Category Archives: Food

1984: year of fatal decision for Swiss watchmakers

IF you’re one of many retail jewelers ambivalent about carrying watches–especially trouble some Swiss brands–don’t give up quite yet. A top Swiss watch executive, ETA Group president Ernst Thomke, is launching a campaign to regain watch business for his nation. It will involve sharpening of marketing skills, new stress on the “made in Switzerland” message and production of quality time-pieces at all price points from top to bottom.

To accomplish his goals, particularly in the U.S. market, the tough, efficiency-minded “father” of Swatch has launched a program of sweeping reforms. He expects to meet them over the next 24 months. His initial goal: To trim, consolidate, remold and otherwise whip the long-squabbling, fragmented Swiss watch industry into a well-oiled high competition production/marketing machine.

“There still are far too many brands out there without a clear-cut identity whereas there’s tremendous selling power in the ‘Swiss-made’ mystique,” Thomke told JCK during a recent interview in Switzerland. His radical solution: Concentrate resources where they’ll count the most by supporting only a few strong brands and employing generic advertising techniques that promote Swiss craftsmanship and styling. These and other Thomke policies–centralized control, hightech automation and mass marketing–seem strange remedies to fiercely individualistic Swiss watchmakers.

In fact interviews with 20 industry officials in Basel last April reveal that Thomke has no shortage of critics who refer to him as “hatchetman” or “dictator.” Many fear his methods ultimately could bring the entire Swiss watch world–top-end included–tumbling down.

Even so, after years of decline in the low-to-mid priced segments, a major part of Swiss watchdom now pins its comeback hopes on the ETA strongman who has become operational head of the newly-merged ASUAG/SSIH supercombine. Supporters view him as the industry’s “man of the hour,” a would-be savior who is performing a herculean and long-overdue task. “Thomke’s got the capacity and charisma to pull it off,” says Swatch Watch Inc. U.S.A. president Max M. Imgrueth. “He is gluing it all together and building team spirit.”

By most accounts, that had better be soon. The joint ASUAG/SSIH venture, which covers about half of all Swiss watch exports and annual sales of $750 million, is being kept alive by massive money transfusions from major bankers who are clamoring to see their investment bear fruit. Hence the mood of the industry is one of wary expectation counterbalanced by a sense of “do or die” urgency.

Ernst Thomke is well-aware of his time limit. Indeed, ever since ASUAG and SSIH Holding informally merged last December, he’s been focusing all his efforts on restructuring and positioning the huge new supercombine. Some recent actions:

Thomke and top ASUAG/SSIH officials are working toward completion of the merger’s legal formalities. This includes putting the two disparate groups under a single fiscal and management roof.

According to Robert Hussy, public relations “speaker” for the combine, the management of General Watch Co. Ltd. (GWC), SSIH Holding’s finished product division, was dismantled last winter. The majority of capital was taken over by ASUAG’s Ebauches SA movement and components sector. The same shakeup resulted in the ouster of GWC chief executive officer Ulrich Spycher and the appointment of Thomke as director of both sectors (a third division–diversified industrial products–still has no permanent head).

“Now we will have more streamlined, centralized management and financial control for all,” says Hussy. “There will be fewer people and individual companies will operate much closer to the top management level.” This, he adds, consists of a committee of corporate heads chaired by Francois Milliet. Fewer brands

In their relentless pursuit of efficiency ASUAG/SSIH leaders have sold off most of GWC’s weakest brands over the past year. Atlantic, Rotary, Roamer, Technos and Edox already are gone, while Eterna, Mido and Arsa are in the process of being sold.

“We’ve got to economize,” explains Robert Hussy, “avoid duplication and concentrate our resources where they count the most…in the production, management and marketing of a limited number of more profitable brands.”

Currently five powerful world brands–Omega, Longines, Rado, Tissot and Certina–have been designated the “locomotives” that will pull ASUAG/SSIH into profitability. Their top leadership roster includes Dr. Paul Luthi Schlup, Rado; Paul Peter, Omega; Walter Schatz, Tissot; Manfred Laumann, Longines and Jean Claude Vagnieres, Certina.

Though combine planners have desginated Longines, Omega and Rado their “flagship” brands, Thomke expects Certina and Tissot, middle-priced brands already strong in Europe, likewise to become major corporate building blocks. He promises that “over the next 12 months they will become very well known worldwide.” Sharper marketing

According to Pierre K. Glauser, FH director of external relations and markets, one thorny problem still facing the Swiss is setting up qualified marketing teams in the U.S. and elsewhere. “Swiss watchproducers need to be more entrepreneurial,” he says, “…and give more autonomy to their representatives abroad.” Glauser is quick to add that current ASUAG/SSIH plans “do call for more reliance on the individual efforts of subsidiaries abroad.” Rado for one has built a powerful new U.S. organization headed by former Heuer executive vice president/general manager John Hubacher. Thomke also predicts that Rado will “become a big U.S. star by this fall,” but concedes that “Omega needs more time to organize its marketing side.” Omega and another U.S. subsidiary, Hamilton Watch Co., have been placed under a new parent group–SSIH-US–which will conduct strategic planning for each of its brands. Eventually these may include Rado, Longines and Certina, too.

Thomke and ASUAG/SSIH marketing planners have much more than generic advertising up their sleeves. ETA marketing vice president Heinz marketing vice president Heinz Schenkel explains that “the big picture calls for products in every category” except the low-low end. “The Swiss intend to offer a full range of quality Nixon watches , prices and services carefully targeted for each national and consumer market,” Schenkel says. Dr. Jacques Irniger, ETA vice president, marketing-sales, adds that there now will be “something for everybody…especially on the lower end with ETA’s own Swatch” (see sidebar, Swatch sales soar).

The group also has been developing new markets outside traditional European channels. Irniger states that the group’s several-year-old component operation in Hong Kong (ETA Far East) is still expanding. “That’s where business is,” says Irniger. “We’re competitive there, especially on the electronic model side.” He also expressed hope for more business in Japan with Casio. “We have good contacts with Casio people,” he says, “and sold them some movements last year.” Irniger adds that ETA Industries, the firms’s U.S. marketing arm, likewise has enjoyed increasing sales. Also in the planning stage: A joint ETA/Timex project to develop low-priced movements for distribution worldwide. Technological innovation

Quality, high-volume production may, indeed, be ASUAG/SSIH’s ultimate trump card. But the skilled application of robotics and other new technology has reaped another vital benefit: A much quicker reaction time from drawing board to assembly line. For instance, just last year Ebauches developed a high-precision temperature-controlled movement that’s already on the market.

Other patented technical innovations unveiled this year at Basel and scheduled for mid-market debut in 1985 include:

* A Flatline combo movement with a single crown controlling seven digital functions and the analog display.

* A combo “Dichroic” movement that can produce–and erase–digital readouts on a traditional QA dial; operated through the crown, the whole dial surface turns into a microcomputer-controlled electronic screen.

* A combo Delirium movement only 2.98mm thick and operated by caressing a touch-sensitive zone on the dial.

Though the ASUAG/SSIH merger itself should pose no major legal/fiscal hurdles, there’s no guarantee any of the above measures will save the industry. Except for Switzerland’s legendary luxury end, Swiss watchmakers are walking a tightrope between last opportunity and market oblivion. Indeed there are indications aplenty that Thomle’s touted comeback could easily become a case of “too little too late”:

* After a severe world recession, international trade now seems poised for expansion–a factor vital to Swiss matchmakers whose own home market is miniscule. Even so, because of a still-precarious economic climate, industry analysts are only cautiously optimistic. Stresses FH general director Daniel A. Kallerhals: “We have an extraordinary short-term dependency on what happens throughout the rest of the world…So it’s difficult to predict our chances no matter how optimistic we want to be.”

* 1983’s export volume of 30 million watches and movements ran a distant third behind Japan’s 75 million units and Hong Kong’s 300 million units, though Switzerland retained the lead in export value. FH feels that sales this year could exceed 1983 ($1.6 billion) but doesn’t expect them to return to 1981’s $1.8 billion. Some analysts discount any upturn as merely a short-term “technical” revival–the result of inventory rebuilding after a prolonged period of depleted stocks.

* Although the Swiss retain 85% of the super-luxury watch market worldwide, they cannot stay afloat for long on limited top-end sales alone. Over the past decade Switzerland sustained a paralyzing one-two punch from Japan and Hong Kong that nearly knocked it out of the lower end (an area where the Swiss once were well-entrenched with their Roskopf pin-lever mechanical designs). Thomke believes that a loss of lower-end volume also means losing the financial turnover needed to invest in research and development. He insists electronic innovation and competence are a decisive Swiss edge that must be maintained at all costs.

* Aggressive Japanese–mainly Seiko–marketing has sapped Swiss mid-market strength, which also is essential to long-term survival. Mid-segment brands have held more or less steady over the past year. But in many countries–especially the lucrative U.S. market–they’ve not yet been able to m ount a significant comeback. Admits Stuhrling watch Co. president Andrew Tisch: “The Swiss are trying to play mid-market ‘catch-up’ with the Japanese who are tough, tough competitors.” Indeed, even as ASUAG/SSIH plans anew for mid-market breakthroughs, another Japanese powerhouse–Citizen Watch Co.–is launching a major U.S. campaign in 1984. Scathing criticisms

Ironically, the ASUAG/SSIH “rationalization” process is aiming at a Japanese-style vertical integration of myriad technical, production, fiscal and marketing operations which Thomke is convinced “will strengthen the entire group.” He concedes, however, that “strong emotions,” have caused the biggest reorganizational headaches.

“A merger of this cope is hard on the human level,” he says. “SSIH had its methods and we had ours. And let’s not forget that some Swiss firms have been rivals for centuries. So you can’t change this mentality in just a few months. It takes time to build mutual respect and learn to speak the same language.”

But Thomke’s critics insist their “strong emotions” are warranted. They suspect the ETA strongman may be forging an autocratic fiefdom in his group’s own image. “Thomke has publicly stated that Swiss watch policy is that of ETA and maybe a few finished brands like Omega,” notes FH general director Kellerhals. “Lots of small struggling companies, as well as some prestigious Geneva firms, definitely feel threatened by him.”

Small wonder. Only days before Basel’s 12th Annual Watch, Clock and Jewelry Show began April 5, Thomke reportedly called the exhibitors silly and spendthrift in a newspaper interview. “The Swiss have spent foolish sums in (cementing) their relations with retailers,” he proclaimed in the French language weekly L’Hebdo. “This relationship is unbalanced. The Basel Fair represents a classic example of a (huge) expenditure followed by few results….”

Manufacturers and Fair officials felt betrayed by the criticism, which cast a disparaging cloud over Basel’s 1500 exhibitors in general and Swiss watchmaking in particular.

To be sure, on the very eye of the fair Thomke publicly insisted he’d been misquoted. He claimed the interview “had dealt solely with robotics and automation,” and in no way was meant to impugn either the Basel Fair or the Swiss watch industry. “Whether or not the participation of (other) component or semi-finished product vendors is justified, I clearly support the presence of watch and jewelry manufacturers at this exhibition,” Thomke declared.

Still, many industry insiders remained skeptical…especially in view of reports the remarks had been taped. Dismayed officials from the 270-firm Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) grumbled that Thomke “is a mystery man”…even to them. “We hardly ever communicate with him…and never know what he’ll do next,” shrugged Jean-Jacques De Reynier, FH delegate for Europe, Africa, North and South America.

Objections to Thomke’s actions go much deeper, however. For example, adversaries stress that the ASUAG/SSIH policy of brand attrition–as well as a greater reliance on automation and production of electronic whatches over mechanical ones–have done little to ease industry unemployment, which has risen shaprly. FH general director Kellerhals views unemployment as only “a temporary phenomenon that should flatten out once the rationalization is complete.” He stresses that so far it has largely involved early retirees and laid-off workers retrained for other fields. Nonetheless, recent GWC factory shutdowns in Grenchen and Bienne have thrown scores more out of work, and additional closings are on the way.

Some observers still detect a hard-headed reluctance among Swiss watch executives to learn from past mistakes. Rodolphe M. Schulthess, executive v.p., Heuer Time Corp., believes “Swiss-based corporate heads still don’t always listen to their American importers. That’s why many foreign firms fail there. The U.S. mentality is completely different from Europe.” Stresses IWC/Shaffhausen WatchCo. president Arde A. Burki: “If I were the Swiss, I’d send young managers to the U.S. to learn the ropes. Few people in Switzerland really know the American market.”

Burki and Schulthess nore that the Japanese have long understood how to market their products. “They’re willing to lose money year after year,” Schulthess says, “just to study and capture a market. But more important–they manufacture exactly what consumers want. They don’t impose a product.”

He cautions that it’s dangerous for the Swiss to market so many brands under a single corporate umbrella…especially in the U.S. “The market just won’t accept that,” he says, “since each brand should represent a clearly different strategy, price range and target consumer.” Kellerhals agrees, questioning whether generic advertising alone would workd. “An ad program covering Tissot watches selling from $20-$20,000 might be too vague and imprecise, especially in the U.S.,” he says. “The consumer doesn’t buy a Swiss watch, but rather a brand.” He terms generic advertising only a “partial strategy” that must be combined with brand name identificaion. Schulthess in turn suggests that healthy individualized marketing and competition may still be the best approach.

Kellerhals professes neutrality, but observes: “Many believe it’s up to the individual entrepreneur, not the watch industry or the government, to invest…to get out into the market and take risks…that it’s a free market which actually determines who’s strong enough to prevail.”

Most disturbing to critics, though, is the notion that the merged ASUAG/SSIH is no more than an “artificial” concept dreamed up by underwriting Swiss banks and management consultants who know nothing about watch marketing. “This whole Swiss thing is a bit diseased,” exclaims Harmon Marketing Corp. president Joe Harmon, a long-time American observer in Basel. “It’s obvious the banks are calling the shot…and are suffering from mild hysteria.”

Clearly the Swiss have the technology, product, price structure and marketing potential to succeed. Failure, by most accounts, would be an incalculable tragedy not only for them, but the watch world as a whole. Declares Seiko president Robert Pliskin: “I wish the Swiss well and hope they can find some way to get it together. The marketplace needs them…and wouldn’t be as good without them.”

But Pliskin’s sentiments beg the inevitable question: Are Swiss watch producers at last ready to march to the regimental drum of ASUAG/SSIH and Ernst Thomke in a coordinated crusade against Far Eastern foes, or will they stubbornly remain “Swiss” and divided among themselves? One thing is certain–the ASUAG/SSIH merger and Ernst Thomke are destined to shape the fate of this problem-racked industry for decades.

10 Selling Tips For Savvy DSRs

What do bad breath, yellow waxy buildup, and bathtub scum have in common? Simple: They’re problems we never knew we had until the marketers of packaged products told us we did.

Marketing, you see, is nothing more complicated than solving someone’s problem for them. Trouble is, often you have to put a lot of effort (read: dollars) into creating awareness of the problem before the real solving (read: selling) can begin. Not so with today’s restaurant operator, who hardly knows where to turn in the face of consumer price resistance, unit saturation, and government interference. Now here’s someone who’s got a lot of problems and knows it.

Did a light bulb just go off in your head? It should have, especially if you stopped to consider that many operators depend on DSRs for much of their marketplace information. Add it all up and you’ve got one beautiful selling…er, make that “problem-solving” situation.

Now you’ve got a problem. What can you tell these trusting souls that will genuinely help them?

Following is a list of 10 items that will help you become that good Samaritan, and possibly hone your own sales pitch as well. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, mind you, just a helpful one. To make it easy to use, it’s divided into five business tips and five food or menu-related tips. Here goes:

* 1. Watch for ideas that help your customers get full or premium price for their goods. Sounds hard to do when more than one-fifth of all restaurant transactions are related to some kind of a deal–a coupon or discounted price. Regardless, there is room to come up with that one extra service, decor, or menu item that will differentiate a restaurant so much from the competition that people will be willing to pay full price, if not a premium one.

This is being done, even by the discounters themselves. Wendy’s, one of the early leaders in value meals, is able to command a price point of $2.99 to $3.49 for its Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich, in large part because of the inclusion of a premium-brand mustard. The excitement surrounding a limited-time promotion supports the price point as well.

At Salty’s in Seattle, owner Gerry Kingen is pushing the notion of super-premium service a la Nordstrom’s department stores by training waitstaff to think of themselves as personal sales reps who maintain a client list, including logs of customer frequency and preferences, and who write thank-you notes to patrons following visits.

* 2. Help operators increase productivity. Restaurateurs are so used to measuring sales by seat or square foot that they often overlook the sales-to-employee ratio. Maybe it’s on purpose, since the average employee accounts for a paltry $31,000 in annual sales.

Selling customers high-quality, value-added product is one obvious solution. Others include recommending labor-saving smallwares, or adopting a whole-plate sell based on assembly procedures rather than recipe cooking.

* 3. Influence government. Recent and pending legislation is not the sexiest-sounding issue out there for operators–only one of the most nettlesome. And the industry has just now begun to realize the influence it commands as the second-largest employer in the country. Get involved, or at least familiarize yourself with the major issues, such as the FICA/FUTA tax, worker’s comp, blood-alcohol content, and ingredient labeling. Or do you relish the impact on your account’s sales of President Clinton’s proposed 50-percent business-meal deduction?

* 4. Focus on the needs of the line managers. They may or may not make direct purchasing decisions, but restaurant companies are beginning to emphasize the role unit and line managers play in enhancing profit. And for good reason.

With layers of middle management being stripped away, there’s nothing like a competent line manager to impact profits with the decisions he or she makes. If you call on a multiunit company, spend some time picking the brains of unit managers; similarly, chat up the steward, night chef, or dining-room manager at your independent accounts to find out what’s bugging them. You just might have a product that would make their lives easier.

* 5. Sell safety. In the wake of the tragic Jack-In-The-Box poisonings, the benefits of basic sanitation couldn’t be clearer to operators. But, as the memory of this event fades, operators will need reminding. Warewashing and cleaning products should be an important part of your sell now and down the road. It’s time to reread all those boring manuals on proper sanitation. Generate a sanitation audit, a checklist that line managers can use at the beginning or end of each shift, with appropriate recommendations of product.

* 6. Work with operators to lower their food cost. For the past five years, your customers’ customers have decreed that menu prices will rise more slowly than the overall inflation rate. That means that operators have to find food that doesn’t cost as much to sell. Translated to ballpark numbers, that means that operators are more likely to shoot for a 25-percent food cost than the traditional 33 percent.

Fortunately for operators, today’s restaurant guests are hungry for all kinds of inexpensive food, such as baked goods, pasta, salads, grains, root vegetables, and legumes. As a DSR, you can fight the move to lower-cost items or you can realize that it’s a strategy that will help your accounts to keep paying their bills. Give them ideas on how to use these products, and at the same time, try to sell them some of your higher-margin items that they’ll need to jazz up these plainer foods–spices and condiments, for example.

* 7. Sell ethnic by region, not country. Now that Americans consume more salsa than ketchup, it’s safe to say that broad ethnic categories such as “Mexican” have gone mainstream. If you want to help operators capture the same intriguing sense of a culinary world tour that these broad categories used to engender, you can show them how to menu Sonoran dishes instead (or Catalonian or Tuscan).

* 8. Expand your customer’s menu without making it bigger. Say what? Here’s the rub: Patrons who perceive an operator’s menu as not varied enough will veto that restaurant as a place to spend their money. However, larger menus cost money for additional inventory, staff training, and possibly equipment. Instead, think of revolving specials or limited-time promotions that work off of an operator’s existing inventory and equipment.

* 9. Think one pile, not three. The old saw about plating separate piles of protein, starch, and vegetable has fallen. All three are fully integrated in stirfries and paella, or stacked in distinct layers, as in lasagna. In either case, the most expensive stuff–the protein–is an ingredient rather than the star.

* 10. Sell brown food. Close your eyes for a minute and think of all your favorite foods. Chances are that if you’re like most people, many of the foods will be–well, brown. French fries. Crusty bread. Sizzling roasts. Your whole-plate strategy should look for opportunities such as adding a dough element to a chicken dish, or upgrading a bread basket. Patrons are past the point of expecting “performance food” in a rainbow of colors.

How do you sell related items as part of a package?

Food distribution representatives are advocating the philosophy of cross-merchandising. They believe that it is not enough to demonstrate a center-of-the-plate item, rather other products that may highlight the main product such as sauces and pies should be suggested to give the customer an idea of how to merchandise the product. At the same time, a customer should not be forced into complying with the cross-merchandising concept.

Here’s what the Rep of the Month does with his accounts:

* Joseph J. Skwara Woodhaven Foods Philadelphia

The answer to this question is common sense. You can’t just throw a slab of beef in front of somebody and say, “Okay, this is it.” If you throw down that slab, you also have to go down a list of different ways that it could be served. In the process, of course, you’re utilizing different products.

I try not to get too pushy when seeking to cross-merchandise items. I tease customers a little bit with some ideas and possibilities. If they take the ball, we can both run with it. But, if they’re really not interested, I’ll just leave it at that.

Any center-of-the-plate item creates a base that you can build on. How the item is prepared determines what goes along with it. You can go into whether it’s sauteed or stir-fried with olive oil or peanut oil. Then you talk about possible side dishes: vegetables, starch, salad, and condiments.

And here are three other approaches:

* David Boss C&W Food Service Tallahassee, Fla.

For me, cross-merchandising has become second nature. One must always keep in mind the items that are closely related to the center of the plate. It’s always nice to sell a steak restaurant its boxed beef, but it would be a crime for me to leave without asking for their steak-sauce, potato, or vegetable business.

One of the easiest times to utilize cross-merchandising is around the holidays. Everyone buys turkeys at Thanksgiving, mostly on price and size. Maybe I won’t have the best price on the turkeys, but I might have the stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pies to sell them. I may even be able to sell the account carving utensils or displays if they have a buffet line.

At the same time, I would try to sell a value-added product such as marinated turkey breast. It may help set the account apart from others and gives you an opportunity to sell a less price-sensitive item.

As a result of cross-merchandising, account penetration can be achieved. It all works toward the goal of addressing customers’ true needs.

* Tom Woppler B&B Food Distributors Terre Haute, Ind.

I often cross-merchandise in sampling. It does no good to show a center-of-the-plate item unless you’re going to show a total plate presentation. You tie your center-of-the-plate item to a vegetable item, or maybe a side dish that the customer doesn’t think of. That way, you can tie two or three items together. You try to pick products that the account doesn’t buy from you.

You have to get a customer or prospect to buy you, not so much the product. If they know that I’m bringing them an item that only I know they can use, the next time I bring something I don’t get a quick rejection.

* Bill Crawford Standard Foods Hurricane, W. Va.

It’s invaluable to the operator to tell him how to merchandise the whole plate. Not just the country-style ribs, but how you would prepare them and what would go well with them. This means becoming more of a sales consultant instead of just a salesman.

As order entry becomes more automated, there will be more emphasis on helping the operator much like a dietitian helps nursing homes and hospitals. Reps will be pressured to be more creative on plate presentations and showing operators how to make money. This will happen in an environment of operators being less willing to deal with many distributors. So specialist distributors won’t be as important as they once were.

The three stages of a successful sales strategy

Food distributors planning to set up partnerships with their customers should follow three levels of sales strategy to ensure the success of the venture. These levels are product-oriented selling, buyer-relationship-oriented selling and partnership selling. Although there is no guaranteed sales strategy, distributors can achieve success by finding the right strategy mix. They should also remember that the three levels work are independent.

There are three levels of sales strategy that you as a DSR must develop when pursuing a productive partnership with your customers:

  1. Product-oriented selling.
  2. Buyer/relationship-oriented selling.
  3. Partnership selling.

These strategies must be developed in sequence and can serve as the core of a sales-development program for your organization.

There is no one right sales strategy. All strategies work to some degree, depending on which is right for your business and customer mix. However, your plan to achieve long-term success as a DSR should be geared towards the partnership level of sales excellence.

Not all customers are candidates for partnership. Eighty percent of your business comes from only 20 percent of your customers. It is that 20 percent that should be the target a partnership relationship.

However, the other 80 percent of your customers cannot be ignored because they are important for your personal income. You can sell them using a lower-level strategy, and then invest your quality time in penetrating and expanding your key accounts. Those are the accounts that pay off in long-term volume and profit.

Think of each strategy level as one of three rocket stages. You cannot reach orbit without good planning and by firing each stage in sequence until the partnership goal is attained.

Each stage builds on the preceding stage, is more complex, and requires more planning, practice, and experience to develop the skills necessary to sell at that higher level. As you understand and move through each stage, you gain the experience necessary to succeed in partnership.

STAGE 1

Product selling is the foundation from which all selling begins. Unfortunately, it is a level that too many DSRs never move beyond. Typical product-oriented salespeople usually fit the negative sales stereotype. They’re always pushing the product.

The product-oriented sales call is typically made with a brochure and a price book. The DSR does lots of talking and not much listening. This type of sales call is also often characterized by pressure selling.

Product-oriented selling is not necessarily a bad strategy, however. You just need to know when it is the right strategy. And it should never be your only strategy.

DSRs use product-selling strategies most of the time. However, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t continue to strive toward a higher-level strategy.

If product selling is your only strategy, your margins will always be squeezed because price is your major competitive difference. The value of your product and service remains at or near a commodity and can easily be matched by your competitor.

All DSRs need experience in product selling. It is the starting point for all new salespeople. They need to know about their company and what it has to offer. They need to know the features and benefits of their products and services. Above all, they need to know the basic of product selling to move on to relationship and partnership selling.

Each level of selling requires knowledge of the basic sales process and the ability to ask for the order. If DSRs cannot operate at this basic level, they will never progress.

STAGE II

Buyer/relationship-oriented selling is built and depends on strong personal relationships between DSRs and customers. It requires a total commitment to serving the customer.

Relationships should be developed with all people who influence the buying decision. These relationships rely on strong support from the functions within your company. Operating in this strategy may require working in the customer’s operation during a unit opening or laying out a customer’s storeroom to be more efficient.

Sometimes the relationship can become more important than the product or service. This can lead to a dangerous situation. An individual or a relationship cannot become more important than the company. The person and the company are one. Your task is to sell the customer profitably, and the relationship is part of accomplishing that task.

Relationship selling is a very important part of the beginning of a partnership. You must have the ability to develop relationships with all of your partnership customers. Foodservice selling is a personal business and often requires a personal effort.

Relationship selling is based on a high degree of service to the customer. Relationships can be a very rewarding part of being in the foodservice business. The value of long-term relationships and continuity cannot be underestimated as an ingredient for success.

STAGE III

This is the highest level of professional selling and should be your goal. Operating at this level is a requirement for success in the ’90s. Partnership selling targets the customers that offer the most growth and profit potential. Having a partnership with key customers can make the difference in your performance as well as that of your company.

Partnership selling requires a commitment of time and energy. It is not a quick sale, but a lasting and profitable sale. Partnership selling has a long sales cycle. Partnership selling also hard work.

There are several requirements for implementing a partnership strategy.

* There is one focus for customer partnerships: improving the customer’s profitability. Partnerships are dedicated to profit improvement. Don’t forget that your profit improvement is a result of your customer’s profit improvement.

* Partnerships are not a bidding process. In a partnership, you work closely with the customer developing plans and proposals.

* Partnerships add value that is recognized by the customer. The value is the result of helping customers solve their operating problems and building their business. Your basis of competition is now value, not price.

* Partnership selling starts with a blank sheet of paper, asking questions, and listening to answers to understand the customer’s needs. From that process, you develop a plan and proposal that addresses the needs of customers and improves their bottom line.

* You must have a thorough understanding of your customers’ operating processes and that includes knowing how they serve their customers.

* You must have mastered the skills in stages I and II.

* You must understand the application of your products and services within the context of your customers’ operations to help them improve their operation. You must be creative and innovative in developing applications. You must be able to think on a perceptual and conceptual basis. Think as the customer would think.

* You must have the total support of all functions in your company. Your company must be committed to the partnership process. Providing the customer with the best your company has to offer is team effort.

Every DSR should evaluate the nature of his or her sales strategy. Then study what elements you need to modify in order to move toward partnerships with your key customers.

A Trend To Sell To: Pizza

Pizza, pizza everywhere. Is there any end to how much pizza Americans can eat? It is market approaching $25 billion. To put it mildly, the pizza business is no longer confined to the local pizzeria. Pizza Hut’s mission statement says that it wants to provide the highest quality pizza for every pizza occasion. We now see pizza in many non-traditional locations such as airports, campuses, business and industry, hospitals, and delis. We even see frozen pizza and pizza kits being sold in fundraising activities. You can sell pizza products in most every segment of the foodservice industry. Here are some tips:

* Talk to your customers about the importance of the pizza business and how it is changing. Pizza offers the operator superior margins.

* Sell the whole pizza, not just pizza sauce, crusts, and toppings. You will enhance your margins because you are selling the whole concept, not just the product.

* Find the right crust for the customer’s operation. Some operators might want to prepare their pizza from scratch, but there are many alternatives such as complete mixes, frozen dough balls, par-baked crusts, and fully prepared and frozen pizzas.

* Help the operator develop promotions, such as double-cheese premiums and point-of-sale material.

* Also help operators select equipment, smallwares, and packaging.

* If you have an independent pizzeria customer, aid it in adding pasta to the menu. The independent operator is at risk as the big pizza chains get bigger and delivery becomes the major way that pizza is being consumed.

The menu of the new millennium

Everything else may be going electronic and “dot-com,” but food is one area in which virtual just doesn’t apply. The bottom line, no matter what dramatic technologically driven changes take place behind the scenes in the next millennium, is that when people sit down to a meal or grab a bite on the go, they will continue to want real, flavorful, wholesome food. No computer-generated, Jetson-esque pill will replace a perfectly grilled steak, out-sizzle a well-made paella or have as much appeal as pastrami and Swiss piled on rye.

That said, however, it’s also a given that food trends and the products that will be in demand over the next few years will continue to change dramatically. Dishes that are well-loved today could go the way of Steak Dianne, Lobster Thermidor, blackened Redfish and Chocolate Mousse. Menu trends analyst Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Company, Atlanta, has identified six major menu trends that DSRs should know about for selling in the years ahead:

Flavor. This is perhaps the biggest overall trend, impacting menus in every market segment. Aging baby boomers and fast-growing ethnic populations demand more flavor in their food, and that’s likely to continue. Look at mashed potatoes: Yesterday’s plain variety has given way to incrementally more flavorful garlic-mashed, to wasabi- or horseradish-mashed.

Comfort Foods. Lifestyles will only get more hectic and home cooking more of a lost art than it is today. Cravings for comfort foods–at least among baby boomers who can still reminisce about homemade macaroni and cheese, pot roast or meatloaf–will endure. Long-term, however, Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers growing up on Udon noodles and chicken quesadillas are likely to have a whole different notion of comfort food than their boomer parents do.

Sheer Indulgence. Futurists contend that the 21st Century will be the century of the consumer. Even more than today, they’ll want what they want, when they want it–no exceptions. And they’ll be willing to pay a premium for brands and branded dining experiences that minimize frustration, maximize convenience and deliver consistency and quality. A strong economy helps the indulgence factor. If it endures, restaurants will continue to reap the benefits of the “wealth effect.”

Ethnic Foods. According to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau, non-Hispanic whites will comprise 62.4 percent of the U.S. population by the year 2025, down from 72.5 percent in 1998. Watts Wacker, founder of FirstMatter, a business think tank in Westport, CT, sums it up thusly in a recent American Demographics article: “The day of the ‘Aryan from Darien’ is over.” For the food industry, that means a greater variety of ethnic foods, with increased emphasis on authenticity and on regional variations. Cuisines such as Caribbean, Latin and Thai will be as commonplace as Italian and Mexican are today.

Menu Variety. Same old, same old won’t fly in the future as it has in the past. Restaurants will be under increased pressure to keep changing their menus, to continually offer easily-bored, evermore-sophisticated patrons something new and different. Look at what’s already going on in the once-simple burger category: Leading casual-dining chains are jazzing things up with offerings such as Fried Cheese Cheeseburger, Buffalo-Style Burger, Nacho Burger, Hickory Burger, Bacon Blue Burger, Horseradish Burger and Swiss. Bacon and Water Chestnut Burger. Then, of course, there are veggie burgers, turkey burgers, chicken burgers, salmon burgers…

Dramatic Preparation. Look for even more emphasis on preparation as a marketing tool in the future. Mesquite grilling, live-fire cooking, brick-oven baking, smoking, planking and cooking to-order every which way will all pick up steam as operators strive to add more flavor, market freshness and “sell the sizzle.”

CARE FOR POWER WITH THAT?

Don’t look for Americans’ dietary schizophrenia to fade any time soon. At the same time that consumers are indulging in more prime steaks, martinis and high-fat ice creams than ever before, they want more foods that promise to help them get or stay slim and healthy. Enter value-added nutraceuticals (a.k.a. functional foods), a whole new category of cuisine that we can expect to see more of in the years to come both at retail and in foodservice.

Industry innovators such as Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee Co. already are introducing the idea to appreciative audiences. The company launched Power blended beverages in 1998, beginning with Power Frappuccino. “It’s a combination of chilled Starbucks coffee, ice, lowfat milk and a powerful mix of vitamins and protein,” says spokesperson Chris Gimbl. “It’s fortified to deliver 25 percent of the typical adult’s suggested daily intake of 12 essential vitamins.” The company also offers its Power Pack, which comes in powdered form and is added to beverages just before blending, in its Tiazzi blended juiced tea.

Smoothie operations, too, are on the nutraceutical bandwagon, offering a fast-growing menu of add-ins designed to tap a variety of health and nutrition concerns–ginseng for energy, echinacea for cold-fighting properties, calcium and protein as dietary supplements, for example. Other types of menus and broader use of functional foods as a marketing strategy are certainly in the cards. Some newer products already hitting the retail market are salmon burgers with 50 percent more omega 3 fatty acids, chewing gums and juices with calcium, cookies with antioxidants and cakes with fiber.

According to Restaurant Industry 2010, a new study by the National Restaurant Association, “Restaurants that incorporate functional foods in their recipes will be well positioned to compete for customers…Rapid advances in food technology will result in numerous culinary innovations and applications as functional foods become mainstream. Chefs will be better able to create low-fat dishes that taste as good as traditional foods. As food preparers learn to enrich the taste of reduced-fat and no-fat products, consumers will benefit from a greater variety of nutritious food choices.”

Along those lines, look for the mainstreaming of a wider variety of organic products, especially in the dairy and produce categories, as well as more soy-based or soy-enriched products. Two food industry giants–Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Kellogg Co.–have launched “SoyStarts” education program to encourage consumers to add soy to their diets. Kellogg has also been experimenting with a soy protein and whole wheat cereal intended as a meal replacement–not just for breakfast.

ADM said earlier this year that it was expanding capacity at some of its processing plants to handle what the company expected would be huge consumer demand for soy-based drinks and nonmeat burgers following the Food and Drug Administration’s recent endorsement of soy protein as effective in reducing cholesterol.

Look also for increasing acceptance of alternative products and preparations that, like supplements added to foods, can offer a more nutritious profile–baked goods made with prune puree as a natural fat-replacer, burgers made from poultry and vegetables, more baking vs. frying, for instance.

More menu play for specialized diets–vegetarian, in particular–is ahead as well, as is increased marketing in foodservice of dishes designed to fit into popular weight-loss diets, such as high-protein/low-carbohydrate or sugar-free. That, of course, and even more double-mega-supersized fries and shakes.