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Food sales Neophyte

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I'm relatively new to food distribution but already see a lot of changes in the industry here in Seattle.  It's all about price for my customers and I have a hard time overcoming operational failures and the constant change of direction that I receive from leadership.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm suppose to sell food or simply log my sales activities in CRM.  Either way I'm struggling and looking for suggestions.  I know the grass isn't greener but I'd be curious what others impressions are and or suggestions.  Am I alone?
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formerdsr

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Reply with quote  #2 
Neo, I'm a retired sales guy. 42 years on the street in Southern California. I came up during a time when everyone had their own style of selling. People were making money! There were lots of independents, so there wasn't this big push to sell everything in the book. Since no company was full line, you could share an account and still make money. Also, no Costco, Sam's Club or Restaurant Depot.

Despite what you might hear, it's not always about price. If you're going after an account that's been with a competitor for a long time, the owner might be testing you or using you to beat up his current rep. I had a seafood customer years ago that was mostly concerned with the prices of his fish, lobster, shrimp and crab. The price on Heinz ketchup and TP was not a big deal to him.

Once you've established a relationship with your customer, price becomes secondary. The owner/chef/manager knows you're going to take care of him. Just don't go crazy. Know your market and know what your customer's "hot button" items are. As an example, I used to price most boxed beef at 15 cents over my cost.

I hated Salesforce. It takes away any individuality you may have. I didn't get into this business to be a data entry clerk. I think 80-90% of what people enter in their CRM is what their managers want to see. It has no basis in reality.

The current mantra at Sysco and USF is "this is what we want you to sell, and this is how we want you to sell it". Food has taken a backseat to USF's Scoop and Value Added Services (and whatever Sysco calls their equivalent). If you're working Sysco or USF, leave for an independent. Better money. Less BS. 


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Food sales Neophyte

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Reply with quote  #3 
I was actually told by a VP today that "our customers should feel lucky to be able to buy our brand" 

The arrogance of this company is too much at times!  Has it always been this bad?  According to some of my veteran mentors the whole industry is messed up now that they make more money on a case of goods just by receiving it than we do when we sell it!  Sorry for the vent but really getting frustrated with the false bravado and arrogance of executive leadership!
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formerdsr

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Reply with quote  #4 
Your VP sounds like a Sysco or USF kool-aid drinker. I worked for a few of those in my time.

Most private label products these days are USDA minimums as far as count or drained weight. Again, going back to the old days, one the companies I worked for had very high standards. Our counts and drained weights were always higher than the USDA minimum. We used to tell customers that they got 7 cans for the price of six. 

We also were able to have canners and packers do proprietary stuff for us. Our customers came to rely on this level of quality, and were willing to pay a higher price. Competitors would come in with they thought was a similar product, but we always out-cut them. Another thing we did was sell by the ounce/portion vs case price.

Unfortunately, the Big Boys want good little robots who will spout the party line, and be happy with making 60K a year. They would gladly cut you out of the equation, and have customers order online, if they could do it.
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snoman

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Reply with quote  #5 
It's always about price, always has been and always will be. I wouldn't pay more just because I kinda liked the cat that came by a couple times a week to hustle a few cases. 
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JustAnObserver

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Food sales Neophyte
I was actually told by a VP today that "our customers should feel lucky to be able to buy our brand" 



Quote of the day right here. I'm sorry, but I got a chuckle out of this. [rofl]
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Food sales Neophyte

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Reply with quote  #7 
This Seattle market is going crazy because the FSA/US merger.  Seems as if the marriage of the two sides will be a little tense.  A lot of rumors of shady deals with shared customers to gain majority of business before merger is approved.  Everyone seems to be giving cases away or else interviewing elsewhere.  Let the shake up of the market begin and lets see who is left standing!
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formerdsr

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Reply with quote  #8 
Neo, the same thing happened when the Sysco/USF merger was going through. Thank God it didn't!

Sysco reps were going into USF accounts and telling them to switch now since their USF rep would be gone. Sysco reps were out talking sh*t about USF. Shared customers didn't know what to do. Look at the Waugh Foods/Sysco thread. 

Most of my customers HATED Sysco. I would have lost half of my route. 
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QUEENSPIV

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Food sales Neophyte
I'm relatively new to food distribution but already see a lot of changes in the industry here in Seattle.  It's all about price for my customers and I have a hard time overcoming operational failures and the constant change of direction that I receive from leadership.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm suppose to sell food or simply log my sales activities in CRM.  Either way I'm struggling and looking for suggestions.  I know the grass isn't greener but I'd be curious what others impressions are and or suggestions.  Am I alone?


Food sales Neophyte - At the end of the day if your heart is with your client and what you sell the CRM doesn't matter its about growing your customer that will grow your sales! The CRM is just a tool. Your leader should be coaching you and your customers on value not price or how may logs you have in your CRM. Price is and will always be a equation but what you bring to the table is what truly matters.  

As for all the change in the industry we are in a NEW age and if your old school like I grew up in you have to adapt. Its not just in Seattle its everywhere the NEW age wants more.


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Food sales Neophyte

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Reply with quote  #10 
I just had a minor success that I wanted to share.  I actually had a customer give me a few extra lines because he said I take the time to visit him and actually ask questions that relate to his needs and not my companies.  A rare situation for sure but nonetheless worth sharing.  On a side note the rumor mill is rampant regarding sales managers and MA's jumping ship to competitors.  Everyone is freaking out about the big meeting this week in Houston and what new initiative will be rolled out next.  Anybody else hearing anything?
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formerdsr

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Reply with quote  #11 
Good for you, Neo! That's what foodservice sales is all about. Pay attention to your customer, and you will be rewarded. 

If Sysco is anything like USF, there will be more mandatory compliance with CRM, less personal contact with customers, more online ordering, more ride-withs with your district manager. More people who don't your territory or your customers telling you what to do.


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Food sales Neophyte

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Reply with quote  #12 
The shuffle in Seattle has begun.  Regional's being "promoted" and the minions positioning themselves consideration.  It's happening at FSA and Sysco.  From what I've heard some promotions are justified and others not.  What always scares me is the fact that the people that want to move into the new position are the Kool-aid drinkers and will say anything for the title.  I would really like to see a few of my mentors get promoted but they won't because they speak their mind andhave opinions.
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Retiredfoodpro

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Food sales Neophyte
The shuffle in Seattle has begun.  Regional's being "promoted" and the minions positioning themselves consideration.  It's happening at FSA and Sysco.  From what I've heard some promotions are justified and others not.  What always scares me is the fact that the people that want to move into the new position are the Kool-aid drinkers and will say anything for the title.  I would really like to see a few of my mentors get promoted but they won't because they speak their mind andhave opinions.


I wouldn't be concerned about FSA.  They are basically in a death rattle right now until USF takes over. 
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FSVET

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Reply with quote  #14 
Retiredfoodpro: I wouldn't be concerned about FSA.  They are basically in a death rattle right now until USF takes over. 

The fun will really start when USF completes the merger. Update your resumes.

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Food sales Neophyte

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Reply with quote  #15 
A lot of my co workers are talking to the local independents.  However, it doesn't seem as if Seattle is a strong market for the independent broadliners.  The only 3 I can think of are Pacific Seafoods, Food Service Inc, and hearing that Harbor Wholesale is jumping into the food service game.  What do the experienced members here think of these options?  I'm curious and looking for help.
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FSVET

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Reply with quote  #16 
Neo, we had a lot of independents in Southern California gear up to sell more lines during the USF/Sysco merger fiasco. Obviously, the merger never happened, but these smaller companies were able to get into our accounts (USF and Sysco) by providing better prices, service and deliveries. They were able to stock new items without the usual corporate BS.

Several non-foods suppliers added dry goods and refrigerated. Several produce companies added dry groceries, COP, frozen and refrigerated. Other broadline independents added more trucks to handle the added business.

If you feel one of the three you mentioned is a worthwhile company, I'd move fast. Being new, you won't have a lot of baggage to bring with you. You should be able to bring your accounts along with you if you have a good relatinship with them.


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