Planning your Distributor Call Part I

Grow Foodservice Rich Wolverton

How to prepare for a sales call on your broadline foodservice distributor.

As a corporate category manager and then a VP of category management, I’ve sat through hundreds of vendor meetings. Some meetings were amazing, collaborative, productive & rejuvenating.  Many times I wondered how the vendor sales person got their job! The seller was ill-prepared, just reviewed numbers & had no plan for what was next.

Working in Scottsdale, AZ for a major broadliner, we’d have visitors that would use us as their excuse to enjoy the Phoenix Open, Spring Training, bowl games, etc. They would do their obligatory business meeting and were off to play. I’m not saying they were all a waste of time, but MANY were and what a missed opportunity!

Preparation is one of the keys to success. In part one, here are some thoughts on how to address a sales call on a distributor.

  1. Know what is on the mind of your contact. Let’s assume it is a Category Manager (CM).
    1. What are the distributor’s initiatives? When you confirm your appointment ask the CM what is important to them? You may gain an idea of additional spend you will be asked to fund or a problem you can solve.
    1. What issues have your competitors or your company caused for the distributor, lately? Are your competitors not filling orders? Having quality issues? Up for RFP?
    1. What problem(s) can you solve for the distributor? You may have an idea that may not even include your products that can help the CM.
    1. How can you make the CM look good? We all want to look good in front of our bosses and co-workers. What can you do that helps the CM look good and makes you memorable and improves your standing? Solve a business problem. Bring an opportunity. Bring samples for everyone in the office, cook lunch, etc. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but give them a positive reason to talk about your company and you!
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