|Years as a DSR||33|
|Annual sales volume||$3.9 million|
|No. of active accounts||37|
|Type of accounts||White tablecloth, healthcare, chains, cafés, country clubs|
|Territory||City of Richmond, Va.|
|Biggest attributes||Understanding the business and solving issues|
|Best tools/support||Team energy|
|Favorite category||Certified Angus Beef program|
|Learned the hard way||Include everyone in onsite meetings|
|Always||Put yourself in the customers’ shoes|
|Never||Don’t over promise|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Ability to have a balance between work and family|
|Worst thing||A lot of things happen that you can’t control|
|Top trends seeing||Healthy, small plates, local|
|Mojo Motto||If you don’t ask, you don’t get.|
DSR of the Month
Lisa Wheeler loves prospecting and opening new accounts. While many distributor sales reps (DSRs) dread this process, it’s what she likes to do best. With 33 years in the business, she has had sufficient time to perfect her approach. She has an in-depth understanding of her customers’ businesses and is able to become a true partner, solving issues and helping them build sales. In many cases, Wheeler turns over new accounts to other reps at her company so that she has time to concentrate on developing new business. She still keeps in touch with these customers, continuing the relationship even though she doesn’t handle the accounts on a day-to-day basis.
Wheeler has been a DSR with PERFORMANCE Foodservice–Virginia for ten years. She began her career at Sandler Foods in Virginia Beach. After 18 years at Sandler, she joined Atlantic Food Services in Manassas, Va. and spent five years there before joining PERFORMANCE. Her territory covers the city of Richmond. Her customer base is primarily made up of white tablecloth restaurants and healthcare operations, but she also serves a BBQ chain – which she opened – bistros, cafés and country clubs.
Teamwork as a competitive strength
One of Wheeler’s competitive strengths is her support team. “I always let customers know that we have an array of people to help their business. I usually involve a team in the relationship. The team energy creates great synergy.” Meat and seafood are strong categories for her, so specialists in these center-of-the-plate categories frequently interact with her customers. Her favorite product line to sell is the Certified Angus Beef program. “We never have a dissatisfied customer,” she says.
Dining out is Wheeler’s secret to gaining the latest on trends. “You get all kinds of new ideas and learn about trends when you eat out,” she says. This provides valuable insights since you are having the experience yourself, she explains. For specific information about new products, the company supplies details through sales meetings sponsored by manufacturers and brokers.
As for the trends she’s seen recently, healthy and nutritional items are in the forefront. There is a focus in the Richmond market on local products, which means fresh and, often, organic products are in demand. A trend toward more moderate servings is addressed by growth in the tapas category on menus.
The recent recession has not had a negative impact on Wheeler’s sales, which continue to grow. A positive attitude toward business helps. “You have to have energy and a positive vibe when you’re in the kitchen and the front-of-the-house. You can’t harbor any negativity.”
One of the lessons that Wheeler has learned over time is that it is important to be aware of everyone in the customer’s facility. “You never know when someone who works on staff my end up running the restaurant,” she says. “It’s a good idea to include everybody in meetings.”
While time demands and expectation levels are sometimes stressful, as they are for most DSRs, Wheeler values the fact that her career as a rep allows her to have a “respectful balance” between work and family. “It gives me the flexibility to be successful,” she says.
Constant communication cements relationships
Wheeler rises early and goes to the gym to be mentally and physically prepared for the day. She spends most of her time on the road and is available to customers by phone and email all the time. “I’m in constant communication with them,” she explains. “They can depend on me and they are also ready for me when I come into their operations.”
Her customer service approach is to put herself in the operator’s shoes. You’re not only there to sell products, she believes, but to be a friend, take an interest in their life. To make this approach succeed, you also cannot over promise, especially if you know you can’t follow through, she says.
Wheeler wants her customers to know they can depend on her, no matter what. For example, at the grand opening of a large account, the bartender didn’t show up. Wheeler jumped in and took over the bar. Not only was she a hit that night, the account has been buying from her ever since.
Her district manager, Andrew Baserap, praises her customer focus. He says, “It has been exciting to work with Lisa for the past several years. She brings an energy and an outgoingness that allows her to build great relationships. She has a base of knowledge that is dynamic. Her true caring for the customer is exceeded by no one and her customers agree. If you need something done, call Lisa!”