|Years as a DSR||14 years|
|Annual sales volume||$8.6 million|
|No. of active accounts||40|
|Type of accounts||Mostly white tablecloth|
|Biggest attributes||Partnership and Trust|
|Best tools/support||“Incredible” all-company support team|
|Favorite category||Center of the Plate|
|Learned the hard way||Don’t try to match a competitor’s tricks|
|Always||Answer the phone|
|Never||Say no if you can help it|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Never have to ask for a raise|
|Worst thing||Having to be available 24/7|
|Top trends seeing||Fresh and local products|
|Mojo Motto||You can’t sell customers food or your company until they buy into you.|
DSR of the Month
All good DSRs help their customers build business but Frank Cedeno takes that concept way beyond the usual. He not only helps with menus and costing, he searches out locations for his customers to open a new concept and conducts preliminary interviews for new hires. Cedeno is a rep for Ben E. Keith Foods’ (BEK) Oklahoma Branch and covers urban Tulsa. His sales were zero when he started at BEK six years ago. He now writes $8.6 million from 40 mostly white-tablecloth customers.
Cedeno is a firm believer that the only way an operator can make “real” money is to get bigger. When an operation gets to be a well-run, profitable business, he starts looking for locations for them to open another restaurant. In many cases, the customer has not yet thought about expanding. Cedeno works with real estate brokers to check out possible opportunities, then presents the plan to the particular customer. A number of his customers now have two and three locations, some with the same theme and format as the first, some different.
Another way to grow is through acquisition. Cedeno recently brokered a deal between two customers, one of whom is now buying out the other. His customers also trust him to conduct first-round interviews with prospective chefs and staff. Since he knows their businesses intimately, he can do this research and make recommendations for people who would fit their needs well. In return, his customers recommend him to their peers. “My customers do my prospecting for me,” he says.
Restauant biz is in his blood
Before becoming a DSR 14 years ago, Cedeno worked as a restaurant manager for a hotel chain. In the beginning of his career as a rep, this background gave him the wherewithal to connect with operators. Now, since that was a while ago, he depends on relationship building based on mutual trust. He doesn’t sell to anyone who doesn’t trust him implicitly, he says. He also never sells on price. “It’s the easiest way not to make money,” he says.
As a case in point, one of the best lessons he had in what not to do involved trust. He was competing with another rep for the meat business in a Japanese restaurant. He knew that the competitor was quoting “choice” prices and delivering select tenderloin, i.e. more expensive cuts. One day he decided to follow suit. As luck would have it, the operator, who had never discovered what the competitor was doing, caught the difference and challenged him. Cedeno realized he personally couldn’t do business that way, so he dropped the account.
In another, positive situation, Cedeno had a customer with four restaurants who was paying his bills on 30-day terms - $100,000 a month. His stress level, worrying up to that looming date, was extremely high. Cedeno talked him into paying bills in seven days. The customer’s stress level came down and his business is more financially stable.
Cedeno hates to say “no.” He believes as soon as you say the word, the customer is thinking about whom to call next. He tries to find some way to solve the issue, whether it’s sourcing specialty products or finding a chef. On the other hand, he cautions, never promise to do something you can’t deliver. It’s a tricky balance, he explains.
Cedeno has been in the restaurant business since he was 12. He worked in family restaurants and later it was his majored in school. If he were not a rep, he laughs, he would have the most successful restaurant in the country. “I’ve got 100 concepts in my head,” he says.
Rodney Vernon is Cedeno’s district sales manager. “Frank’s relationships with customers are so strong sometimes it’s hard to tell if he is working for them or for us,” he laughs. “He is the most complete DSR I’ve ever been around,” he adds. “His customers see him as a true partner.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit http://www.customercareandfeeding.com