“I always try to go above and beyond for a prospect or any of my customers. I believe that goes a really long way. You simply must come through for people. Customers remember the person who helped them out when they were in a bind.”
Being a paper house, do you still find it difficult to match up cups and lids when operators run out or with the product shortages?
Eric: It’s still not easy for us. Especially with the past couple of years with the shortages on everything. We might have to switch clear cups between three different brands. And then the operator calls on a Friday and says, I have 3000 lids of so and so and this cup, and I don’t know what to do.
I know DSRs everywhere have struggled with this for the last two years, especially. I go into the warehouse and start pulling cases to make sure a particular lid will fit the cup. The last thing I want to do is send 30 cases of cups to a bar on the beach and then not have a lid for it.
Continuing our discussion on Prospecting and Opening New Accounts from last week, what do you say to that prospect the first time they tell you they are happy with their current DSR/distributor?
Eric: I generally tell them I understand and that I am happy that they have a great relationship with their sales rep, but I pay attention to their body language. I look to see if he’s really being serious. If he’s giving me a possible open door. If he/she just turns away after saying that, I will offer my card and tell him I’d like to stop back in a couple weeks to talk. Then, I will go in for lunch or dinner, so he sees my face and knows I am interested.
I have a story of a pizza shop that literally is right by my house that just opened about two months ago. I made a blind cold call. I walked in and began talking to the owner. He said he was really happy with his rep and since he was just starting out, did not have the capital or the cash flow or business to bring in another distributor. Well, he kind of just kept his mouth open a little bit just to give me an answer to come back. I then asked if he was having any issues with his current supplies, and he said he was not. I gave him my business card and told him I would check back in a couple of weeks.
My family and I began going in for pizza and he would see my face. One day, I took my daughter in there to get a slice of pizza. I made sure he saw me, and I spoke to him, then he walked over with her slice and walked away. But I saw him looking through the open kitchen at us, tapping my business card on the table. Then he came over and asked me if we had pizza boxes. I told him yes and asked what was going on. He had just been shorted 20 bundles of 16-inch pizza boxes.
I had them in stock, so I put the boxes under my account since he did not have an account set up, and I brought them to him. He was so overjoyed that two days later, he called me asking for prices on everything.
You simply must come through for people. Customers remember the person who helped them out when they were in a bind.
I always try to go above and beyond for a prospect or any of my customers. I believe that goes a really long way. They know that you care and that they can trust you. I think that’s the main thing with an established account is they need to trust you.
DSR Dave: After being around for so long and riding with so many salespeople, I have seen many DSRs who, if an item was not in their warehouse, or they couldn’t find it, they would just go on about their day. They just are not willing to do any homework on where they might find a product that somebody really needs.
Why would an operator need you if you are not going to help them with their business? They can buy many items from anybody, but you must give them a reason to buy them from YOU.
How many new prospects out of five will tell you they are happy with who they are buying from?
Eric: Two to three out of five, which is why I continue to look for that ground of them possibly being shorted and also just going in as a customer, so they continue to see my face, making them more comfortable with me, seeing that I am a normal guy doing my job and that I am trustworthy. I look for ways to help them.
At what point do you do ask them to fill out a credit application?
Eric: That really depends upon how the call is going. I always have a credit app on me. If I need to get any type of special pricing for them, I cannot do that without an application, without account numbers. If that comes into play, I will ask them to fill it out for me, no pressure. That way, I can go back to my brokers, my purchasing agents, and get them special pricing or deviated pricing if need be. If I am just throwing a non-pressure price shoot at them for them to look over at their leisure, I usually will wait until they’re ready before asking them to fill one out.
Is it difficult to overcome the perception that you are only a specialty distributor of paper when you also have everything else?
Eric: Yes, it is. There have been several places that I have cold called on that say they will use us for their paper products because they think that is all we sell. I explain to them we are a full foodservice distributor with a full line of produce, meats, frozen goods, seafood.
When they realize we are a one-stop-shop, they will throw me a couple of items to price out for them, and one by one we just start picking them off.
How do you use DOT Foods?
Eric: I am on it almost every day. Anything we do not stock and my customers want to special order, I order through DOT. The new changes to the DOT Expressway Ecommerce site have enabled me to see more items and with pictures and POS which works great because I can look at it directly with my customers and order it right then with them.
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