Rusty Tuggle of Instantwhip Foods – Columbus division based in Grove City, Ohio is AFDR’s August 2023 DSR of the Month, earning him a permanent place in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.
Rusty’s territory covers central Ohio, but spans all the way to Key West, Florida for a multi-unit chain business that he oversees. They are part of UNIPRO and use some of their UNIPRO sister companies to do their distribution into those markets. They assemble the orders in Ohio and ship the orders to them. They pretty much cross-dock the orders for them and deliver them to the locations. Tuggle lives a few miles from the warehouse and spends most of his time selling in central Ohio.
His introduction to the foodservice industry was at the age of 12, when Rusty got paid a dollar an hour to wash strawberries for the famous strawberry pies that were baked at the restaurant his father managed. By 16 or 17, he began as a driver salesman for a meat company. Tuggle worked for multiple foodservice companies in sales roles, as a manufacturer rep, GM, and just about every other role there is in the business where he continued to grow over the years. He worked primarily in the meat business until about 15 years ago when he came to Instant Whip. Rusty says, “It’s still the cow, just a different part of it 😊.”
What kind of hurdles did you encounter in those first years?
Rusty: Mainly communication in those days. I went through the beeper stage, the big box cell phones, and the cell phones that were attached to your cars back then. And products now are a lot different than they were then. When I think back to when more of the ready-to-eat kind of products came out like the cooked Top Rounds and the like which were not good to the transition to nowadays when you can get just about anything you want and have it taste about any way you want has greatly improved over the years.
How do you learn about products nowadays?
Rusty: I do a lot of searching. I go to the shows, the UNIPROS and the DOTs, and those. We are customer driven. The customers are telling me what they’re looking for and what I need to do for them.
I’ve seen too much product that eventually gets thrown in the dumpster that somebody behind a desk had said they had to have this. So, a lot of our product growth has been really customer driven.
How do you go about prospecting when you want an account that doesn’t know you?
Rusty: I simply walk in. I’m more old school than a lot of people out there these days. I’ve always been the kind of person who would just walk in and hand them my card, never trying to make a sales call on that first visit, just trying to schedule an appointment.
I know that when I started at Instant Whip, the prospect might say they already had a dairy company, so that’s when I would tell them about all the other stuff that we do. We were at the forefront before COVID with Ohio-based products. I have 40 different Ohio-based companies that I deal with.
What do you say to somebody when they say that they already have a distributor, and they don’t need another one?
Rusty: It kind of depends, Dave, how bad you want the account. For me, I may have an opportunity from word of mouth from other customers or even other distributors. In the past, before all the big guys all got everything, when I was in the meat business, I’d work with a dairy company or work with a grocery company or a produce company. We all, the reps and I, would talk to each other and say, do you know this guy? This guy’s having an issue, and we would network that way.
So, if they say they don’t need another distributor, what are your next steps? Do you go back in and how many times?
Rusty: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You go back in. I think that’s the downfall for most sales reps out there is they can’t handle rejection, or they don’t handle it well. If they get a little pushback, then they just go on down the road.
Years ago, there was a rule of thumb… you made seven calls on the guy, but sometimes it was more than that, because what if on the eighth call, he would have bought? So, I think you go until the guy actually tells you not to come back. Or you just have to evaluate your time and your money. How much is it costing you to go there? If you want to make X amount of money a year, then you need to know how much your time is worth. And if you get to that point where it’s not worth your time and it’s virtually costing you money to go there, then you have to move on.
I kind of took it back to the basics, Dave. If you’re going to work 10 hours a day, you’ve got to make X amount of money. Knowing what you want to make a year, you figure how much that is a week and per day. And if you’re not generating that on a consistent basis, then you’re going to fall short.
DSR Dave: I figured if anybody has a commission report about how many cases they sold that week or how many dollars they produced. Just figure how many cases made you that much money so that you could figure how many cases you need to sell if you want to make X amount.
Do you go back to a prospect every week around the same time?
Rusty: One of the things that I’ve never done in my entire career is be at the same place at the same time on a daily basis. I never saw value in that. I know a lot of people do, and many companies are structured that way, but if I go see a guy on Tuesday at 10 am and he’s always busy, why would I keep going in at that time? I’d stagger it. Also, if you’re going to go see somebody, see them for a reason, not just because it’s 10:00 Tuesday morning. Have a reason to talk to them, a product to show, etc.
At what point do you ask for a credit app to be filled out?
Rusty: When you get a bit of a rapport. When you’re talking more about personal things or something that’s not strictly business. You can do that by looking around their office at personal items, and you can kind of figure out what they are about. So, if you have some conversation and have a little bit of a personality, then you can say, “Hey, I’m going to give you this because I know you’re going to buy, so we might as well get it out of the way and get it done with.”
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