How To Become a Killer Food Sales Rep

Oct 14, 2019

Food! Quite literally, none of us can live without it. That’s what makes it such a stable industry — people will always need to buy some kind of food to eat.

But when it comes to a career in food sales, you can’t just set it and forget it. A little garnish is needed if you want your career to get to the next level.

Here’s what it takes to not only be a food sales rep but be awesome at it.

Build Trust by Deeply Understanding your Buyers

79 percent of buyers said they needed their sales rep to be a trusted advisor in order to feel comfortable with the relationship.

“Suppliers need to gain an understanding and respect for their customers. Too many suppliers are simply order-takers,” says John Bornoty, CEO & Founder of The Big Salad, according to QSR Magazine.

A great way to do this is by thinking about every way food plays a part in your buyer’s business. Take the menu, for example. Are there ways to make their lives easier by suggesting ways to include your product in their marketing?

Another way to build trust is to consider credentials that are valued in the food business, like a license to handle food. And think back on that college job — if you’ve had a food industry job, consider how you can lean on your expertise while building relationships.

And of course, figure out how to know your buyers more than they know themselves. This may take some serious research. Start off by asking lots of open-ended sales questions and then follow up with solutions. Taking some time to come back with substantive advice will set you apart from the pack and make you more memorable.

Talk to Stakeholders Other than Buyers

In order to anticipate the needs of your buyers, consider who is actually eating or drinking the products you sell.

Kevin Song, who worked as a food sales rep for Kraft Heinz, recommends spending quality time in the actual places where products are featured to discover ways to increase sales.

“Just being in the store, you get a feel and a sense for all the execution of the plans and strategies that headquarters makes,” he told Fortune Magazine. “I was really able to see how certain promotions and pricing actions led to increased sales by looking at the traffic of consumers in-aisle.”

By observing and interacting with the entire ecosystem, you’ll be able to make valuable suggestions to your buyer. Social media profiles and review websites (like Yelp) are also helpful ways to learn about how people are interacting with and understanding your buyer’s brand. This extra dash of marketing research can amp up your persuasion with new selling points.  

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

One study showed a 68 percent increase in customer engagement when sellers showed they were aware of current trends. But how?

Keeping an eye on Google Trends and comparing new products with similar or related foods can be helpful. Also setting up Google Alerts regarding various kinds of foods or meal types can help you keep an eye on interesting stories and research that is great to include in your pitches and customer communications.

But before jumping on trendy products, watch out. Mainstream adoption of eco-friendly or health-conscious alternatives can be tricky to truly measure. It’s worth it to make sure the trend has legs. Sure Burger King and McDonalds are into plant-based alternative meat right now, but will it last? Not to say hopping on trends isn’t lucrative, but it should be weighed when determining how much time you’re willing to invest or how much profit you’re expecting.

Sell More by Doing Less Busywork

Being a food sales rep can mean a life on the road. Visiting restaurants or other institutions that purchase food can eat up a lot of time.

So get efficient. Think about how you can make your trips more efficient and how quickly you’re collecting data as you go. Shaving off a few minutes here and there can quickly add up — and give you more time to sell rather than sift paperwork.

A key part of this is making sure you have the right sales CMS. That’s exactly why we created Map My Customers, which combines route optimization functionalities with a robust sales management system to do a ton of work for you. From automatic check-ins to instant data visualization, it’s a great option to help you shift your focus from record-keeping and trip planning to the art of selling your product.

Make Sure your Pitch Appeals to Hearts, not just Minds.

“What we choose to eat is the most intimate, subjective decision we make,” says Brent Cunningham in his take of plant-based meat substitutes for Vox. “The foods that are normal in our lives are deeply tied to tradition and nostalgia, to celebration and comfort — to our sense of who we are and where we fit in the world.”

Food is powerful and because of that inherent power, it might result in pitches that rest on those laurels. Instead of it selling itself, think about how your product is a part of a bigger story and appeal to the love that your buyers have for it.

But when all else fails, remember why your potential buyers may be reluctant.

“Two things are especially true about shopping for groceries,” says Jason Aten at Inc. “The first is that most people are creatures of habit. The second is that those habits are largely built on convenience and price, making it hard to break people of their preferred grocery store unless you can make the experience of buying food easier and less expensive.”

Explaining what someone could gain with less stress and more money in their lives is always persuasive. Just always remember to paint a picture of what that looks like, rather than telling them that it’s true.

Amp Up the “Know” in your “Know-How”

Most of what it takes to be a good food sales rep boils down to research — about your client, about your industry, and about your product’s story. But to go the extra mile, the features offered by Map My Customers can also optimize your literal journey to success. Try it out today and see if it doesn’t just help make ends meat, but make your profits butter than ever. 😉