|Years as a DSR||16|
|Annual sales volume||$10 million|
|No. of active accounts||74|
|Type of accounts||Independent restaurants, Meals on Wheels, small chains, healthcare|
|Territory||Boston to the South Shore|
|Biggest attributes||High level of service|
|Best tools/support||Inside sales rep, specialists and brokers|
|Learned the hard way||Write everything down, don’t guess|
|Always||Follow up and be available|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Constantly learning|
|Worst thing||Having product be out of stock|
|Top trends seeing||Fusion|
|Mojo Motto||What can I do for you?|
DSR of the Month
George Hill began his career in foodservice as a chef at restaurants in Atlanta and on Cape Cod. This culinary training has made him a better distributor sales rep (DSR), he believes. Having been in their shoes, he can translate the needs of customers into successful solutions.
Hill has been in sales at Agar for ten years, following a stint as a DSR at the former Alliant Foodservice, now US Foods. Agar was just recently acquired by Reinhart FoodService. Karen Bressler, CEO of Agar, said in a press release about the acquisition: “It makes sense for both customers and employees of Agar to combine with a large business such as Reinhart to ensure we stay aggressive in the marketplace. . .”
Hill’s territory reaches from Boston to what is known as the South Shore, an area that stretches toward Cape Cod along the shores of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay. Some of his business is seasonal, but he has worked to diversify his customer base so seasonality doesn’t have a negative effect on his sales. In summer, he’s in “full gear” to maintain all the seasonal accounts that are in full swing.
Agar specialists and brokers play a key role in helping Hill to be a consultant to his customers. “They make calls with me,” he says. “I like to keep introducing new items for my customers to consider.” He tries to keep operators’ minds open to new opportunities and to keep them from pigeonholing themselves with a narrow menu that doesn’t allow for adding items.
An Indispensable Inside Rep
Hill also credits his inside sales person, Julie Silva, with making it possible for him to be a consultant with his customers rather than spend time taking orders. She has a “wealth of product knowledge,” he says. By maintaining contact with his customer base, Silva frees him to be a solutions seller.
In addition to getting new product ideas from brokers, Hill looks to Agar buyers for the latest trends. Buyers also are able to give him a heads-up on any pricing issues looming so that he can alert his customers. Agar also uses a program to track rebates for customers, saving them time and earning money back from promotions.
Hill’s favorite category to sell is center-of-the-plate and Agar has two programs that fit the bill. NautiFish is the brand for a category of certified sustainable seafood species. NautiFish, the spokesperson, is a vehicle to promote sustainability and to educate the public about stewardship of the oceans. A portion of NautiFish sales proceeds goes to the non-profit group Oceans Alliance.
Another Agar brand, BullPen, features portion-controlled, marinated meats that provide operators with a variety of cost-effective cuts. “I often lead the conversation with center-of-the-plate,” Hill explains. “It’s a good way to start the discussion by talking about new ideas, especially on cold calls.”
Some Sales Lessons are Hard
Like many DSRs, Hill learned a valuable sales lesson early on – the hard way. When he first started out, he didn’t clarify an order detail. “I didn’t write it down. I guessed,” he explains. The error resulted in a $4,000 mistake. “Now, I write everything down when I’m on a call,” he says.
In addition to getting the details right, he believes a good DSR should always be available to customers. “If you’re not, someone else will be,” he cautions. He also stresses follow-up and becoming a true consultant as an integral part of the customer’s business.
Fusion is Growing in the Boston Area
Agar serves 11 Asian cuisines in the Boston area, ranging from Cambodian to Thai to Vietnamese. Hill sees the expansion of ethnic dishes onto mainstream menus as a growing trend. “I’m seeing a lot more fusion going on,” he says.
Hill enjoys the fact that, as a DSR, he’s constantly learning. If he were not in sales, he would like to be a history teacher, that being his major in college. However, he feels that he is able to teach as a DSR, educating customers about ways to run their business better and be more profitable.
His favorite phrase to live by is “What can I do for you?” He feels it encapsulates his whole approach to solution selling. As a follow up, he also likes to be able to say: “You’re all set.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com