927: Greenhorn DSR Lost His First Account, Advice Please

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Dear DSR Dave,

I’ve been with my distributor since last August, and on the road with a route since last October. Well, I lost my first account. Below is how the customer notified me. Would you please give me some advice on how you would respond, and what action items I might take so to minimize this happening to me in the future?

Thank you, DSR Jim

Customer’s Notice:


DSR Jim, we have made a decision to switch back to the distributor that we used to buy from.

You have tried to work with us and have done the best you can, I’m sure.However, the product, the amount of items unavailable and the returns for adjustments that were wrong on the order almost every week is frustrating.  This will be the last week we will order through your

  • We still need the steaks Friday.  I have done cost comparisons and yield analysis with products from both companies and it is a wash on cost. So, it comes down to quality of product and service. Thank you, Customer

DSR Jim:

A bit about this account: It’s a meals­on­wheels program for the elderly, so price is a big part. We got the business based on price.  Unfortunately, the customer didn’t give me much else to differentiate us from the previous supplier as they just asked for “X” product to be delivered on “X” day at “X” price. With being new to the Food Service distribution business, some mistakes were made on my part. Also, dealing with a rather inexperienced kitchen manager lead to some mistakes as well. How would you recommend handling in regards to a response etc.? Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.

AFDR Advice:

What is done is done for now. What can be done to avoid this from happening again?

DSR Jim did not do enough for his customer to keep them buying from him. She clearly stated that in her note.

1. Did the Customer have an accurate order guide?    Did DSR Jim just guess at what item he keyed or did he ask the customer questions if he was unsure of the products the customer was ordering. An order guide that you build yourself as a DSR is a must for every customer as it completely eliminates problems of this sort.

2. DSR Jim needs to learn the Top 200 items that his company sells so that he brings more value to his customers other than just selling X Product on X Day at X Price.  Doing only that did not differentiate him. First things first, learn your most sold Top 200 items to add value.

3. When there is a buyer with little experience, often they will not know what they are buying or asking for. DSR Jim needs to ask a lot more questions to make sure he has the right product for the right recipe/situation. That’s where the personal order guide would help.

4. Price is not the problem with the loss of this account, but price will be a big part for every customer unless you bring big value EVERY WEEK.

5. As far as a response, do not respond in an email!  Make a personal visit to apologize and take full responsibility for the problems and mishaps, and THANK HER for helping you learn and grow in this business. Then tell her, even though she will be buying from another distributor, if there is anything you can ever do to help her in a problematic situation, to just call you.

6. No one likes to lose an account, but you must take stock of the mistakes you made and learn from it moving forward to prevent making the same mistakes and to grow into a DSR who can add value to their customer’s operations.

DSRs, Be a Resource…  and Sell Something!