1632: Jeremy Winter DSR of the Month, Performance Foodservice – Thoms Proestler, Getting Started, Prospecting


“Figure out what you can do for them, what their hotspots are, and how you can help them grow… a lot of times restauranteurs want to save a dollar. Well, saving a dollar is not the way to make money.” ~Jeremy Winter

Jeremy Winter of Performance Foodservice – Thoms Proestler based in Rock Island, Illinois is AFDR’s DSR of the Month for September 2023 earning him a permanent place in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.

Winter’s territory is Henry, Stark, Bureau, and Whiteside counties approximately a 100-mile radius around Rockford, Illinois.

Jeremy began his career in the foodservice industry at 17 by cooking for a small bar and grill while going to college. Eventually he dropped out of college to work full time for the restaurant because of dreams of opening up salad shops and franchising. He met his wife who was a waitress at the restaurant where he worked for almost seven full years. They married and he moved on.

When did you get into the distribution side?

Jeremy: I was in sales for a different occupation for about six to seven years, until an opportunity from a good friend arose for a sales rep down in the Peoria Market. I worked in a big area in a good territory for two years when I left due to the distance I had to drive daily. A couple years later, I got a call that they had an opening in my area, so I have been back for seven years selling food to restaurants and bars and grills.

Prospecting for new accounts:

Jeremy: I do some homework and research online, on Facebook, and any kind of social media they have and kind of see what they do. Typically, I’ll go in and have lunch or just feel my way around the place and talk to the waitress and the hostess, letting them know I’m with a food service company, gathering more information from them before going to the back of the house or trying to find the owner. This way I have something to talk to the owner about, knowing what they specialize in, etc.

If you can go in on a Friday to prospect when they’re receiving an order, it can be a good time since they may be mad at that other sales rep or sales company because of a messed-up order. I can introduce myself and offer to help them out with their problem.

  • Don’t go into a prospect with a food item that has nothing to do with their business, like a sales rep did trying to get into one of my accounts. He took a pizza crust into a Creole place.
  • Figure out what you can do for them, what their hotspots are, and how you can help them grow. Because a lot of times restauranteurs want to save a dollar. Well, saving a dollar is not the way to make money. That’s the number one thing. I’m blessed 95% up to 100% of my customers buy great quality product. They charge what they need to charge.
  • My goal is to go through their menu and do what is necessary to ensure they’re making money on the items they have and don’t switch the product out continuously shopping price because that causes them to put out inconsistent food, losing customers and money.
  • You need to ask them what’s making a potential customer drive past many other restaurants to eat at their place. You may have the biggest tenderloin, but is it any good?
  • Basically, you’re selling your company for sure and the products and all the stuff. But selling yourself as a salesperson is the number one sales work. I share that I was on the other side cooking, etc. so they know I can kind of relate and am not just trying to sell them stuff.
  • You do not have to be the smartest person. I am a hard worker. My phone’s always on. I always have a solution, even if they don’t want to hear a good or a bad solution.
  • When customers are struggling due to all their other costs and need ideas to bring people in, share what another customer is doing in a different area.
  • I do not bash my competitors because we all have various issues from time to time. I will simply talk up what my company does well and why.
  • For me, consistency is everything. It helps me stay on track and focused, plus they know what to expect from me.

How often would a prospect tell you they don’t need another distributor when you walk in and introduce yourself?

Jeremy: Not too many. Most of them will sit down and talk with you as long as you’re genuine and you come in there and be yourself. I have been doing this for seven years now and have a reputation. I strive to take good care of my customers. Once you build those relationships, customers may come to you. I haven’t physically knocked on a door in forever unless I’ve driven by somewhere and wanted to stop in. But you need to have a game plan. Listen to those waiters complaining about always running out of napkins or why they never have enough chicken tenders.

Consistency is very important. When you tell them you’re going to be there, try to be there. If you let them know you are 30 minutes out, even if they can’t or they’re not there, even if they kind of blow you off, it’s still the fact that you did what you said you would do. It can be considerate to call or text them that you were planning on stopping in and seeing them for a few minutes that morning. Asking in this way is like asking the customer permission to do something once in a while. This is a good thing versus I’m going to be there and if you’re not there, this isn’t going to work for us type of attitude. If you care and you want to work with the customer, showing it can help you get the information you need and get the customer.

Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!!