How do you penetrate existing customers that are not buying all that you stock?
Rusty: Communication from them. I ask what they are having problems with or cannot get on a consistent basis. This can bring up that they buy item X from this guy, but they can never get it there on time. It’s not always about a product, it can be about what you can do that others cannot.
I bring in products customers want, not what I think we should sell, so we are more flexible.
We bring in DOT on a weekly basis, which helps with a product a customer cannot get fast enough, etc. from another vendor. I also like going to DOT shows to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry.
How do you compete with the big guys who have the contracts?
Rusty: Most of the contracts out there go for local and we have 20-something different Ohio vendors we deal with. Our service level is exceptional. If my truck hasn’t left the dock and you need a product, we will get it on the truck for you. We’re just a very easy company to work with.
DSR Dave: I’ve always said if you make it easier than your competitor to buy from you, they (the customer) will buy from you.
Do manufacturers’ reps and brokers call on you or do you have to reach out to them since you are not a large broadliner?
Rusty: Since joining UNIPRO, we get more attention because I go to the UNIPRO shows and talk to the manufacturers on products I’m looking for. They don’t necessarily call on me, but when I need something, they definitely react.
Do you have some favorite brands that just worked for you over the years or they’re working for you now?
Rusty: I do have some favorites with topping, syrup, and dairy companies. And when it comes to regular products, I am not a fan of private labels because these guys spend a lot of money on marketing, and I want my customers to know that it is what it is and came from where it was supposed to.
Accounts Receivable Tips
Rusty: Don’t be afraid of it. I worked for a guy that thought of it this way, “You bought the product, you sold the product, you got paid for the product, so now it’s time to pay me.” I address A/Rs with customers right up front. These are the terms; this is how we work. It’s business. It’s not personal.
Even when the customer is a good friend, you must stick with it being business, not personal, and simply be direct that they need to pay you.
Post-COVID, how often do you need to see your regular customers?
Rusty: As I already mentioned, I’m not “the same time on the same day every week” kind of guy. But an example would be how I handled this huge customer I sold when I was in a meat and seafood business. I sold him all his meat and seafood plus everything else we could sell him. We met twice a year because that’s when he changed his menus, BUT I TALKED to him EVERY DAY, but we only actually met twice a year.
What percentage of your customers place their own order with your online system?
How about with ACH?
Rusty: Not as much as I would like because of the use of credit cards. But I’m going to say probably 30%.
But speaking of online ordering, that is only as good as the person monitoring it. I like it for certain customers, but I like talking to people on the phone. It’s just too easy to place an order, and if you’re not doing any follow-up or you’re not looking at those orders, then you’re going to end up losing business.
Tips for Greenhorns (less than two years)
Rusty: If you’re struggling with it, then you’re doing something wrong. And you need to either talk to some people or evaluate how you’re doing things, because it shouldn’t be hard. It should be fun. I’ve had a great time doing what I do. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met a ton of people. If it’s hard, then look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and reevaluate.
DSR Dave: I agree with Rusty. It is fun. And the thing about it is that all of those you are calling on need the stuff that you’re selling them to be in business. It’s different than selling say, furniture. They actually must have the stuff you’re selling to be in business, and they need to buy it from someone. So, if you make it easier than your competitor, they’re going to buy it from you. If you show up and do what you say you’re going to do, build relationships by being honest and dependable. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out and follow up with them promptly.
Rusty: You are not going to jive with everyone so don’t get discouraged if you get shut down. Not everybody’s going to like you and you’re not going to like everybody. Pick and choose and have fun.
I had a gentleman tell me one time that I could walk into a fire and come out cold. You just can’t let stuff bother you. Just move on. If you cannot find the fun in it, consider moving on to another job.
How do you feel about the flexibility of the job?
Rusty: I’m interested in quality of time, not quantity of time. So, if you need to go do something, do what you need to do. Quality time is what is important. If you need to go to your son’s soccer game at 03:00 in the afternoon, that’s fine, but it’s the quality of time that you put in to get the job done well.
Rusty: Don’t be afraid to embrace the new technology. Don’t get stuck in a routine that you have been in for too long that doesn’t inspire you. You have to embrace new ways of doing things. Or find a competitor that you want to take business from on a daily basis. That’ll motivate you 😊.
DSR Dave: Being a mentor to Greenhorns is motivating to veterans.
Rusty: When a sales rep comes back to you and tells you what you told them was right and helped them, it makes you feel good. It’s a great industry to be in. Enjoy what you’re doing, and you’ll have a successful life.
Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!!