“Always approach with the attitude that it’s just a mistake that needs to get fixed, and not a situation where somebody’s purposely not paying their bill.” ~ Tammy Pratt
Is it easier today to collect money than it was when you first started?
Tammy: Yes, and some of that’s just been in the development of the customers that I have now versus when I first began. But with the many new ways of paying now with online paying and ACH, presenting it correctly to the customer as a convenience to them as well as to you, usually does the job and they come on board.
With the automation, it eliminates chasing checks. There are still some customers who do checks because they work through their accounting firms, but those invoices are submitted to the accounting firm with checks being generated and mailed to the office. For the few I do pick up, we have easy ways to deposit those now using phone apps, so you don’t have to worry about lost checks.
What did you mean earlier about the “development of the customers” now versus when you first began?
Tammy: When you first start, you’re out there trying to open all the accounts you can, and you end up with some that are not necessarily the right fit, maybe not quite credit worthy.
In the developing of relationships, if there’s an issue about money due and you can talk to them about it in a real honest and open way and get things resolved, it helps with the relationship with your customer and credit specialist.
Always approach with the attitude that it’s just a mistake that needs to get fixed, and not a situation where somebody’s purposely not paying their bill.
I think that the more they respect you as a sales rep, the faster they pay you. At bill paying time, you’re going to get paid first if they respect you more than your competitor. When they understand that it’s an important part of your job, they’ll try to take care of you.
What percentage of your customers pay their bill online or ACH?
Tammy: About 60% have ACH.
What percentage of your customers are placing their own orders online and how do you use that extra time?
Tammy: Upwards of about 70-75%. It frees up some time, but it is important to review those orders with a quick look through to make sure there are not any major mistakes or outs, and then resolve them before it becomes an issue. I keep everybody who’s supposed to order on that day on a list in my Day-Timer and make sure I’ve checked and corrected them before the day ends. It gives me the opportunity to be more of a consultant for my customers.
Prospecting – how do you go about it?
Tammy: There’s so much information available online, so I usually begin there looking at their website, their menu, and searching for the key people. Facebook has become such a tool for that as well because you can oftentimes get the name of an owner or a chef. I eat there once or twice and look for the opportunity to maybe ask if the owner or chef is there. I try to pick a slow period when I go in and ask for that key person just to see if I can get a minute to introduce myself and try to get a meeting to learn a little bit more about their business and tell them a little about my company.
At that appointment, the part about me and my company should be short and sweet, and focus more on asking about their business, what’s happening in their world? What are their challenges? What keeps them awake at night? Then listen to what they’re saying and, in your mind, start formulating what you could discuss with them at the next meeting.
When they tell you they’re happy with who they are buying from, how do you handle that?
Tammy: If they are a good account, you go in knowing you need to be patient. I think it’s okay to ask about what their competitor does that they really like. It may help you learn what they will expect from you if you get the chance to work with them. Be careful about not making it seem like it’s a high-pressure sale from you, you need to have the attitude of being patient and persistent, and the opportunities will come.
I had a sales manager who referred to prospects as “non-buying customers” and said to treat them as such, by passing on information, inviting them to events, and treating them like one of your customers.
You can simply ask if you can check back with them in a month or if you see something interesting from a broker that you think they might like information on.
When do you ask for a new account app to be filled out?
Tammy: I don’t want to waste everybody’s time getting something started that’s not even going to lead to a minimum order. So, it’s going to be that discussion of if we were to work together, we would need this filled out. If they’re going to partnership on a level that’s mutually beneficial, then we would get the new account application filled out.
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