“This job is not about selling food, it is about building RELATIONSHIPS.” ~~Jon Suddeth
Jon Suddeth of Ben E Keith, Oklahoma located in Edmond, OK earned top honors as AFDR’s June 2021 DSR of the Month and has been inducted into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.
Jon’s territory is in and around Wichita, Kansas which is about 150 miles north of the warehouse.
Suddeth began his exposure to foodservice by cooking at Wendy’s in high school and progressed to waiting tables and bartending and eventually onto management. Jon then ran and opened restaurants for about 17 years until his own sales rep told him he was moving away, and he and his company knew Jon was looking for something different and offered him the job. That was 10 ½ years ago and he is loving it.
What was the biggest hurdle in the first year and a half?
Jon: Learning the business as I did not know how the wheels turned on the distributor side. I knew products to recommend based on my own experience but did not have the experience with fine dining beef cuts and pork. Learning all the parts and how they were used was a challenge in the beginning. Also, learning to come out of my shell to customers to be able to get to know them, help them, and get the job done.
Once at Ben E Keith, I saw how my rep took care of me and did not take advantage and that was the kind of rep I wanted to be. Fair and trustworthy.
How did you learn the product knowledge?
Jon: I spent a lot of time searching for things in the catalog, sales meetings, brokers, and talking with other sales reps. who would share that they were selling a particular product that was working really well. I would ask for samples from brokers and figure out who a product would work for and get it to them to see how it worked out. We are always learning and will make mistakes, but we keep trying to find a match. I also use DOT to find items for people. It is an awesome asset for us.
How are you managing the shortages and price increases on some items due to COVID?
Jon: I really stepped up my communications with my customers during COVID. I told them that if I sent them something, they should take the time to read it. I told customers they should consider changing their prices due to the market in order to stay ahead of it so they aren’t losing money on the bottom line. I tried keeping customers abreast of tough decisions manufacturers had to make.
How do you Prospect when you do not know the account?
Jon: I pull together as much info as I can through eating there, peeking in the backroom and looking at sugar packets to see who they are buying from. “Like” them on Facebook and see their specials, etc. Go in front door and ask for manager’s name and maybe set an appointment, but if not, keep going back chipping away so they are seeing me so if they are having an issue with something, they may ask me about it to see if I can help them out.
What do you talk about that first call?
Jon: Learn more about them and what issues they are experiencing, who their kitchen manager is, who does the ordering. They tend to be guarded in that first meeting so try to make them comfortable while trying to pick up new info.
How do you keep track of all the information you collect?
Jon: Use both old school and new school methods.
Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!