“Building trust is a long road depending on who you’re working with. It’s really just finding that key point that is important to your customers or your prospects, and making sure that you can figure out how you can make that work.” ~Danielle Ward
Danielle Ward of Ginsberg’s Foods based in Hudson, New York is AFDR’s DSR of the Month for October 2023, earning her a permanent place in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.
Danielle’s territory is around Albany and the Capital Region of New York approximately 50 miles from the Hudson, NY warehouse.
Danielle began her career in the foodservice industry at the age of 13 working with her uncle as the “Soda Girl” at one of his food stands. Over a 22-year period, she continued to do some work for her uncle which launched her into the other foodservice work she delved into like delicatessens, pizzerias, culinary and hotel and restaurant management school. Then prep cooking to Garde Manger Chef, to event manager, building up a warehouse with standard operating procedures, packing trucks, truck maintenance, and then planning and selling weddings. The DSR for her uncle’s fair business had been talking to her for about 3 years to come work with him. She was ready for the change. Unfortunately, when she began, Covid had begun.
Because of Covid, her training was different than the normal that would take place. But Danielle did have good interactions with DSRs who sold the places she worked previously, and she was able to be a part of multiple meat cuttings and to observe how the DSRs sat with her chef and planned ahead for their catering/banquet events to ensure product was in stock and more. They were very helpful. She still sees some of them out on the street since they’re managers now in the same area. I think they kind of helped build the way that I am in some respects.
Having begun during Covid made getting to know customers and prospects difficult and learning products much harder because of not being able to see and touch products at sales meetings, but her experience in the industry helped her to be successful in this position.
Danielle’s mindset is on understanding what the customer is going through, which she learned in wedding sales, planning, and working in events. She had to be able to read her clients and know what they needed. Now she utilizes that to recognize when it is not a good time and to acknowledge that to the customer and offer to come back at another time. She also has those meetings (that she took part in) and gets ahead with information like during her hospitality industry days, the DSRs would get menus and everything ahead of time. When working with the catering companies, she reaches out beforehand due to anything that might be specialty items.
Because of shutdowns, mandatory masks, and more, some people were closed for periods of time due to Covid outbreaks. So, for Danielle to get in front of her customers and build trust with them was a little bit difficult.
OVERCOMING HURDLES as a new DSR:
- Being honest with my customer about shorts. Telling them what day it would be in, and then getting them the product.
- I built a lot of respect from them by making sure that they had what they needed, because I understood being on their side, not having the products you need, and NOT KNOWING it’s not coming in, and then the added stress of trying to get the product yourself.
- Virtual training – I didn’t get to see product. I think for my first year, there were no sales trainings in person — all virtual. I didn’t get to physically touch anything or see anything or have interactions one on one with brokers or manufacturers.
- I dug into my system, basically finding different products, looking up what my customers were buying if I didn’t have the information, going to manufacturer websites, so then I could understand what the customer was ordering.
- Then if they had an issue with a product, try to figure out what an alternative product was once I was able to get in front of manufacturers, buyers, or products at those meetings.
- My first sales meeting was probably one of the best. It helped me out for all my sales meetings because I really take the time at each of the tables making sure that I look at the products.
- Ask questions about the products. It’s not just another chicken tender. What’s the breading profile? Is the chicken chopped and formed? Is it a consistent sizing? Because your customers can be particular on consistent sizing, particular breading, or the flavor and texture.
- The more you know about the products, the easier it is to get a product into a customer and tell them you think they’re really going to like it.
- You can send them a sample, or they may even trust you, and tell you they’ll take it.
- Order food from your customers or prospects to learn about what they are using.
- Reach out to brokers and have them discuss their products and the particulars/selling points with you.
- Dive in and ask your purchasing people. I have found them to be very helpful with so much more info than I even called about.
I inherited a few accounts and then I built my book from there. With Existing Customers
I had to build trust with them if I was going to increase their lines per drop and if they were actually going to take and purchase the items that I was suggesting. I built trust with them by making sure that I was open and honest from the beginning. My goal was to increase their business, and having conversations about how to increase their business with different products that would help, and during COVID, some bulk buys may have been an option if we weren’t going to have product for a certain amount of time.
With my New Customers, I’d be honest and tell them what they could expect from me. I’d tell them, “I’m going to let you know if your truck is late or if products are unavailable. I’m going to talk to you about different manufacturer rebates, and if I can get you a sample of a product and you save a little bit more money and still bring money in the door, then that’s what I’m here to help you do, is get money in the door.”
I’m going to sit down with new customers and eat, talk with the bartender, the server, and when get the chance, speak with the owner, and simply have conversations like, “Oh my gosh, this is really great, I love this. How do you guys do this?” Just talking about what they do and then learning more about their business is where conversations begin. We get to know each other and then we build trust from there.
How many times could it take to learn a little bit more and have an opportunity with the prospect?
Each customer is different and depending on the size of the customer and how deep they are with their current distributors, it could be a couple of meetings depending on when you go in. If they’re upset with a couple of things that their current DSR did or didn’t do, it could be a shorter time than it is for people who are super comfortable with their current DSR.
Getting new prospects and getting them to buy in with you in partnership takes time if you want the big ones. Building trust is a long road depending on who you’re working with. It’s really just finding that key point that is important to your customers or your prospects, and making sure that you can figure out how you can make that work.
Be a Resource and SELL SOMETHING!!