|Years as a DSR||10|
|Annual sales volume||$10.75 million|
|No. of active accounts||106|
|Type of accounts||Independent restaurants, healthcare, schools, C-stores|
|Biggest attributes||Building relationships and trust|
|Best tools/support||Specialists and in-house teams|
|Learned the hard way||Don’t jump to conclusions, clarify|
|Always||Remain humble and maintain integrity|
|Never||Don’t rush customers through a meeting|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Celebrating customers’ success|
|Worst thing||Seeing customers fail and you can’t do anything to help them|
|Top trends seeing||Focus on items that will help fight diminishing margins|
|Mojo Motto||People buy from people.|
DSR of the Month
“I always knew I wanted to be in sales,” says Toby Sullivan, who has been a distributor sales rep (DSR) at Martin Brothers Distributing Co. in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for ten years this August. He started at Martin Bros. as a driver, but his customers urged him to switch to sales. He did just that, selling first to those customers on his former delivery route. He still keeps in close touch with the drivers who now deliver to his customers, conferring with them every day. “They are part of my ability to retain customers,” he says.
Sullivan is presently ringing up $10.75 million in sales, serving more than 100 customers. How does he do it? He has the support of a number of specialists, especially for his C-store customers. “I couldn’t maintain [that many] without our C-store specialists,” he explains. Some of his customers order online and some have Skype discussions when needed, but he meets with most every week. In addition to C-stores, he serves schools, independent restaurants and healthcare operations.
Customer attention is key
Brian Hathcock, Martin Bros.’ District Sales Manager, says Sullivan gives all of his customers individual attention and, as a result, it works the other way, too. “When Toby’s in the house, his customers give him their attention. We never get a customer complaint. He’s the go-to guy and is a true consultant,” Hathock says. As for the relationship with his manager, Sullivan says “He gives me space to do what I need to do. He doesn’t micromanage.”
Sullivan is backed up not only by category specialists but also by Martin Bros.’ internal structures that support marketing and sales. The company’s Marketing Center houses sales management, inside sales, merchandising and marketing. The Creative Services Group puts together marketing and sales proposals and offers a number of customer services including menu design and Web site design. A culinary team is also on the ready for ideas and assistance.
“We constantly ask what we can do to keep customers profitable,” he says. One solution is the tools that Martin Bros. can supply to help them manage costs. The company is strong in the healthcare segment and Sullivan especially likes to work with healthcare foodservice directors. “I enjoy sitting down with them and using our resources to help them control their costs.”
Peer group networking builds experience
Martin also has an internal social networking site, powered by Yammer, an app that can be made private and secure, where all Martin employees can ask for help or advice or discuss any particular issue. In addition, a focus group of 12 Martin Bros. DSRs meets quarterly to discuss issues and provide peer support. Sullivan also enjoys working with, training and mentoring new DSRs.
Sullivan believes that integrity is one of the most important characteristics of a good DSR. “When you start to compromise your principles, you’re in trouble,” he says.
Also, Sullivan believes that a good DSR should remain humble and listen in order to learn what to do best for each customer. “You should listen twice as much as you talk,” he says. He also suggests watching a customer’s body language for clues to his or her state of mind. “Don’t forget to watch your own body language, as well,” he cautions, saying you shouldn’t look as though you want to just get the order and get out.
For Sullivan, the best part of his job is being able to celebrate his customers’ success. Conversely, the worst is when a customer fails and there is nothing he can do to help them. It’s all about maintaining strong relationships. “If we didn’t care,” he says, “we wouldn’t be good.”
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com