“I always follow-up with a customer when I tell them I’m going to.” ~Jeff Kuhrt
Jeff Kuhrt of Martin Bros. Distributing out of Cedar Falls, Iowa earned top honors as AFDR’s March 2021 DSR of the Month and has been inducted into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.
Kuhrt works as an inside DSR covering a territory that covers three states while also assisting four outside DSRs. Jeff is the first-ever inside Rep to win this award. During COVID-19 one thing was made really clear, whether you sell from the inside or the outside, they are all Distributor Sales Reps. a.k.a. DSRs working to take care of and increase sales with customers.
Jeff got started in foodservice by working in his parents’ bar & grill. He was fry cooking as a 10-year-old and has been in the service industry ever since. He has worked either sales or food service for the last 50 plus years including sales at a wholesale beer distributor where he did the pre-selling, then Jeff went to work for a chain account up in Minnesota that had a group of country kitchens which he managed.
He followed that up by opening up their own place back in Iowa with the first restaurant in 1990, second restaurant in 1992, plus a catering business. Basically, three different businesses under one roof/umbrella with 85 employees. Martin Brothers was always his distributor partner for all of his locations. Kuhrt thoroughly enjoyed that business.
In 2000, Jeff had the opportunity to work for Martin Bros. as a sales trainee and went into a territory that they were opening up in eastern Iowa, the Dubuque and Clinton area, then he transferred to a Northern Iowa area in sales, and then the opportunity came up to join the inside sales team as a support person for key account managers and that’s where he is today. Kuhrt has been with the company for 20 years.
What’s the biggest difference between the outside and the inside?
Jeff: I have my own book of accounts plus take care of other rep’s business/support. Basically, on the inside, I would really miss dealing with people face to face if I did not get to deal with them daily from the inside. On the outside, there is a lot of windshield time and after hours. So, the hours are better on the inside.
It is also more difficult to do in-depth selling when you’re not face to face and when you can’t bring product in to do a cutting in person. I get a sample approved with a vendor or broker and send it out on a truck, notify them of when it is coming, then I call them, or they call me when they are going to try it. Sometimes they do not have time when I do so they go ahead and prepare it and share their feedback with me. We can do the cutting over the phone or over Microsoft Teams meetings live, but a lot of the smaller accounts, the mom & pops, don’t want to download it or try to figure it out, so they prefer to do it over the phone.
When working with outside DSRs, what makes it work great accomplishing more sales?
Jeff: The DSRs cover the big picture, the contracts, pricing, meeting with the corporate office. I do order guide maintenance, credits, pickups, invoices, reports, and deal with each location on an individual basis.
How do Cold Calls work from the inside?
Jeff: I work very closely with the regional manager and if I have an opportunity out there, the regional manager will go make the call and use “Teams” calls so we can put a face to it because you need to build a rapport before you can actually sell anything. This also helps with expectations and what they’re looking for.
On inherited accounts, I go to websites to assess the kind of needs and basic operations a restaurant might have for direction in the type of offerings to suggest and help them with, like fresh seafood for an upscale place versus a fried fillet for a bar and grill.