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Years as a DSR 36
Annual sales volume $3 million
No. of active accounts 108
Type of accounts Independent restaurants, lodging, B&I
Territory Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri
Biggest attributes Not a “pushy” rep – learns customer needs
Best tools/support In-house at all levels
Favorite category What my customers need
Learned the hard way Be prepared
Always Sell customers only what they need
Never Chew gum on the job
Best thing about being a DSR Meeting people and establishing relationships
Worst thing See customers in financial trouble
Top trends seeing Quick-to-prepare foods
Mojo Motto Don’t burn a bridge

DSR of the Month

Denny Luellen
Pippin Wholesale Company
Harrison, Ark.
After 36 Years, Denny Luellen's Customers are Like Family

Denny Luellen started his career literally moving products and now considers product knowledge to be one of his competitive advantages. When he joined Pippin Wholesale in 1972 at the age of 17, he worked part time unloading freight on the dock. In two years, he became a driver. By 1976, he moved into sales and has been a distributor sales rep (DSR) with the company ever since.

“Pippin is very aggressive about making sure we are well trained on the latest products,” Luellen says. Tools and resources are provided by buyers as well as sales and marketing execs. Luellen also researches product knowledge on his own in addition to the in-house support. He says he doesn’t have a favorite category; he promotes items he thinks that will improve their business.

“Denny has been around so long you don’t have to manage him at all,” says Ken Milburn, owner of Pippin. “He’s completely self-motivated. He focuses on his customers. When he goes home at night he’s doing homework for the next day.”

Luellen says he likes to be in the office by 6:30 each morning to check on the trucks shipping out that day. He arrives at his first customer by 7:30, returning to the office at the end of the day to check up on all the details required to make sure his customers are taken care of. As Milburn says, he spends time during the evenings preparing for the next day’s visits and making plans to obtain new business.

Luellen never walks into a potential new customer’s operation cold. He likes to eat there first to check out the menu, waitstaff and overall ambience. Then he puts together a plan for the first visit, including communicating the benefits of becoming a Pippin customer. From then on, it’s about building a relationship based on learning about the new customer’s business and what the needs are to make that business prosper.

Building relationships is the best part of being a DSR, Luellen says. Losing those relationships because of business closure, retirement or sale of an operation is the worst part, however. After serving these customers for many years, it’s hard to lose contact with them, he says.

If for some reason a customer ceases to do business with him, Luellen’s motto is “Don’t burn a bridge.” He does not say anything negative about them. “You never know when you’ll see them again, possibly at another account, and be able to regain their business.”

He also has three strong rules for DSRs to follow: Never bad mouth the competition, never chew gum on the job and don’t sell a customer something he doesn’t need. All of these things can come back to haunt you, even the gum chewing, he says.

Luellen’s longevity with the company helps business, Milburn says. “His customers become his good friends. Over the years he’s bounced kids on his knee and now they buy from him.”

Luellen concurs. “After 36 years, customers are like family. It’s about building trust and knowing their needs. They see you’re there to help.”

 

Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com