “YES” to the DSRs that had started building a relationship with him, those he was getting to know. Jeff says that his customers are not just business partners, he considers them friends. Jeff explains on the audio podcast how he actually does that now.
Because of the small, close-knit community he works in with many people kind of knowing each other, most of his leads come from recommendations from his current customers versus hard prospecting. But Jeff also prospects.
Jeff does a little research by reading online or in paper, hearing about them, stopping in and talking to the bartender, eating/drinking, and tipping them well. Talking to the bartender (now servers since you cannot sit at the bar) for as much information about who they buy from, who the buyer is, who the owner is, etc. so he can come back and make a cold call on them and tell them how good the food/his server/bartender was when he was in there recently.
Jeff explains his next steps with a prospect when a prospect says they are happy with their current distributors and they really do not need another one. Often, he will ask to be a back up to prove himself and his company and begin the relationship there. Jeff shares the perks of doing business with his company because it is smaller. They have smaller minimums, their warehouse is closer than most of the other distributors, and they can deliver 5 days a week.
Depending on the customer, Jeff will go back consistently to see them or talk with someone in a networking group who knows them for a recommendation or help to get in through someone already doing business with them. He will continue to go in as a customer and leave a “non-business” card that says he was there. So, when they have a bad day with their distributor, maybe they will think of him.
When you’re nice and encouraging to your coworkers, those on the inside routing trucks, picking, buyers, and other sales reps, it helps to show your appreciation of them, and it helps them help you.
Yelling at people never helps you, just explain yourself about what you’re trying to do to help the customer. Never yell at your drivers because they see your customer more than you do and you want their attitude to be good in front of the customer. If you have a good relationship with the driver, they might remind you that it’s the customer’s birthday after they have just made a delivery or he may see something in the back that you’re not aware of like a product from your competitor that you’re not selling and tell you about it.
A/R is much easier now because of his system. Jeff gets up every Monday morning at 6 am and for about an hour and goes through all customers no matter what they owe and sends them an email called the Weekly Invoice Update to make sure they’re on the same page, didn’t miss a credit, and it gives them a week to get caught up and give a check to the driver. He now has the highest percentage of on-time payments. The squeaky wheel gets paid because if they’re tight on money and they can pay two of the three they owe; you will be one of them.
Advice for Greenhorns:
• COMMUNICATE with EVERYBODY.
• CUSTOMERS – as much as you can as soon as they need to know something.
• PURCHASER – about big orders you haven’t sold before.
• BOSS – about who you’re prospecting with, so they don’t let another sales rep go in making you look foolish like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Advice for Veterans:
Sometimes you can get a little stale. Keep learning new things to sell. Ask your chemical expert, for example to teach you about some specifics to give you a new spirit to get new line items without having to get new customers.
You cannot overemphasize how important communication is with everybody.
Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!