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Years as a DSR 5
Annual sales volume $3 million
No. of active accounts 55
Type of accounts Independent restaurants, caterers,
small retail stores
Territory Bloomington, Ind.
Biggest attributes Understand customers’ business
Best tools/support Inside sales support
Favorite category What the customer needs
Learned the hard way How to manage one’s own expectations
Always Listen
Never Over commit
Best thing about being a DSR Ability to help customers solve problems
and be successful
Worst thing Things that happen that are out of my
control, like out-of-stocks
Top trends seeing Going back to classics but with new twist,
like local sourcing
Mojo Motto Treat everyone like I want to be treated

DSR of the Month

Joe Adam
Troyer Foods
Goshen Indiana
Making His Mark in a Foodie Town

“Joe Adam is 100% committed to his customers,” says Tracy Bruce, sales manager at Troyer Foods in Goshen, Ind. “When he says he’ll do something, you can be sure it will get done. This has helped him build great relationships with customers.”

Adam has been a DSR (distributor sales rep) for five years. He started with Beasley Food Service in Bloomington and was there for only a few months when the company was acquired by Troyer, where he has been since, staying in the Bloomington market.

Prior to becoming a DSR, Adam purchased liquor for a company that grew to a chain of 14 stores. He believes that this experience has given him a leg up as a DSR. It was entrepreneurial, he explains. He basically was running his own business, which is exactly what he and most DSRs do.

In addition, the liquor business was experiencing a trend toward artisanal products, with craft beers and a plethora or new wineries. He relates this experience to understanding the foodservice trends of local sourcing and specialty foods.

“I brought my own approach to foodservice,” he says. “I knew what I wanted, how I wanted to be treated, and I’ve translated that into building relationships with my customers.” It seems to be working as he has built sales from half a million in his first year to $3 million. He has built this growth by serving 55 customers.

Account base is made up of retail and foodservice operations
Troyer Foods had been a retail distributor for many years before entering the foodservice arena. Adam has a few retail accounts – bakery, butcher shop, gourmet grocer and a small coop chain – mixed in with his foodservice customers. He serves primarily independent restaurants with a camp, a jail and caterers in the group. Most of his customers are in Bloomington although he does venture west for about 20 miles.

Adam says he spends 80% to 90% of his time on the street, with customers. “I need to be out there,” he says. “Bloomington is a competitive market. The big boys are here, as well as the local distributors. It’s an attractive market with a lot of local independents, not so many chains. There is a lot of local identity. It’s a huge foodie town.”

Sales support comes from inside sales people, which are shared by Troyer DSRs, sales managers, brokers and suppliers. Adam also has developed relationships with local farmers who are purveyors to his customers. He often brings a farmer with him on sales calls. Bloomington is a “big bison town,” he explains. Bison appears on a large number of menus in many different preparations. The bison farmers can share knowledge of how the animals are raised and harvested. The same is true with farmers who raise other stock, such as ducks or chickens, or specialty produce.

When asked what his favorite category to sell is, he laughs and says, “What the customer needs.” He adds that Troyer’s strength is center-of-the-plate and Beasley’s was produce, so he capitalizes on both. He also does well with chemicals and supplies.

Listening creates understanding of the customer
One lesson that Adam learned the hard way was to think he could do “everything.” “I wanted to solve everyone’s problems,” he explains. It was frustrating. I had to learn to listen and to manage my own expectations of myself.” In fact, listening is the No. 1 think he believes a good DSR should do. “We need to fully understand what our customer is doing, in terms of the operation, staffing, food and so forth.” He even acts as a mystery diner for some customers to assess the performance of new staff.

DSRs also have to ask the hard questions, he counsels – like those pertaining to accounts receivable – and deliver the hard news – such as a late delivery. This all comes under the category of not over committing or over promising, he says.

One of his favorite customer experiences recently is with a chef who has been a James Beard Award nominee. Adam says the chef orders a lot of products from local farmers and Troyer “fills in the gaps.” Regardless, Adam learns a lot from his relationship with the chef. The tables were turned a few days ago when the chef asked Troyer for some of his family’s Eastern European recipes. Adam is delighted to sharing his culinary background with him.

Adam’s approach to taking care of his customer base is summed up by his personal motto: Treat everyone like I want to be treated. The implications of this driving belief have moved Adam well beyond the status of order-taker into the realm of being a true partner and consultant to his customers.


Caroline Perkins is author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit