Even though jan/san and foodservice products are related segments, they are typically purchased by separate decision makers.

Sales representatives who are attempting to cold call an institution should begin at its website, says Mac​Dermott.

There they will be able to learn who’s who within an organization and begin building an organizational tree of decision makers, which can be beneficial when trying to determine who ultimately would be interested in purchasing foodservice disposables.
Reps may also learn how decisions are made, especially if the organization is a public entity, which tends to be more forthcoming and open about procurement, than private businesses.

“Take the University of Pennsylvania, just as an example, and go to their website and look up dining service … and you will find the name of the director and the name of everyone except the dishwasher,” says Mac​Dermott. “It’s very worthwhile to get on campus and understand how dynamics work, because it is not identical” from institution to institution.

If a distributor already has a relationship with the institution, then engaging the foodservice decision-maker should be easier.

Facility managers and foodservice directors likely cross paths and have some of the same needs and pains when it comes to sanitation, ordering, receiving and billing, says Nolan.

“There will be a foodservice director, most likely, but they are probably relating very much to a facility director, and they are probably having a lot of common discussions and are involved in similar budget meetings,” he says. “If you look at a foodservice director, there is a good chance that there are going to be restroom and cleaning supplies that are need in their kitchen area, so there is a way in.”

Nolan says that even if a distributor is not immediately selling foodservice disposables to a business or institution, they should still be creating and nurturing relationships with foodservice directors.

“You at some point will be in a meeting or discussion with both (facility and foodservice director) because of the relationship with cleaning chemicals and restroom products, so it’s a real value to us,” says Nolan. “We believe in having an expertise in both, because it’s definitely two different conversations.”

Size Matters

A distributor’s size and capabilities are extremely relevant when trying to penetrate an educational, healthcare or retail entity with a line of foodservice disposables. A single facility manager may be the point person in a small institution while an in-house purchasing department may exist in a larger institution, says Mac​Dermott.

“Your best bet is to start with the medium size and smaller colleges, where things are less formal, where you are making personal contacts rather than just being one name among 40 other people,” he says. 

Instead of attempting to call into a large state-run university system or a chain of hospitals in a metro area, a distributor’s sales staff may also need to engage with an outside contractor that operates the institution’s foodservice.

“When you deal with foodservice contractors, you will have a bonanza,” says MacDermott. “The major foodservice contractors have their clients in the thousands, the midrange ones have a couple of hundred clients and there are a number of relatively small regional ones that have maybe 10 to 50 accounts.”

As a result, Mac​Dermott explains, a distributor with an attractive offering of foodservice disposables can reach many institutions through enticing just one foodservice contractor or a group purchasing organization.

“Any distributor with a relatively small area would do better at going after the regional foodservice company,” says MacDermott. “The national foodservice companies tend to go with the bigger suppliers … such as the broad-line distributors like Sysco.”

Sales reps may run into a situation where they are not told that the institution contracts out its foodservice purchasing until they meet with the kitchen manager, says Phill Caballero, the foodservice segment division manager at Brady Industries, a jan/san distributor in Las Vegas.

“That is how they are digging in terms of what is and what is not and who can they sell to and what will they not be able to sell to,” says Caballero.
In some cases, the biggest competitor will be giant companies like Sysco.

“So you have to have a good argument why they should take a portion of Sysco’s business and give it to you,” says
Mac​Dermott. “You are not going to beat Sysco on price if you are going to stay in business, so it has to be on the service side.”

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