|Years as a DSR||9|
|Annual sales volume||$7.5 million|
|No. of active accounts||35|
|Type of accounts||White tablecloth, hotels, taquerias, caterers|
|Territory||Inner loop of Houston|
|Biggest attributes||Credibility and reputation|
|Best tools/support||Jake’s buyers; VP merchandising|
|Learned the hard way||You have to keep working to grow accounts or you’ll fall behind|
|Always||Operate with integrity, be honest at all tims|
|Never||Don’t just worry about margins|
|Best thing about being a DSR||It’s a better lifestyle than being on the operator side.|
|Worst thing||Customers who are struggling|
|Top trends seeing||All natural products; buying local|
|Mojo Motto||Let me carry this principle in all my affairs: it’s what I do, not what I say.|
Quality of life is important to Jack Lorenzo, distributor sales rep (DSR) at Jake’s Finer Foods in Houston. “You have free evenings. The hours are better as a sales rep,” he says comparing his present life with his prior 30-year career in the restaurant business. “You work just as hard but it’s a better life style.” Lorenzo was in the family’s business, which at one time consisted of 30 Mexican- and Italian-themed operations. Now, he explains, he can spend time with his children and his grandson and do some volunteer work.
Lorenzo began his sales career nine years ago at a processor and wholesaler of quality meats called Gourmet Ranch. Jake’s acquired the specialist in 2011 and Lorenzo moved to the parent company, which is a broadline distributor. Center-of-the-plate remains his favorite category to sell. “It’s key in building sales relationships,” he says. Gourmet Ranch is now a flagship brand for Jake’s. Lorenzo brings his protein experience to bear helping other reps with product knowledge. He says it takes four to five years to gain full knowledge of cuts, packaging and preparation, so he is happy to support the sales team’s product knowledge.
Kevin Ullrich, vice president of sales & marketing, says, “Jack is setting unprecedented records here at Jake’s with his sales performance and has the charismatic, positive attitude to match! We are delighted and blessed to have him as a member of our outstanding Jake’s team.”
Lorenzo’s day starts early with a visit to the company office. He talks with buyers, makes appointments and puts out fires. He says the Jake’s’ buyers are ‘awesome.’ Even though he became a certified chef in his former career, he is still learning product knowledge. “I’m not shy about asking for help,” he says.
His schedule is ‘80 percent routine’ so his customers know where to find him. “They know they can catch me early here,” he explains. By mid-morning he is out on the road, meeting face to face with his customers. He rounds out the day at his home office, handling orders and planning for the next day.
Lorenzo believes his strengths to be credibility and reputation. “It takes an absolute focus on task,” he explains. “Product knowledge and experience help but, as a DSR, you also need integrity and a strong service orientation.” He has found that a ‘can do’ attitude really helps since any number of things can happen, such as losing a chef-customer that you had a long-term relationship with. You have to be cheerful and – most importantly – keep the pipeline full. In other words, be on constant alert for new accounts. “If you don’t keep the pipeline full, you can fall behind,” he says.
Lorenzo focuses on helping his customers grow their businesses. A case in point is his brother Roland Lorenzo’s five-unit chain, El Tiempo Cantina. Jack worked with his sibling as he would with any customer, finding the right products for the concept. “It’s all about finding the right fit,” he explains. “He’s got great Tex-Mex restaurants now.”
He finds the new breed of chefs to be ‘sharper’ than years ago when he was in that side of the business. “There is less of a classical tradition now,” he says. “It’s a different culinary culture, more fusion. The newer chefs are well versed in specialty items and value-added products.” He also sees a growing interest in all-natural foods and local foods. “If it’s got a Texas label on it, they want it,” Lorenzo says.
He cautions other DSRs not to be too worried about margins with new customers. “They will come as the relationship grows,” he says. “The most important thing is to act with integrity and represent yourself and your company with the best foot forward. You have to be available in good times and bad and develop trust. My customers know they can depend on me. I’m not their personal valet but, if they need something, I’ll help out. It’s more than a hot shot.”
Basically, Lorenzo lasers in on creating growth for all of his customers. He says, “I try to facilitate their success. It’s the right thing to do.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com