“If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” ~ Steve Lex
Steve Lex of Sysco Philly based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is AFDR’s DSR of the Month for November 2023, earning him a permanent place in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.
Steve’s territory is in New Jersey from exit 44 Smithville down to exit 0 at Cape May, NJ, approximately 75 miles from the Philadelphia, PA warehouse.
Steve got started at City Supply Co. selling chemicals and paper. Lex did that for around 8 years, 5 of which he was the top seller before moving on to an Italian specialty distributor for 12 years before joining Sysco.
- Steve had 40 – 50 customers that he already had his foot in the door with knowing the owners, managers, dishwashers. That got him started in the food business. It was a pretty easy transition. He had to learn the food aspect of it because he had the chemical and paper down.
- It was on the job training. You had to learn the codes. With 300 different French fries, you must match up the codes.
- Rode in cars with lots of brokers, district manager, anybody that would help. Got them in his car and slowly but surely listened. It’s been 25 years, and he’s still learning.
- Every day there are new things coming out, new technology. You must go to food shows. So much to learn at food shows. I love food shows. I’m like a sponge. I want to know what’s new, what’s selling, what’s not selling.
- You can’t do this alone. You need people to help you. Sometimes, instead of talking, you have to sit back and simply listen and learn. And I’m really good at that, so I think that’s why I’m really successful at what I do.
- 30 new items last week at a sales meeting. You must taste them. You really don’t want to show your customers/prospects anything that tastes bad.
- Customers are creatures of habit. They don’t want to change their product so when the color of the box or logo on the box etc. changes, you may get 10 calls in one day, but you need to reassure them that it is the same product.
- Greenhorns: You learn a lot from your mistakes, and you will make a lot of them. When learning 10,000 items, which does NOT happen overnight, customers will ask if you carry a particular item. You may tell them that you do not think so, but check your computer, and guess what… there it is! You learn something new every day.
- Prospecting: I like to look online. Check the reviews. Look at the menu. Try to find out the owner’s name/decision maker. Then I ALWAYS go in as a patron, and have breakfast, lunch, or dinner and just sit there and observe for 40-45 minutes. I always go in the bathroom which can tell a lot. Check what’s on the table, the sugar packets, butter, or the saltines which tell you exactly who they’re buying from.
- They treat you different than coming in as a salesman, throwing your card on the counter and saying, hey, can I talk to the owner? That isn’t the way I do it. And I take stock of everything in the place and what they are doing right and wrong. I make mental notes.
- Before I leave, I leave my card. Comment on how good the food was and ask to set up a meeting to get their list and pricing. I tell them I believe I could really save them money. I tell them I’ve been doing this a long time and they’re really receptive.
- I ask for their top 20 items which are usually 80% of their business. Many will give me their lists of products and prices.
- When they give this to you, it’s like getting the answers to the test.
- I make a spreadsheet with what they’re paying and what I’m going to charge them and show them the savings. They’ll ask if I’m going to raise their prices in 30 days, but I let them know that I want their business and want to partner and work with them for years, not one month.
- I must gain their trust. So, time will tell if the level of service I provide and the times of deliveries and their happiness with our drivers’ customer service are a positive or an aggravation.
- I put our UPC numbers in, because once they fill out the credit app, I can transfer that right into their account, that whole list with one swipe of a key.
- If they are happy with their supplier, I ask them to keep my card. Things happen all the time, and I’ll be stopping in periodically, maybe I’ll come once a month just to see how they’re doing or if they want to check the prices just to make sure their sales rep is taking care of them. Everybody in this business has to make money, but how much money are they making? Are they doing the right thing?
- I do not stop calling on an account I want.
- Penetrating Existing Accounts: That’s simple. I know what items I’m missing. I put together a special list every week with those items. Then, I’ll take three or four items that I’m not getting, and give them away rock bottom, and that’ll be my special list.
- Always dumpster dive behind the restaurant to determine what kind of tenders, French fries, steak, crab meat or lobster tails they’re using.
- Brokers and Manufacturers reps: I always go with them. I want to learn like a sponge about products from the broker, all the ins and outs. It’s a win-win.
- Samples: We will send them out on their next delivery. I check the route and approximate time of delivery and meet the sample at the drop. I want to cut that product and taste it with the customer. I do not have the broker drop it or bring it in my car. I want to know how it tastes and compares right alongside of my operator.
- If you’re having a hard time getting samples from a broker, kill them with kindness. They want to sell their product, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting a broker there.
Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!!