“If you can believe in yourself, you can make it happen!” ~ Steve Lentz
Steve Lentz of BiRite Foodservice Distributors located in Brisbane, California has earned top honors as AFDR’s November 2021 DSR of the Month and has been inducted into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.
Steve’s territory is all around the warehouse in Brisbane which is a suburb of San Francisco on down the peninsula toward Silicon Valley.
He began working in a small restaurant in high school, then worked a traditional apprenticeship for 5 ½ years under a European chef learning both the front and back of the house. Steve met his future wife who worked at BiRite (as did her mother as a DSR for 15 years), and after watching her work that job, Lentz realized that was the job for him. When she left to move on to something else, Steve was able to get in and take over part of her route which was over 27 years ago!
Were you taught any knowledge on how the distributors worked during your apprenticeship?
Steve: No, but we did get trained on purchasing, which they emphasized was more about relationships and quality, not just price.
When I began with the distributor, I went to Sysco University which was great training. And now, I train a lot of the new reps coming through. I will show them how I do it but tell them they can use it or come up with their own ways. I tell them to read the customers without interrupting and pick up on personal details to have something to relate with them about.
Do you see value in interacting with your drivers on your accounts?
Steve: Absolutely. If I see our driver at one of my accounts, I will stop and talk with them and the customer. I also buy my drivers lunch or coffee to discuss accounts because they are my right hand in my accounts because they hear stuff I do not hear. The driver may hear the customer complaining and tell me about it so I can problem solve. It is an important relationship.
How do you prospect?
Steve: Definitely will go in at least once or twice, grab a menu, and watch, find out who the decision maker is. I seek to overcome their objections. I expect to hear that the prospect is happy with their current supplier/rep, so I will point out the benefits of our local company and ability to service them and make personal deliveries whereas the bigger companies cannot. I tell them about the various tools we have to help them, including me.
You really must get a feel for what they want to hear or need. I just keep stopping in every week. If they do not want to see me, I might have a beer or bring my wife in and have dinner. They get used to seeing me and eventually warm up until there is an opening or opportunity.
I may tell them for example that I have calamari, because I know others are in need and cannot get it, so I might just let them know that in case they have not been able to get it, and that opens a door. By identifying items like this can help bring their guard down.
Do you have the same competitors at most of your accounts?
Steve: Yes, I do run into the same sales reps and companies a lot. We are all friendly.
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