Bill Williams, Kohl Wholesale, February 2020


“Be courteous and real positive. I like to treat people the way I want to be treated. When you treat people with respect, you receive respect in turn. In the long run you win.” ~ Bill Williams

Bill Williams from Kohl Wholesale has been inducted into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame and is the DSR of the Month for February 2020. Bill’s territory is in central Missouri between Kansas City and St. Louis about 150 miles from the warehouse in Quincy, Illinois.

Bill started his career in the food business working on the retail side with grocery stores as he was working his way through high school and college. After graduating college, he became an assistant manager over multiple departments before he applied and got a DSR job at Kohl Wholesale and 33 years later here he is receiving this honor.

Williams said that it took him around 3-4 years before he felt comfortable and had a good customer base established and built on trust – – it’s a people business.

Learning: Foodservice versus retail and what restaurant and institutions required plus learning the products was hardest. Learning products came from a combination of areas, customers, sales meetings, brokers, food shows plus having the warehouse right where their office was helped. Access to the internet is a big help these days. Bill uses DOT Expressway plus brokers and manufacturer’s websites almost daily. He appreciates the new photos and info on those sites, especially when with customers looking for specific diets such as gluten free or nut free foods and facilities, he can pull it up quickly when with them to give them suggestions.

Prospecting: It is totally different now than when he first started because of the ability of looking menu items up on the internet searching for target items or hot spots that they take pride in so he can focus on those that he carries that might be an advantage for them to use. Bill goes in and has lunch or dinner there before even introducing himself as opposed to going through the back door. He prefers to talk to the waiter/waitress and ask what they’re known for and who owns the place. They are more open and it’s more relaxed asking as a customer than just walking in and handing them his card and asking. He then tries to set an appointment for another day with them while he’s still there.

For that appointment, Williams usually brings in a sample along with his laptop. He never gives up on a customer unless they are closed. In their system, he can create custom order guides before he has a credit app, so he starts one and adds to it every time he’s there. He wants to have his guns loaded when they are ready to sit down and go over it.

Accounts Receivable: Bill tries to get most of them to do it online or ACH/automatic withdrawal but does pick some up.

“I feel like I’m helping my customers more now with all the technology because I can spend more time on new items, focus less time on taking an order and doing accounts receivable, this way I can specifically bring in new things and new ideas helping make their business more successful.”

Penetrating existing customers:

  • Prove yourself.
  • If they’re buying from another distributor, really focus on those items as to why they’re buying it, is it a product they can’t get from you or is it their DSR?
  • If you make price an issue, it’s going to be an issue, but if you focus on things to help the customer make money, it takes a lot of pressure off price.

Greenhorn tips:

  • Be persistent, it’s easy to get beat down in this business.
  • Be open to learning and look for a couple vet salespeople and pick their brains for tips and methods

Veteran tips:

  • Each day is a new opportunity, no two days are the same.
  • Get up and go after it!

Working with peers: Bill likes to treat all in the organization professionally and start every email with “Please” and end with “Thank You”. Bill believes, “If someone asks a favor, help them out, if buyers are long on inventory do what you can to help them. I buy drivers lunch because they’re working their tails off. Be courteous and real positive. I like to treat people the way I want to be treated. When you treat people with respect, you receive respect in turn. In the long run you win.”

This attitude outside and inside of his company has proven successful as Bill was also recently chosen as Salesman of the Year for his company, Kohl Wholesale!

DSRs, Be a Resource…  and Sell Something!

February 2021


DSR Years of experience:  33 years
Annual volume:  4.6 million
Number of active accounts:  115
Territory/City/Area where you sell: Central Missouri Average line items per stop:  22
Favorite type of account:  Independent Restaurants
Best tools that help you sell:  In-house specialist, Chef, Dietitians, Marketing, Bev/Chem, and my DSM Rick Budde
Where do you learn about new products:   Food Shows, Sales Meetings, Manufacturer Reps, Brokers
Favorite website: DOT FOODS
Favorite Brand to sell:  Certified Hereford Beef
Hobbies:  Grandkids, hunting and fishing