|DSR of the Month||Paul Bauer of Kohl Wholesale|
|Years as a DSR||25|
|Annual sales volume||$4.2 million|
|No. of active accounts||90|
|Type of accounts||Schools, nursing homes, c-stores, independents and the county jail|
|Territory||Eight towns surrounding Hannibal, Mo.|
|Biggest attributes||Getting accurate information and following up|
|Best tools/support||Kohl specialists and the marketing team|
|Learned the hard way||In the early days, not dedicated enough to customers|
|Always||Take care of customers’ needs|
|Never||Give away a customer’s trade secrets|
|Best thing about being a DSR||You’re in business for yourself|
|Worst thing||Time demands|
|Top trends seeing||Looking for new, healthier items|
|Mojo Motto||Embrace change|
DSR of the Month
“After 25 years, I’m part of my customers’ families,” says Paul Bauer, who has been a distributor sales rep (DSR) at Kohl Wholesale for a quarter of a century. “They trust me to get them accurate information about what products are available and how to use them.”
Bauer learned the ins and outs of the foodservice industry 35 years ago, starting at Kohl in purchasing and shipping before becoming a DSR 10 years later. Now he drives close to 600 miles a week, visiting his 90 customers. “I’m in and out quickly,” he says. “It’s a fast pace.” He notes that seven of the eight towns in his territory around Hannibal, Mo., across the Mississippi from company headquarters in Quincy, Ill., do not even have a stop light.
Kohl was founded in 1873 by Nikolaus Kohl and is now led by fourth and fifth generation family members. Bauer’s father worked in sales for the company for 50 years, from 1949 to 1999. He says his and his father’s long-term relationship with Kohl – a span of more than 60 years – is a testament to the quality and character of the company.
Kohl’s provides great support, Bauer says, in the form of specialists and other team members. There are category specialists, dieticians and marketing people ready to help sales. He relies on the center-of-the plate specialist, for instance, to help with all the terminology for meat products. A new value-added service for marketing is menu design and printing. “We’ve got a great team to help customers. There is a lot of experience in the building,” he says. “I’m just directing traffic.”
DSRs learn about new products at two-day sales meetings. There are four in-house brokers dedicated to Kohl. Bauer works with them and also has a good relationship with outside broker reps, who do ride-withs with him about twice a month. “Brokers teach me and the customers at the same time,” he says. “Most of them are really good. They have dealt with me long enough to know I’ll get the sale.”
Bauer’s favorite category to sell is produce. “The category keeps getting bigger and my customers are looking for more fresh products,” he explains. He sees the desire for healthier products as a trend in all segments. “They’ve talked about it for a long time,” he says. “Now they’re ready to eat healthy.”
Despite the slow economy, Bauer’s sales were up 17% last year, when he rang up $4.2 million in sales. Much of his success rests on being able to help customers overcome economic challenges and improve their business. He works with customers to analyze each menu item and look at profitability to see where any changes need to be made.
For Bauer, the best part of being a DSR is the freedom and independence. “You’re on your own,” he explains. “You’re in business for yourself.” It’s all about commitment to customers. “You become part of their family. You have top-of-mind awareness of their needs and you become the go-to guy.”
Bauer remembers that his father had a “little trouble” with the new technology at the end of his career. Bauer is careful not to let that happen to him. His motto is “Embrace change.” Accepting change and learning new skills make him a better DSR, he says.
What would he do if he were not a DSR? It wouldn’t be anything outside of Kohl Wholesale. “I’d just probably work in a different department, probably purchasing,” he laughs. For now, he’s happy as a DSR. Kohl’s appreciates his success, as well. The company honored Bauer with the Richard A. Ehrhart award for Salesman of the Year in 2011.
Written by Caroline Perkins, author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com.