|Years as a DSR||19|
|Annual sales volume||$12 million|
|No. of active accounts||70|
|Type of accounts||Diverse|
|Territory||50-mile radius of Des Moines|
|Best tools/support||Specialists and inside sales|
|Learned the hard way||Don’t take a customer for granted|
|Never||Make things up|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Building and maintaining relationships|
|Worst thing||There is no worst thing|
|Top trends seeing||Smaller menus to reduce inventory|
|Mojo Motto||People buy because of relationships. Build your relationships and your business will prosper.|
DSR of the Month
“I made the switch because I had always wanted to be a food salesman,” says Kent Schultz about why he left a job as a manufacturer rep to became a distributor sales rep (DSR). Schultz, who joined Martin Bros. Distributing Co. in 1994, had been selling a single category – snacks – for a major consumer goods company. ”I thought it would be fun and it is,” he says. His decision to make the move was a wise one. He now rings up $12 million a year in sales and loves the relationships he has with his 70 accounts.
While Martin Bros. is headquartered in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Schultz lives and works from Dallas Center, a small town near Des Moines. His customer base runs the gamut: restaurant chains, independent restaurants, a deli chain, healthcare and school districts. “I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket in terms of segments,” he says, explaining the diversity. Some accounts are in the city and others are in a more rural setting, within a 50-mile radius of Des Moines.
Schultz makes use of the tools that Martin has created to support its sales team. About seven years ago, the distributor added its Martin Health Service program that carries medical and nursing supplies, so Schultz has that bonus in his sales tool kit. He works with the company’s healthcare specialist on this category. The program allows customers to buy supplies in smaller quantities, from just-in-time inventories.
Schultz also likes to focus on jan/san products. “Lots of reps forget this category,” he says, pointing out that operators need this category as much as they need food items for the menu.
Analyzing menu items is key value-added service
The latest tool that Martin has supplied for its sales team is the Profit Analyzer. Schultz can meet with a customer, cost out each menu item “by the plate,” i.e., including everything that goes into one item from ingredients to garnish. The tool not only analyzes the existing profit but also allows the rep to plug in or take out different ingredients to see what happens to the profit potential. The tool was created by Martin’s internal IT department. “It’s a deal breaker for us,” Schultz says, “especially for new customers. They see what we can do for them.”
Schultz relies on specialists and his inside sales rep for support. “Martin has specialists for every category,” he explains. “My ISR, Jill Pfister, helps with all my online orders. She knows all my customers and their order history,” he explains.
Local brokers also provide support for new product information. Martin Bros. also has a quarterly sales meeting with featured vendors showing their products. “It’s like a food show for us,” Shultz says.
Passing on tips for success
When new reps come on board, Schultz acts as a mentor to them. He spends a lot of time on the importance of relationship building. He stresses the importance of building trust and rapport by spending time getting to know about customers’ lives and interests. He also underscores the importance of follow-through. “It’s a reaction business,” he says. “If you promise to be there, be there – on time. If you don’t react, someone else will.”
He also recommends not taking any customer for granted, a lesson he learned the hard way. “I had one customer that I never thought would jump ship,” he says. “But they did.” It had taken five years to get that customer and he had to start over to get them back. The lesson has stuck with him.
Schultz sees a lot of customers redesigning menus to be smaller with the goal of reducing inventory. He works with customers to redesign their menus, even to the point of taking photographs of plated items to put on as illustration. Customers are also highlighting gluten free on their menus and are still offering low carb and “lite” items. Steak and salad, without the potatoes, he says. Plus, he adds, always tell the truth, don’t make things up. Don’t overpromise.
Interestingly, Schultz can’t name anything that qualifies as the “worst” about being a DSR. “It’s frustrating when we’re out of something but that doesn’t really qualify as a bad thing,” he says. His favorite thing centers on the relationships, especially with customers he’s had for years.
His district sales manager, Bret Petersen, says this is Schultz’s strength. “He’s very passionate about his business and helping his customers to be as profitable as they can be,” he says.
Schultz’s “mojo motto” sums up the way he approaches being a successful DSR: “People buy because of relationships. Build your relationships and your business will prosper.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com