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1039: Reinhart Shawano’s Mike Lichtfuss DSR of the Month

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"Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."

– Mike Lichtfuss

Mike Lichtfuss of REINHART FOODSERVICE - SHAWANO, Wisconsin is the latest DSR to be inducted into the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame as the October DSR of the Month.

Lichtfuss began his foodservice career 38 years ago at the age of 16 as a cook at Ponderosa and it’s been in his blood ever since. His experience spans the back and front-of-the-house, bartending, and hotel restaurant management. Once becoming a DSR, he loved it from the beginning, but it took 4-5 years for the job to come together and really start clicking.

Product knowledge was the most difficult part of the job with 12,000 SKUs at the time, even the top 200 were a bit overwhelming. Time management was challenging, mainly due to spending too much time with customers who weren’t going to benefit him and the company long term and not enough time with the potential larger customers. Lichtfuss says you must learn to allocate your time more appropriately based on the numbers you’re currently writing, possibly on an account that’s not going to grow, versus the potential numbers for a more viable account. Mike learned that trying to be everything to everybody didn’t good business sense.

Mike’s TIPS to DSRs:

  • Connect with them on a personal level. People buy from those they trust and connect with.
  • Make it as easy on them to get product as possible. Make their life simpler. Then price becomes secondary.
  • Be the person they look forward to seeing.
  • Be a customer first. Do your homework, then come back, as a customer again, asking for the decision maker.
  • When they tell him they’re happy with their current distributor, he respects that, because he has many customers who feel that way about him and his company. But, things change and issues come up and there are situations the prospect can’t get results from with their current supplier, and Mike eventually gets to those by asking questions.
  • You need balance in your life as a DSR, such as setting parameters. So, when they send Mike their message at 11 pm when they’re working, they know he will respond at 5 am when he’s working.

A/R used to be intimidating, “I used to think of it as a negative, but it’s all part of the process, it’s not a negative. It’s real simple, we bring you food, you pay for food.” It’s all about managing your customer’s expectations.

Advise for greenhorns:

  1. Keep a level head.
  2. Keep working at it. Problems you have now that seem like huge problems will go away and be simpler in the future.
  3. Even if you were a chef or have a restaurant background, it won’t mean anything to a prospect until they know you care about their business. "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."

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