How do you make Cold Calls, in particular over the last year or two, when you are trying to build a route and do not really know the accounts?
Kathy: You must learn something about the account because you cannot walk blindly in there and expect anybody to pay attention to you. Look on the Internet, at their Facebook page, ask other customers, checkout their menu, order food to eat-in or take it to go because you can find out quite a bit that way especially with COVID when there were times when we could not physically call on people, so the Internet is amazing to find out so much!
In this last year I learned, you need to introduce yourself face-to-face, so they know who you are, then simply ask for an appointment to come back and visit with them. Nine times out of ten, people will respect that you are asking for an appointment and they usually will make it and keep the appointment and you will find out all kinds of things that aren’t working well with the competition or whatever their needs or issues are. Last year I focused more on just consulting to help them with any of their needs not really thinking about the sale; I knew the sales would follow once I built some relationships, so I really just tried to do anything I could to help, whether that be a third-party delivery or helping them with their social media or scaling down their menu. I will do the work regardless of if they are buying anything from me and then they do buy from me. You simply have to give of yourself, especially in this last year.
DSR Dave: So, these customers who you didn’t know yet at all and had no relationship with, how did you get them to talk with you and open up?
Kathy: Everybody was extremely stressed out and the ones who were open were at reduced capacity, looking for solutions, so it was easy to get them to talk to me. Once they make an appointment with you and you go back, it’s pretty easy to find areas they need help with, and I just really focused on helping and then the sales followed. I didn’t think of myself, I thought of them.
I wasn’t even worried about my commissions; I wasn’t worried about anything except staying busy and also, I was so thankful that we still had jobs and we were being very well taken care of because there were so many people out there that did not get taken care of who were collecting or trying to collect unemployment and our company was amazing! I felt like I needed to rise above this and do the absolute best I could to turn lemons into lemonade. It really was a good opportunity to just go after it and it worked for me, so that is how I’ve been rolling lately with my go to market.
Give us an example of customers/prospects that you’re not selling, are you going in every week at the same time?
Kathy: I first establish if it is a good day and time for me to come see them. Then I put that on my calendar, and I go back and bring something back of value, I don’t want to waste their time.
An example would be when I asked a prospect if I could bring a price quote and over the course of a week or two, they gave me their product list. So, I would show up weekly with my product list and I would focus on a few that I thought I had a good deal on, and I would ask if I could sample them. Another day they might point out something they wanted to look at, and I would bring it the next week. Eventually, they will reveal their competitive pricing and that’s really been an eye opener because once they do that you find out just how comfortable the competitors had become with that account.
It has been like 7 ½ out of 10 customers who say they are really happy with who they are currently buying from and don’t want another distributor unless their rep leaves or something happens. Has this been the same or changed since COVID?
Kathy: This has changed since COVID. The prospects I talked to said, “I will look at anything; I’ve got to save money; I need to make sure to keep my business alive.” They were willing to entertain just about anything. I rarely see my competitors out there much. I’ve heard that some have been told to still work from home.
If a prospect does tell you they are happy with their current supplier and DSR, what do you say?
Kathy: I think that’s just super commendable, and I would just love to get to know you more and even if I can just be a backup, if I can help you in anyway, that’s all I’m trying to do. I also believe we have a good story to tell as Harbor Foodservice because we are now truly a local distributor. We are a little bit different than the major broad liners and then I tell the story about that and customers usually like Harbor’s story. I keep it positive, light, and friendly. You Never bash the competition. I just keep being a positive face that walks through the door, and you have to keep trying, it’s not always easy, but you keep showing up.
What has the climate been like for you in your area and how have you responded?
I’m in Washington, so my indoor dining is at 25% at the moment, and it was at 50% I think back in September, October, and then our governor shut them completely back down again November 5th. So, for November, December and almost all of January, those restaurants were shut back down again and could do takeout only. The highs and the lows that these restaurant owners have had to endure have been extremely dramatic.
For the most part in many cases, I’ve been like a cheerleader or a coach trying to build people up and help them hang in there. My husband and I have tried to order takeout as many times a week as possible. My company has done promotions whereas a winner, my senior staff will go with me to pick 5 prospect accounts, then we buy five $100 gift cards, and give them to the prospects telling them the story about Harbor being local and wanting to give back to the community. It is important for us to help our customers stay in business and so that has been really cool plus I have done that on my own while prospecting by just going in buying a couple $100 gift cards letting them know I just want to help out. Then I start going in and ordering food from them and you just keep showing up letting them know that you are there to help them if they need you.
It’s not hard, you just have to make it a mission to really and truly try to help the customer and I believe if you do that and you are sincere about it, the rest of it falls into place.
People really respect that they can tell when you’re trying and that your follow-up is impeccable. Do what you say you’re gonna do. They totally like that because not all the sales people out there have the organizational skills that they need because you really do have to be good with follow up, follow through, follow up.
How long would you keep calling on a customer if they were not buying from you and are happy with their person, but they did not tell you to not come back, do you ever give up?
Kathy: No, you never give up – – crazy things happen. You never know when you’re going to be at the right place at the right time, so you have to keep showing up even if you reduce it down to every other week. As long as whatever you’re doing is consistent, then I think that’s fine. Especially important to me is to have their cell number and email address even if I back down a little bit and I’m not aggressively calling on them every single week, I can at least stay in touch with them via an email or a text message to keep those lines of communication open in case they need you.
Be a Resource and Sell Something!