PART 1 – Learning The Job, Organization, Prospecting, Cold Calls, Building Relationships & Trust
Tony Eichelberger of Wood Fruitticher Food Service, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, is AFDR’s July 2023 DSR of the Month, earning him a permanent place in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.
Tony’s territory is about 200 miles from the Birmingham warehouse. He lives in Forest and covers Central Mississippi, about a 45 miles radius from Forest. He’s approximately 200 miles from his warehouse.
- Tony began in the foodservice industry at 18 working for Colonial Bread Company as a route sales rep for approximately 13 years. One day, one of his accounts told him that his food service company was looking for a sales rep, and the long and short of it was Tony got the job.
- He has been in food service 27 years total (9 ½ yrs. at Wood Fruitticher), plus his 13 yrs. puts him around 40 years combined.
- Eichelberger benefitted from his years with the bread company because he sold many foodservice accounts, giving him insight going into foodservice sales, knowing who to call on already in many accounts.
- One of the hurdles of becoming a DSR was learning product knowledge, learning the way the company functioned on everything, from turning in a credit, doing a pickup, and all of the little ins and outs of learning the customer’s way of doing business with their food order.
- Organizing his call list as he was picking up additional business, trying to get the most time management in a day. As he was picking up accounts, he was sent to a week’s training at the headquarters, to learn their laptop and meeting with some brokers.
- Upon return, he had to make a list of some cold calls to go on with his district manager, Tony came with a list of 50-60 which surprised the DM. They rode together for 3 days, and Tony was given one customer and built the rest from the ground up.
- Pre-plan and out-hustle the competition.
- Know what will make your customers comfortable as far as how you present yourself. Tony works in a rural area and does not wear a tie or use a fancy pitch.
- He always tries to take care of the customer from shorts on the truck to making orders accurate, giving them menu suggestions, and being there on time every week. There is no being off, Tony answers the phone at midnight so they know they can depend on him.
- Eichelberger utilizes brokers doing ride-withs or district sales meetings, general sales meetings, and food shows to see products, get point-of-sale, and cook it up – – that’s how you figure out if a product might be a really good seller.
- PROSPECTING: Go on Facebook or online and look the menu, get an idea of their product mix. In small towns, there’s a good chance you will already know the owner. Go in to eat and check things out, the atmosphere, kind of food. If the owner is not there, go back another time to eat or go in on a call and introduce yourself to the owner.
- Tony gets more new business by referrals from current customers than anything.
- Sell yourself first and your company second because if they don’t like you, they are not going to buy from you. People buy from people.
- When a prospect is happy with a current supplier: You must trust your gut on how much to push or back off. One of Tony’s biggest customers took five years to get. He’d go in every week and chat with the store manager about family or whatever, just building a relationship, and one day when he stopped in, they had just been shorted 15 cases and he was not happy.
- He turned to Tony and asked if he could get him some product, Tony immediately went to the warehouse and brought it back to him that day, and the prospect was very impressed.
- The customer bought 100% of their product from Tony from that point forward.
- Being there at the right time was key. But with Tony going in 52 times a year for five years, that was 260 visits, building a relationship. There was a pretty good chance that Tony was going to be there at the right time.
- No company is perfect, but Tony tells every customer, “If it’s not on the truck, call me, and I’ll get it to you, I’ll go borrow it if I have to, but I’ll get it to you tomorrow.”
- You must gain that confidence with your customers.