|Years as a DSR||17|
|Annual sales volume||$2 million|
|No. of active accounts||31|
|Type of accounts||Small owner-operated restaurants, i.e. Mom ‘n’ pops, C-store, daycare, bakery, hotels, grocery deli|
|Territory||11 counties is south Alabama|
|Biggest attributes||Honesty, not “pushy”|
|Best tools/support||Online product info, brokers|
|Favorite category||Dean’s Cakes|
|Learned the hard way||Clarity on quantity (cases vs. units)|
|Always||Shut up and listen|
|Never||Talk about one customer to another|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Relationships with customers|
|Worst thing||When a customer is behind on a payment|
|Top trends seeing||Seasonal menu choices|
|Mojo Motto||Put God first in all you do. Pray for His guidance and help and He will see you through.|
DSR of the Month
Becky Hughes has been a distributor sale rep (DSR) at Wood Fruitticher Grocery Company in Birmingham for 17 years. She loves it and credits being a rep with surviving a devastating bout with cancer. In 2011, Hughes was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. After radical chemo, surgery and radiation therapy, all of which she say are worse than cancer, she worked from home. As soon as she was able, she got out and visited customers. “It gave me the will to live, to get up every morning,” she says. “It saved my life.”
Hughes believes the face-to-face contact is still the best method of selling. Besides, she adds, if you’re not there, someone else will be.
Hughes does a lot of dashboard time. Her territory is rural Alabama and she serves a lot of small businesses. One success story is Dean’s Cake House in Andalusia. Dean’s is known for its seven-layer cakes and other popular bakery items. “I gain weight when I just walk in the door,” she says.
Hughes started by selling ingredients to the bakery. It took her several years to get all the business. It eventually occurred to her that the cakes would be a terrific addition to Wood Fruitticher’s product portfolio. She put the deal together and now the distributor sells and distributes the cakes in six southeastern states. “It proves you can have your cake and eat it, too,” she says. She adds that the cake business has been a godsend in terms of sales that had shrunk during the recession.
The economy has been tough on businesses in rural Alabama. People just don’t eat out as much as they used to, Hughes explains. Her customers have to maximize every dollar. She spends time with them looking for economical ways to address the needs of the menu. She brings in brokers to help and makes use of the company’s center-of-the-plate specialist.
Hughes relies on sales meetings for new product information but also spends time watching food TV and visiting manufacturer sites to glean ideas. In addition to looking for economies, she ensures the items she shows customers not only fit their menu needs but taste good.
Her method of sales is to treat customers like she expects to be treated. She believes honesty is the best policy and doesn’t try to push items on customers that they don’t need or want. There are a number of menu items that are very seasonal. Liver, onions and grits are a hit in the winter, she explains, but no one wants to eat them in the heat of the summer.
Speaking plainly, with emphasis, she says a good DSR must always “shut up and listen.” You can’t hear what they really need if you’re always talking, she says. She is adamant about not gossiping to one customer about another. “You should never pass on a customer’s trade secrets,” she cautions. She also does not talk about her distribution competitors.
Agreement on quantity with the customer is critical also, she explains. Early in her career, she learned this lesson the hard way, mistaking units for cases and over-ordering. You only do this once, she says.
Hughes customers are like family to her. “I feel like I’ve know them for 100 years,” she says. She is also thankful for all the people at her company who worked with her and supported her through her illness.
David Lacy, senior vice president of sales at Wood Fruitticher says cancer never slowed Hughes down. “She is the most remarkable DSR I’ve ever been associated with,” he says. “She I fighter, never gives up and always makes good things happen.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com