Prospecting and Opening New Accounts, how do you do it?
Karen: Bakeries, cafes, and pizza places are my focus. First, I go in and check out the place to see the volume of customers, different types of products, grab a coffee and a To-Go Menu, and leave. Then I do a little research on the computer and call the owner and make an appointment. This works for me. In the conversation, I ask for no more than 10 minutes of their time. I feel this shows them respect by making an appointment versus walking into their kitchen. Sometimes in that brief conversation, I can find things in common with the owner making it easier to set an appointment.
What do you say when the prospect tells you they are happy with their current rep/distributor?
Karen: I thank them for their time and ask if they mind if I add them to my distribution list so I can send them market trends, new product lists, new things going on in the industry, and let them know if they need anything in the future, they have my contact information.
I stay in constant contact with my customers. Not always face-to-face, but through text, phone calls, and by sending ONLY relevant information to them, I stay in touch with them.
My territory is within a 20-mile radius of my house with a few customers in the 45-minute range. My warehouse is about an hour away. Most accounts I get today are not by cold call. They are referrals from other operators, or I know of them.
How long do you continue to call on those prospects that have said “no” and have not come on as customers?
Karen: I will stop in and have dinner or have ice cream with my kids, maybe monthly pre-Covid, and drop off my card or a sample. I have five brokers around me that I can pick up a sample of an item I know they are not using, but that would be a good fit and drop it off to them. Whether they do anything about my emails or not, they will at least see my name once a week. I will continue for about two years unless they ask me to stop sending them stuff.
Do you find that it helps with a prospect by coming in as a customer?
Karen: Yes, I do. I believe it shows I am not just there for their business, but also there to support their business plus it humanizes me as a person with a family and other interests too.
How do you manage A/R?
Karen: I learned early on that you can sell as much as you want, but if you cannot collect the money, the sale is not complete and what good is the sale. I inherited a lot of old-school customers in the beginning. Those who wanted me to pick up checks and cash. I did not want to be carrying that around all day and going to the bank, besides it added a lot of time to my day.
As soon as we developed our online portal to pay online, I trained all my customers on how to pay online or do an ACH withdrawal. I haven’t had to collect in three years, which was especially helpful when Covid hit. I do not have to spend my time collecting, I can use my time so much more efficiently now.
What kind of system do you use to manage this?
Karen: Friday is my planning day for the next week. If my customer’s name is in yellow that means they are a late pay and I do not want to see them on the stop ship list. I contact them and let them know they are a little behind and they usually will have just forgotten. A gentle nudge is all it takes, no need for me to be forceful as I have been blessed with wonderful customers. It is about establishing that routine, and once they do that, it works out.
Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!