AFDR congratulates Karen Bobarakis of Ginsberg’s Foods, Hudson, NY on receiving the DSR of the Month award for September 2021 and on being inducted into the DSR Hall of Fame. Bobarakis sells in the Albany, NY area.
Karen has a Master’s in elementary education but worked in HR for a Target for 7 years and also managed a local store. After that, she worked HR and Marketing for a financial firm, but was not happy doing that type of work in front of a computer all day. Her brother-in-law worked for Ginsberg’s Foods and loved it. He encouraged her to apply there for a sales opening even though she did not have any sales experience or foodservice knowledge but because she was a “people person” he thought she would be a great fit.
As it turned out, Ginsberg’s also thought so and she has been with them for the last 5 ½ years. She had great training by spending time with every department including buyers, brokers, marketing, routing, riding with sales reps and drivers, and seeing all different ways of conducting business from veterans to newer reps. Through that training and exposure, she found her own system that works for her.
How long did it take you to feel comfortable to be able to answer all the customer’s/prospect’s questions?
Karen: I am always learning and reaching out to others because things are always changing, new variables, and new products or ingredient changes, but two years to feel confident. I am fortunate that I have that network of other experts and knowledge I can reach out to anytime because of the relationships that were built during my training.
I use Google all the time, look through manufacturer websites, and use our websites to look up items or ingredients. I am always looking for ways my customers can save money, I am the “queen of rebates” so I look for rebates on my downtime. They are all buying national brands and there are hundreds of rebates out there every month whether $25 or $250. I use Pinterest for new recipes. If we do not stock an item, I will see if there are other flavors, and see if my buyers will bring more in or do I have to special order it. I use the UniPro website a lot for rebates and use the menu management tool that can give you the cost down to the ounce.
What was the one thing that was the hardest for you starting out?
Karen: The product knowledge because there is so much.
Are you engaged more or less with your operators now than when you started?
Karen: More, but I am doing different things. I inherited a territory from an “order taker” so that is how I started out, showing up and waiting. I work differently now by having customers order online or by text or a phone call, then I can use my time more productively in-person showing them new products, discussing trends, product outages and solutions, problem-solving, and menu items.
Do you see the Cold Calling approach changing as we move forward?
Karen: I do. I believe a lot of it is going to come through referrals. I feared rejection when I first began. I utilized my business development manager a lot when prospecting at the beginning and he told me not to take it personal. He said sometimes a “no” simply means, just not today. I stayed in contact with prospects through emails with market trends and other pertinent info so they would see my name and my company. I’ve had at least 15 of those “no’s” reach back out to me for various reasons.
I remember the disappointment of one of those “no’s” with the operator’s excuse that he would only change if his rep retired, that he was very loyal to him. At the time I hoped someday, my customers would feel that way about me, and then it happened. My operator saw my expression as I noticed another sales rep leaving my account one day and my operator told me, “Don’t worry Karen, I told them we would never switch because we love having you as our sales representative.” That was a great day. My customers are loyal to me now.
What did you do to deserve that loyalty from your customer?
Karen: I am 100% honest with my customers. I tell my customers when I don’t know the answer, but they know I will do what I say I will do. I get on it that day and stay after it. They trust me to solve the problem or get the answer. I cannot do it alone. I engage a broker, buyers, whoever I need to help.
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