“The toughest days in my job are not nearly as tough
as the toughest days our operators face on a daily basis.” ~Bob Strauss
US Foods, Chicago’s Bob Strauss has been awarded the DSR of the Month for July 2020 and has been inducted into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame. Bob’s territory is in Chicago’s Western suburbs not far from the warehouse in Bensenville, Illinois.
Bob has been working in the foodservice business since he was thirteen in both the back of the house and front. He graduated from college with a political science degree, but there were not many jobs available in that field, so he looked into what he knew, foodservice, and began as a sales rep at Kraft Foodservice. Thirty years later, he’s glad he made that decision.
The hardest part of the job was learning all the products and the uniqueness of what makes each restaurant tick. The best ways for Bob to learn about products was online and in the customers’ kitchens observing and asking them why they use a particular product the way they are using it.
Once you learn the things that are important to each restaurant and can solve those problems, you become important to them. Building and earning trust is hard, but it comes down to doing what you say you’re going to do and being honest in the process. If you don’t know something for sure, let them know that and that you will find out.
As with your customers, it is similar when working with your peers… if you can understand what is important to them, your credit manager, buyer, etc., and why, then you will be more successful at your job. You must back up your word… again, it’s about trust.
Prospecting: Strauss reads reviews, goes in for a meal, and uses a low pressure introductory, as well as checks out the dumpster from time to time (knowledge is power). His goal is to meet the person in charge of ordering and set an appointment to come back and have a discussion. Loyalty is key so if a customer says they are happy with their current supplier, Bob respects that but tries to make them aware of his company’s marketing program and value-added services that others may not have; US Foods’ tag line is “We help you make it.”
Fifty percent of Bob’s customers place their orders online, but he is about what is comfortable for his customers. If they are not comfortable with ordering online, that’s okay, he feels he earns more of their business by being available to them in any way, through texts, phone calls, emails, and in person.
During this “Covid time” even though his customers’ business with him has reduced, Bob is in touch with his customers as much if not more than pre-Covid letting them know that he and his company’s resources are still there for them to help them through this time.
Greenhorn Tips: Everything in this business is negotiable, so you need to communicate with those prospects and in-house about specific items they need to make sure you have the items in stock. If you do not have what or as much as they need yet, let the prospect know you do not have it yet, but ask them if you Do Have the inventory, will they commit to you… this creates the circle of trust.
Veterans Tips: When you do not enjoy dealing with a particular customer, go deal with the one you like to deal with. Sometimes you can weed out the customers who are not worth ruining your weeks.
Just remember, the toughest days in this job are not nearly as tough as the toughest days the operators face on a daily basis.
Bob’s summary about his job: “It’s as satisfying to me seeing my customers’ success. If they are doing well, in some small part, I had a contributing factor in it, I’m a part of their business. That’s as satisfying to me as winning a sales contest or being in the top percent of sales at my company.”
DSRs, Be a Resource…and Sell Something!