|Years as a DSR||9|
|Annual sales volume||$7 million|
|No. of active accounts||40|
|Type of accounts||Family dining, diners, white tablecloth, grocery|
|Territory||Dutchess County, New York|
|Biggest attributes||Being available; knowing needs|
|Best tools/support||Everyone at headquarters|
|Favorite category||Boxed beef and seafood|
|Learned the hard way||Don’t lead with price|
|Always||Answer the phone|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Being an independent business owner|
|Worst thing||Managing accounts receivable|
|Top trends seeing||Seasonal and local sourcing|
|Mojo Motto||I need my customers as much as they need me.|
DSR of the Month
Telly Simou has been involved in foodservice all of his life. His family had a restaurant, he is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and he and his wife had a pizzeria/family restaurant in Millerton, N.Y. He left the operator side of the business nine years ago to become a distributor sales rep (DSR) so that he could spend more time with his family. While being a DSR is a seven-day job, he says, he is still able to be involved in his kids’ sports and activities. Since he is always available to his customers, this means he has his computer and his phone with him all the time, however. He laughs, saying every time the phone rings his three-year old says, “It’s a customer.”
Simou is a DSR at Ginsberg’s Foods, which is based in Hudson, N.Y. His territory is Dutchess County. His client base includes high-volume diners, family and white tablecloth restaurants and a popular grocery store that he describes as being like the well-known Stew Leonard’s, where “the customer is always right.” The grocery store buys prepared foods, beef and seafood, produce, chemicals and paper from him.
His culinary background gives Simou an edge in helping his customers create menu items that are profitable. He spends a lot of time helping them find new items and new ways to use existing items to keep their menus productive. Menu costing is a strength that helps him accomplish this service successfully. “Having the answers and knowing the options” works, he says.
Simou says his week starts the Friday before. He spends the day at the office going over credit issues and talking with Ginsberg’s buyers about market conditions for the coming week. He also meets with the purchasing department about new products and specials. Saturday he spends with his family – with computer and phone close at hand. Sunday he takes orders at home from customers and handles emails and phone calls. Monday through Thursday he is on the road visiting his customers’ operations.
Everyone in the office provides support for Simou’s sales effort. The marketing department keeps him updated on market conditions, his inside sales rep is constantly at work monitoring customer needs and, as he says, he can call his manager any time to get an answer to a problem or an issue. Ginsberg’s coo, Suzanne Rajczi, is available for advice for closing large deals. “It’s great to be able to knock on her door,” Simou says.
Simou talks with brokers frequently to stay current on product knowledge. He also relies on Ginsberg’s sales meetings that feature product showcases. Seeing, smelling and tasting beats point of sale material, he explains. “That way you know what products will be good for what customers.”
His favorite categories to sell are boxed beef and seafood. His grocery customer has a hot case that features 30 to 40 items every day. These items also change every day. Simou comes up with an array of ideas. He relies on his CIA training, researching his books from the program. “You can’t just wing it,” he says. “You have to be creative, like finding 10 ways to prepare a goose neck [bottom round].”
Take price out of the equation
The worst thing a DSR can do is to lead with price, he says. He learned this lesson the hard way. A potential customer asked him to price out an order, which he did. The operator took the price list to a competitor who gave him a better deal. Simou didn’t get the account. You have to stick with service, he says.
Simou discovers customer needs by listening but he doesn’t provide solutions right away. In other words, he doesn’t over commit and promise something he can’t deliver on. He researches the problem and comes back with the right answers. He is always available to his customers. “I always answer my phone,” he says. “They usually need an answer quickly so my response time is important.”
The toughest part of the job is handling accounts receivable, especially if you know the operator is having trouble paying bills. He is careful to work closely with the credit department to resolve issues. On the other hand, Simou loves being an independent business owner, able to help his 40 customers grow and succeed. The interaction is rewarding. In fact, his motto is “I need my customers as much as they need me.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com