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Monday, June 13, 2011

Tag Along with the Bread Pimp

Recently when I was getting some ink work done at the tattoo shop, 2 dudes walked in off the street and asked to speak to the shops owner.

Both guys looked clean cut and almost had a Mormon Missionary G.Q.vibe.

Dudes had Ralph Lauren "Polo" shirts,khaki shorts and foot wear that you'd associate with a guy who spent most of his summer on a boat.

The guys had come to sell tattoo ink.

When the shop manager finally arrived, he looked at, or better yet....inspected the tandem.

When he realized that neither one of them had a single tattoo, he politely told then to get the "F" out, turned his back and walked away.

Bottom line......nobody wants to hear opinions, or give money to somebody who hasn't earned their stripes.

Several years ago the bakery I work for told me that they were moving me into the sales department. Basically my job was to bring bread and pastry samples (called a "promo") to different venues and try to get them to come aboard.

On my first day out, I got into the truck wearing a bakers uniform equipped with a white floppy chefs hat and a pair of Nike - hightopped Tim Duncan's.

When ownership saw this, they recoiled in fear.

I was brought back into the facility and given an encouraging lecture that demanded that Klecko sported more of a "preppy" look while representing the company.

So I did.

My first stop was to hit the hotels out along the hotel strip, out by the Mall of America.

In sales, it never hurts to have input, or an in, but it can't be too forced or the person with purchasing power will even hate you more.

My first stop was at a major chain hotel where the lobby was filled with nature photographs taken by the Executive Chef.

There were ducks, pine trees, all kinds of images that when you studied them, made you wonder if you were walking through Abe Lincoln's neighborhood.

So after snaking my way into the kitchen uninvited...the chef spies me and before I could even drop an official salesman salutation, the mockery began.

"OMG Klecko, what happened to you? Are you going to a funeral or a disco tech? Man, I don't think I dig seeing you in street clothes, it's creeping my a** out!"

And thus my friends was my baptism into sales.

From that day on I went back to my uniform, I always try to wear shorts so my leg tat's show.

If you have a Johnny Cash and Muhammad Ali tribute pieces like me....this will give you instant kitchen credibility.

However, if I am going into a CO OP or a coffee house, it might be in my best interest to roll a sleeve over Ronald Reagan.

Sales actually has little to do about the product.

Now I'm not saying that any slick Willie can unload a wagon of turds on hapless fools.

People with purchasing power typically have savvy, what I'm trying to say is that usually those people want you....to plug into them.

If I walk into a kitchen unannounced, there might be a dozen people working in that space. If I hand my wares to one of the "Minion", some chefs will get hacked off.

You need to cold read when peddling your glass beads and trinkets.

For an account to come aboard, one of the first things the chef needs to do is get a "New Account Application" and fill it out. This "ap" will basically ask for credit history, let us know what time of the day they need their delivery, and how we are going to enter their building.

99% of sales people hand that "ap" and their business card immediately after shaking the chefs hands....bad move brah.

I never bring one in the building on the first visit, if they want to use us,this gives me a reason to stop back and build the bond stronger.

Sales people often times work on commission and strive for the quick buck,I get that, but in the Food Show you want to build long lasting relationships.

If you land some chef at a small concept, when she/he moves onto a bigger venue, chances are you will ride their coat tails.

Often times it's good to know who the concept is currently using as their purveyor's. If the chef has a long standing relationship, there's just no way you'll crack their system, but that's OK.

A couple years ago I wanted to get into the Westin Hotel in downtown Mpls. Their high end restaurant is called "Bank".

I've heard that this whole concept was owned by Minnesota Twins owners, the Pohlad family, but I can't verify that.

Hotels are interesting because the chefs seldom stay long. Either they get burnt out, or the hotel gets sold to a new ownership group.

Their chefs rotate like Paris Hilton's mardi gras lovers.

Often times when a hotel launches, they'll bring in some high end muckity-muck chef with name recognition to create the menu and draw the notice of the food critic community, but after the honeymoon...."POW" right in the kisser, The Executive Chef is sent packing and a functioning nobody will take their place for a pittance of the wage.

So sometimes it is more than worth is to take that $22 promo into a spot like this because the Executive Chef's replacement is probably standing in that same space, and guess what?

When that chef finally gets their opportunity to shine, do you think they want to use the same bakery as the predecessor?

Not usually.

So Klecko walks into the Westin's kitchen with 4 bread totes of products.

The Executive Chef is sitting in his office. It is the size of a toll booth, but has glass for walls.

I like to "Walk Hard" or slam my feet to gain my audiences attention.

When you work in a back room, it is natural instinct to view everybody who enters your space.

Typically when that person leaves everybody in the kitchen will list why they need to be hated, or die LOL.

So now I push the chefs office door open with my foot, drop the racks down on his floor with a "THUD" and say....

"Chef, I know you are busy, but Klecko is even busier than you. Sample my wares and you will find them divine."

Then I turned around (my back is to him) and roll my eyes at the staff. There is no quicker way to gain friends than hating whoever your friends hate.

Dare I say it?

Love gets you to heaven, but hate can get you wholesale accounts (I would LOL here, but have been cautioned that you only get to do that once a piece, and I have already burnt that bullet)

Then I placed a stack of Klecko business cards on the cooks line as I left.

5 months later....the phone rang.

I was in.

Last but not least, service is the number one way to keep clients, so many of these people have been told promises, but so few of them have ever been followed up on.

That's why in many respects, the most important people in a wholesale bakery are the route drivers, and the office people.

They are your day to day ambassadors.

Well that's all Klecko has for you now, holla at you later.

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