By Lloyd Oshiro
Ask a VP of Sales or a Sales Manager at a food distributor what a sales superstar looks like and too often it’s a senior Distributor Sales Representative (DSR) that looks a lot like him/her. A person who’s always in motion with a cellphone that’s always ringing, always driving to the next call, with a trunkful of sales flyers. It could be that those really ARE sales superstars but are they using all the tools available to them? Maybe they became stars by embracing solutions as they became available (cellphones over pagers and payphones, for example) but maybe it’s time for an update.
To become the sales stars of today and tomorrow DSR’s need to embrace the power of social media.
When Charlie Hazard was a DSR in Illinois he used the power of Facebook to build strong relationships with customers and prospects and grow his business. DSR’s are effectively entrepreneurs: they can grow their income by growing their sales. So, Charlie did what all DSR’s do: to grow new customers he cold called on restaurants in his territory.
In distributor sales you rarely close a new account on the first call so he came up with a way to engage with those prospects between calls. If he got the chance to eat a meal at these restaurants, he would share about it on his Facebook page and tag them. In addition to that, Charlie liked and followed the Facebook page for those restaurants and would “like”, comment on and share their content. By the next time Charlie stopped by for a sales call he wasn’t a stranger or some salesperson that they faintly remembered from his last call. He was now a friend. Not just a “Facebook friend,” but someone who had shouted out their food and shared their content. Were they more likely to consider buying from Charlie? You bet.
Charlie says, “People buy from people. The old school DSR’s know this but are missing out on the power of social media. Using Facebook and Instagram definitely added to customers being loyal to me because they knew I was helping them market to their customers. Social media is the next wave and we need to adapt & change.”
As his sales grew Charlie started a Facebook page in 2018 called “Tastes Of The Illinois Valley and Day Trip Eats.” He invited restaurants to join and many did when they realized that highlighting the dine out options in their area to folks who are local foodies was great for everyone. That page has over 1,000 followers who get to learn what’s new in the local dining scene and posts on that page may get up to 4,000 views as the page is part of other pages covering what’s going on in the local area. The restaurants that participate tell Charlie how much they appreciate being a part of it.
Charlie’s role has changed and he is no longer a DSR but he’s been able to pass on how he used social media to grow his sales on to newer DSR’s. Charlie says, “As a Produce Specialist I got to work with a lot of DSR’s and would show them what I did and they would get really excited. Many of them have gone on to create their own pages (similar to the “Tastes of Illinois Valley and Day Trip Eats” page) and previously they had not done anything like that.”
If you are a Distributor Sales Representative (or manage a team of them) remember that each sales territory is like a small business where marketing can increase the effectiveness of your sales efforts and make that cold call into a warm call. Embrace tools like Facebook and other social media available to help you succeed so you’re not left in the dust like the guy/gal saying, “Cellphone? I don’t need one. I have a pager!”