How do you prospect?
Ryan: First and foremost, for me, I have to like the food and the restaurant. It is a pride thing. It motivates me in the conversation. Once I know I want it, I gather as much information as possible online. By looking at their menu I determine about 80% of what they are using for an order guide. I will also talk to other restauranteurs/their competitors about them trying to determine what drives that restaurant, what is the personality of the person I am going to talk with.
Then I go in to do a little bit of recon. I have lunch, take a look around looking at specific things like what type of operation is it? How is it being run? How efficient are they? How clean? How attentive are the servers/are they well trained and clean?
Then, I will sit at the bar to talk to the bartender because they are always willing to have a good conversation and provide lots of information. I ask about the ownership, whether or not they are around on a daily basis. I ask how they like their manager and so forth. This all determines the type of approach I will use.
This way I do not have to make a cold call, it is a warm call when I officially ask for someone’s time. I prefer to know who I am talking with, their position, type of restaurant, etc. I will already have in mind what I want to sell them. I have questions in mind to get more info to facilitate the next meeting.
I know right away if I will be able to sell this guy or gal upon meeting them at that first appointment. If the prospect will commit to a second meeting, I am 50% there; that account is pretty well ready to be sold.
If they are not well trained or not an organized operation, but you like the food or concept, do you take it on as a challenge or because you think you can help them?
Ryan: No, not yet. My goal is always first to get an invoice and a truck. The help will come after I have sold them some products. Once that is in place and I have established a bit of trust, then, humanity takes over and I want to help them succeed and stay in business and continue buying from me.
When in the process do you ask for a credit/new account application?
Ryan: At the second meeting. The first meeting is really just introductions and asking if he/she has time to meet with me at another time. Again, if they agree to a second meeting that shows intent. I tell them first thing that in order to sample, we must set up an account, and also to set up a pricing profile.
How long do you call on an account before stopping when you really want them?
Ryan: I have called on some accounts for three years. But the longest I have called on an account is five years. I had an account that I wanted a piece of the business, so I would stop in every 2-3 weeks so they would know me and that I was interested in doing business. I knew that I was going to do business with them one day, so I stayed at it and did get it.
What percentage of your accounts place their order online?
Ryan: 50%. My program business is all online. I have a few multi-unit street accounts that are online as well.
Is it important how you treat your peers/colleagues, and does it make a difference in your ability to get to the next level?
Ryan: Absolutely! To grow my business to the next level I had to sell better on the inside. I had to utilize my resources where I could because with a very healthy territory, I do not physically have enough minutes in the day to do every single thing that needs to be done for my customers/prospects without the help of my purchasing team or specialist, etc. I have a fantastic team on my side and the sky is the limit.
Tips for Greenhorns:
- Stay positive and keep learning.
- Continue reading and dealing with people and you will grow in confidence.
- Over time, that confidence comes across when you are speaking with customers giving you one win, then two, and so on. Winning is contagious so it becomes easier and easier.
- It takes time and some losses and some wins.
- Get up, dress up, and show up. It will happen.
- As athlete Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Tips for Veterans:
- Don’t stop learning. Be a steward of your business.
- We must change with the times and with the clientele base.
- Continue to scour the resources you use; the internet is what I use.
- Know what the business is doing, what the industry is doing, stay in front of people.
- Communicating with the new chefs versus the way with the old chefs, a quite different style.
- Continue to earn the trust and respect of your customers.
- We are still cutting a profit. It is just with different tools and a different landscape.
Is there a system or method you use to manage your A/R?
Ryan: Don’t run away from it. Make it a non-issue. Ask for the money. Get paid. We are doing a service. We are professional salespeople, not professional visitors. Keep your finger on the pulse and pay attention to the signs and do not let it get out of hand. Do not let the sales blind you on what needs to be done at the end of the day. This is our business, how we make a living. That is how our company stays in business.
How important are truck drivers and how do you manage working with them?
Ryan: The driver is extremely important. I tell customers that they will probably only see two people from my company on a regular basis, myself and the truck driver.
Retention of drivers has been an industry problem:
Ryan: Respect is the most important thing to show them. If they feel their work is valued, the tend to stick around and do their best work.
Ryan: Just be positive. Take care of people. We are in the hospitality business. We make a profit. But at the end of the day, you must be nice to one another in a hospitable manner for it to work, because this is a people business.
Be a Resource and Sell Something!!