|Years as a DSR||13|
|Annual sales volume||$10+ million|
|No. of active accounts||130|
|Type of accounts||Independent restaurants and retail food operations|
|Territory||Lower middle Michigan|
|Biggest attributes||Listening, paying attention|
|Best tools/support||Purchasing, inside sales, drivers|
|Learned the hard way||Worked three months to source a product that the customer bought once|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Working with customers|
|Worst thing||Unexpected shortages|
|Top trends seeing||Raw product being prepared for customers onsite at retail|
|Mojo Motto||Spend your customers’ money like it’s yours|
DSR of the Month
The center-of-the-plate category is often the most important one for a distributor sales rep (DSR) to sell. The theory is that, if you can be the primary supplier of protein to your customer, then all else will follow. The category is complex and, often, the products are expensive, so expertise counts. It’s Dan Cronkhite’s favorite category and he knows it well. Before joining Troyer Foods 13 years ago, he had been a meat manager for 20 years. As a meat cutter, he became an expert in every aspect of the protein category.
Troyer Foods, based in Goshen, Ind., started as a protein specialist and has grown to be a broadline distributor. Cronkhite has also expanded his product knowledge and now sells all categories to his foodservice and retail customers. Foodservice customers include smaller independent, “mom and pop” operations and a few small chains. Retail includes delis, convenience stores and gas stations that sell food. His territory is in lower middle Michigan.
Drivers are a great resource
Cronkhite values the drivers on his route. “They see my customers three times as often as I do,” he says. He keeps in touch with drivers on a regular basis to stay on top of what’s going on with his customers on their routes. He says a great personality is an asset for a driver, since he has to interact with any number of people during delivery. He adds that being a foodservice driver is hard work, given the physical aspect of frequent stops to unload.
He also relies on his inside sales rep who is dedicated to supporting him and two other outside reps. The purchasing department also plays a role in Cronkhite’s ability to serve his customers successfully. “The buyers really help me get products my customers want. If a customer wants something, they’ll get it somewhere. I want it to be through me.”
When Cronkhite does source a product, he wants it to turn into a regular purchase. Once, he worked for three months to place a particular product with a “big box” store. After all that work, the store only purchased one order. That was a lesson learned the hard way. “You can sell anything one time. If it’s not for 52 weeks, it’s not good,” he says.
Same principles apply to retail and foodservice
Cronkhite applies the same customer service principles he uses in foodservice operations to his retail customers. “A good meat manager thinks of his department as his own business, just like a restaurant owner,” he explains. He works with them on business challenges and helps to find solutions. He considers listening as one of his most effective sales skills. “You really have to pay attention to what they’re looking for,” he says. Then, follow-up is critical.
If it’s impossible to fulfill the customer’s need, you have to tell him right away. “It’s hard to do,” he explains, “but you don’t want to promise something and not be able to deliver.” A rep also has to take responsibility for mistakes, as well, and not try to shift the blame to the company. This attitude has helped Cronkhite build strong relationships with his customers through trust and service. “I love working with them,” he says. “They are all good friends”
The recession hit Michigan hard and is still affecting his customers. The competition is fierce and Cronkhite has to help his customers “sharpen their pencils” and buy economically. His motto to live by, which came from his father, is “Spend your customers’ money like it’s yours.” This helps in finding ways to help his customers control costs.
Terry Blythe, Troyer’s director of retail sales, says, “Dan consistently hits his goals, every year. When he came to us as a DSR, he had a full background in the meat business. It’s paid off. He’s our No. 1 volume rep.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com