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John started his foodservice career when he was 14 years old as a busboy at a Chinese restaurant. He then worked in his college dining hall and at a country club while attending James Madison University studying to become a Human Resources Generalist. The HR Generalist job search was not working out the way Powell had planned, so he started interviewing with casual dining restaurant chains and found out that he was in very high demand because of his previous experience. After working as a Hooters’ GM, he decided to get out of the late night craziness of running restaurants and become a food and beverage director at a Senior Living Home where he planned menus that had everything from pureed foods to fine dining menu items. He eventually saw an ad for sales training for US Foods in the Sunday paper. Ever since, it has felt like it was a marriage made in heaven and Powell has been very happy.
What he learned in all those different operations has really paid off in experience as an operator because he can help customers change a broken belt on their hood or help them write a capital expenditure budget. This is invaluable to him as a sales rep. But the information he learned as a DSR all came from his work as a DSR. When working in different fast, casual dining, he ordered numbers on his order guide so he didn’t really know the difference in products and how they were made.
Pointers John Powell has learned along the way:
- Have to empathize with the customer, by understanding where they have been and where they want to go. You can’t come across as head strong or a know-it-all to the customer. You have to pose questions, give ideas, and humble yourself before the customer. Give specific pointers to help them understand the difference in quality and come across in a humble manner, so then they can learn a lot from you.
- It’s amazing how many questions you can ask them when trying to determine the right product.
- If you can show them how much money in black and white that they can make on a dish by an item cost and sides cost versus a case cost…asking if that is more or less than they are making on other dishes…This can really open their eyes.
- He’s found that only 1-2 customers out of 10 really understand how to figure the profit per item.
- Be the go-to-guy and let them know you can work on plate costs, work on menu analysis, and offer to come in on a Friday to help with those things.
- Go in the back door and out the front door and talk to dishwashers, cooks, busboys, and servers. Respect everybody all the time because you never know who is going to be your next customer.
- 30-35 % of his book of business is in the Hispanic segment so he concentrates on that segment.
- Your book of accounts should have a little bit of everything, but it’s a good idea to focus in on one segment and learn everything you can about it, then go to market.
- Opening new accounts hasn’t changed much. It is repetition, gleaning what you can, looking in dumpsters, etc.
- If you embrace technology, you can have a whole lot more knowledge than in the past through Yelp reviews, websites, health department reports, etc.
- People don’t trust you until they see you over and over again, some sense of reliability.
- John doesn’t just drop a business card. He leaves a brief resume with an introduction of himself, what his company does, and his background and experience. This sets him apart from other competitors. He says, “I’d like to save you time, make money and grow your profits.”
- Greenhorn advice: Keep learning, pay attention to what’s going on in the industry, be the source and the expert for your customers, and keep up with the trends because things are always changing.
DSRs, Be a Resource…and Sell Something!