|DSR of the Month||Kelly Wall of Y. Hata|
|Years as a DSR||8|
|Annual sales volume||$10 million|
|No. of active accounts||21|
|Type of accounts||Independent restaurants, small chains, hotel, private country club, bowling alley|
|Territory||Island of Oahu, Hawaii|
|Biggest attributes||Listening, problem solving, get to the root of a problem|
|Best tools/support||Team members: Executives and specialists|
|Learned the hard way||You can’t help every customer|
|Always||Find the decision maker; become a partner/consultant|
|Never||Don’t make up answers|
|Best thing about being a DSR||Freedom and control over schedule|
|Worst thing||Don’t make up answers|
|Top trends seeing||Inflation in every food category|
|Mojo Motto||“You don’t have to be sick to get better.”|
DSR of the Month
Kelly Wall wants to be everything to a handful of customers. It is not unusual for him to spend an entire day with one account, solving problems and creating new approaches to satisfying diners. “I consider myself part of each of my customers’ businesses,” he says. “I dedicate my time working on ways to make them more profitable. We talk and strategize about menu design, changes, profit generation, social media, customer satisfaction and so forth. I work with each client to address specific and individual needs, regardless of the challenges.”
Wall is a distributor sales rep (DSR) with Y. Hata & Company in Honolulu. He has been a DSR for eight years and writes $10 million in business from 21 accounts. His territory reaches all borders of the island of Oahu. His customer base includes independent restaurants, a few small chains, a bowling alley, a country club and a hotel.
Ten years in the trenches provided Wall with the experience to attack operator issues. After receiving a degree in travel industry management from the University of Hawaii, he worked in a range of foodservice positions, including bartender, dishwasher and waiter. He came to Y. Hata with knowledge of both back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house issues.
Wall considers his strongest skills to be listening and problem solving. It is important, he believes, to be able to break down each issue and get to the root of the problem. He also does not work alone. “My greatest assets are my team members, from the president and vice president to my sales manager. I also have a set of category specialists that I leverage when necessary,” he says.
Tackling the Most Challenging Category
To gain product knowledge, Wall uses the Web, trade magazines and events, like sales meetings. His favorite category to sell is center-of-the-plate. “It starts everything off for my clients and then we can build from there. It is also the most challenging category.”
An example of problem-solving is his work with Teddy’s Bigger Burgers, a multi-unit burger company based in Hawaii that planned to franchise nationally. The chain hand-shapes each burger from individual pucks of various sizes from 5 and 7 to 9 ounces rather than using a pre-formed patty. When the company started to grow, it was necessary to create a raw product that was consistent in both quality and portion size from unit to unit. Over a period of 16 months, Wall was able to find a manufacturer who was able to provide the products needed. “I was able to identify a product that significantly reduced labor and, ultimately, cost. It enabled the company to expand locally and make the move to begin franchising,” he explains.
Helping Customers Maintain Profitability
The recession has been hard on operators in Hawaii as well as the mainland. Wall works with them to maintain profitability. “Together with my customers we have been able to reengineer menus and improve customer service and quality. In many instances, we had to increase menu pricing. We made moves from 95¢ to 99¢ on all menu items. I look at waste, over-portioning and over-ordering as internal issues with each customer.”
As for things a DSR must always and must never do, Wall has strong beliefs. A DSR should always find the decision maker and know who the key players are in every situation. Also, make sure, as a DSR, that you are always striving to be more than an order-taker and become a partner/consultant. A DSR needs to have an “overwhelming understanding of each customer, his needs, dreams and what keeps him up at night.”
As for the negatives: Never make up answers; if you don’t know the answer, say so, and go find it out. he says. Also, never let accounts receivable get away from you. Handle your own AR issues and you’ll gain respect from clients and your company.
The best part about being a DSR for Wall is the freedom of time. “We don’t have a 9 to 5 job.” But then he adds, “That can also be the worst thing since I’m available 24/7 for my customers. Still, I have a great amount of flexibility and freedom.”
In his spare time, Wall has been bitten by the triathlon bug. He has been in Iron Man competitions in Florida, Canada and New Zealand. As in his career as a DSR, he desires to excel. His motto is “You don’t have to be sick to get better.”
by Caroline Perkins
Caroline Perkins is author of Customer Care & Feeding: The Ultimate B2B Selling Strategy. Visit www.customercareandfeeding.com.