Cinde Shepherd of Cheney Brothers in Punta Gorda, Florida is the AFDR DSR of the Month and the latest inductee into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame. Shepherd has been in the foodservice business for 31 years, with the first 20 as an owner and operator of two restaurants before switching over to the distributor side of the business.
She began as a DSR at Reinhart in Missouri for 8 years before moving to the Fort Myers area of Florida where she sells for Cheney Bros. in the Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers and Sanibel Island territories.
Coming from owning one full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant and the other a more seasonal ice cream, hamburger and pork tenderloin joint, Cinde thought she knew everything there was about food, but it was a real awakening when she became a DSR and now had 16,000 items to sell!
LEARNING PRODUCTS: Shepherd learned through Cheney’s full-fledged training program and working day by day, account by account, and through sales meetings and food shows. She feels it takes about three years when first starting as a DSR to have that light bulb pop on when you realize you’re answering questions about products without having to look them up or seek out other resources.
Cinde had a learning curve with her move to southwest Florida from Missouri. There were many different types of products to learn for the various demographic segments like Cuban, Haitian and Italian restaurants.
Cinde says that she had to learn to be a chameleon on Cold Calls by wearing different hats to relate to the various types of customers. She had to adjust to sports bars, country clubs, fine dining and health care accounts since you cannot treat them all the same. It becomes about the relationship so if you can’t find a way to relate, then you’re probably not going to get that account.
TIPS FOR GREENHORNS:
- Don’t get discouraged about not knowing all the products you carry.
- Your customers are a great resource… ask them to walk their dry storage, freezer, and walk-in cooler and find products that are not on your order guide.
- When a customer asks you to get them a product you’ve never heard of, ask them to tell you about it & what they use it for, and then tell them you’ll check on it. Then do it!
- Utilize different websites to teach yourself, day by day, you’ll learn more and suddenly the light bulb comes on.
- Turn your Open sign on early and your Closed sign off late. Be accessible. Take good care of them.
- Use your company’s specialists plus your brokers to help you with products they are more familiar with.
- Dress professional and act professional.
TIPS FOR VETERANS:
Keep growing because you are constantly losing business to competition or credit, you must have a pipeline of new business.
COLD CALL TIPS:
- She looks for new establishment licensing.
- Checks reports of who they’re selling and who they’re not selling. Do background investigations or eat at prospect.
- Sometimes she just walks in, but she NEVER walks in the back door until she knows a customer is comfortable with that because she did not like it when an “unknown rep to her” walked in her back door as an operator.
- She walks in with only her card, not armed with everything, to keep it casual, so it doesn’t look like it’s all about her. She introduces herself and asks who she would speak to regarding food purchasing and is he/she there. If not there, she asks when it’s a good time to catch them (looking for a schedule of sorts). She might even ask what he/she drives (to save her time when she’s buzzing by). It is very important to talk to The Decision Maker!
- If they say they’re happy with their distributor, she asks if she can come back in a month to see how things are going, to bring a product that might work for their operation or simply to see if they need anything.
ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE: Cinde says you must manage you’re A/R or you can’t ship product. Help your customers by staying on top of it and making sure their invoices are accurate, so they pay on time and nothing falls through the cracks and puts them on a hold.
Something to think about: When things get intense, be like the duck that’s calm on the surface even though he’s paddling like crazy underneath to stay afloat. A customer once told Cinde, “I don’t care what you know you are going to do for me. If the ground team is not intact, then you’re of no use to me.” This is your drivers, warehouse, accounts receivable, specialists, everybody. Treat you peers the way you want to be treated so you work effectively as a team.