811: Greenhorn DSRs Find Product Knowledge a Frustrating Barrier

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“Greenhorn” DSR says:

“I don’t think I’m any good at selling food because I know very little about the products I’m trying to sell.”  

 Prospect says:

“Why would I buy from you? You don’t know much about the

products that you’re trying to sell me, or much about this industry.”

I just got off the phone with a Greenhorn who’s been a working DSR for about six months. He told me that he was really frustrated with his job because it was very difficult to learn about products and the business. He commented that hands down, his biggest problem is product knowledge. Learning about most products is a huge hurdle, but then throw in all the cuts of meat and seafood, produce, non-food items and specialty products, well, it is like being in a boat without a paddle in the middle of the ocean.

Due to his lack of knowledge about products and the food industry as a whole, he doesn’t have any tips to offer his current customers or prospects. This takes away a big part of any sales person’s sales strategy.

This problem of product knowledge left the Greenhorn with only one thing to talk about with his customer (that the company gave him) when he was in to take his order, and that was… what price changes there might be this week. It would be nice to know enough about other products to be able to suggest products that would be a good fit for the customer’s operation.

After meeting with customers and prospects, he again questions himself if he will ever learn products and make it in this business.

He said that he thought his company had pretty good training when he first started, but is now wondering why more intense product training didn’t continue on for a year or so in order to learn products better because there are so many of them. He asked me if it was normal for Greenhorn DSRs to still be frustrated about not knowing their products six months into it. The answer is YES, very normal. I told him my Greenhorn story and how I had quit three times in the first 2 years because I thought I was fighting a losing battle when it came to product knowledge. Fortunately I was talked into staying each time with the promise it would get easier, which it did.

It seems that in the foodservice distribution business there’s never enough time or money to have ongoing training for the first year or so for Greenhorns, and we tend to teach greenhorns willy-nilly when it comes to product training. At many of the distributor DSR training sessions I sit in on, we learn about whatever a broker or brand rep might have in inventory versus the products that the distributor is best at in their market.

Folks who train Greenhorn DSRs might want to think about teaching DSRs 10 different products each week for the first year, starting with the Top 200 most sold products first. Smaller distributors might want to start with the Top 50 most sold products first.

You find these products by running a sales history for the past three to six months, then sort the report in DESCENDING CASE ORDER to show you the most sold products by cases sold versus by dollars or gross profit dollars.

Why these products first, you ask? Because your distribution center is best in your market with those products, or they wouldn’t be on this list and you have to start somewhere.

This Greenhorn said that some kind of weekly PRODUCT & INDUSTRY training for the first year would be very helpful so he would at least have something useful to talk to his customers and prospects about other than PRICE, the weather and last night’s game.

Greenhorns, if the distributor you work for can’t provide you a list of their most sold products, you might want to start using the AFDR Product Library, and study the DOT Top 200 product list which is updated every quarter. These products are some of the most sold items in the foodservice industry.

DSRs, Be a Resource…and Sell Something!