At what point in a prospect, when they’re still not buying, do you either fill out a credit app or new account form?
Kelli: It varies, sometimes it’s the fifth visit, sometimes it’s the second. I’ve had accounts where I walked in one time and they wanted to fill out a new account form.
What percentage of your customers place their order online with your company versus you taking the order?
Kelli: About 70% place their own orders online. In my territory the past two or three years it just keeps growing and growing. Now most accounts want to have the Entree online ordering system just because everything is moving towards technology and they can see pictures and pricing at any time of the day or night, especially the younger generation.
DSR Dave: Of the 30% left that you take the orders, is it because you need to be there selling while you’re taking the order or because they have always done it that way and don’t want to change?
Kelli: Yes both, and believe it or not, it is mostly guys. It’s interesting that guys don’t want to handle technology, they want to just hand me the order guide for me to enter it. I do try to make everyone use an order guide that I always provide, but I still have a few people that scratch it out on guest checks. They’ve done it that way for so many years and they’re not going to make a change.
How often do you manage them for reviewing of products (take old off/put new on) and prices?
Kelli: Every six weeks, we always reprint the order guide for them. I review each one of them to take off old items and update with new items. This is a particularly important process.
DSR Dave: The reason I’m asking is that a lot of sales reps find it hard to take a vacation because every time they do, everything gets messed up. I believe the reason it gets messed up most of the time is because they didn’t have their order guides up-to-date. For example, if there were two diced tomatoes on the guide, one that they always used and also a backup, they would order the wrong one about 90 percent of the time.
Kelli: Keeping the order guide up-to-date is critical, especially in the world we’re in now. With so many substitutions over the last two years because of the supply chain issues, it’s important to keep those order guides and worksheets updated with the actual products that they are using currently.
Of those items that you had to switch because the regularly used items were not in stock, what percentage of the subbed items do you think your customers will stick with when the regular items come back in stock?
Kelli: It’s probably 50/50. I think that some customers are really okay and like the new product, and a lot of them appreciate the fact that it was available, and so they’ll hang with those. And then on the other ones, about 50% that would definitely want to go back to the product that they’re used to because it was a tried-and-true item that they’ve used for years.
Did you learn about some new products during this last two years that you didn’t even know existed?
Kelli: I definitely did. Many companies. Ben E. Keith is still family-owned and not traded publicly, therefore we were able to quickly bring in different suppliers. I think out of any of the distribution centers, we had a lot of different brands that we had never even heard of. It became really important to me because on Entree, our online ordering system, you can see pictures and box sizes. I used that frequently as I was making substitutions for customers and trying to educate them on the different products that I was subbing to. It became invaluable. But yes, I learned some new companies and some different products, but there were some products that proved to be true that the old product was simply better.
DSR Dave: Accounts receivable. Many sales reps find it difficult to collect money because they’ve become friends with their customers and now, they must ask them for money when they might never have been late before, but are now.
What percentage of your customers pay their bill online, and what is the biggest hurdle to get them to do so?
Kelli: A little over 50%. The least favorite part of my job is collecting money. People that have never done it and don’t do any of their personal bills online, don’t feel comfortable doing that. They just like to give a check to the driver or me when I come back by the next week. I have minimized that number.
Why is collecting money the least favorite part of the job?
Kelli: It just seems to be a waste of time to me. There’s so much more I can do as a consultant for my customers rather than picking up checks and making sure they’re paying. I could spend that time selling more products and helping my customers with their business.
What can you share about how to approach that customer of a couple years who is slowing down in making payments? You can usually tell because they are not around to write it when you are there.
Kelli: I think the biggest thing in those situations is you must be compassionate because there are many people struggling financially right now coming out of COVID. I also believe you should treat it the same way as cold calling. Be persistent and remind them from a business standpoint, we do have to collect the money in a timely manner. When appropriate, we can work with them and break up payments into smaller chunks. Then there are customers that just aren’t going to pay. You come to realize and understand that they’re just not going to be a good partner, and you must walk away from it. That’s hard to do, but there are times you have to do that.
Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!!