Terry Arellano of Tacoma, Wash.-based Bargreen-Ellingson, FE&S’ DSR of the Month for February 2005, transcends mere top-flight service and goes all the way to full-scale friendship with many of his clients.
“My customers and I get to the point where we’re very close and very open, and we’re almost best friends,” he said. “Once I get to that point, I earn their respect.”
Arellano said he has always felt the desire to treat his customers, “as if their businesses were my own. I want things done now, so I treat other people the same way.”
This treatment manifests itself most clearly in Arellano’s response-time to client requests. “From what I hear from my customers, I seem to stand ahead of everybody else in my follow-up and responsiveness,” he said. “Originally, I had a personal goal of returning all phone calls within a half-hour. That’s always been something I’ve done. I may only tell them, 'Hey, I got your message and I’m working on it,’ but I always try to return a phone call that fast.”
On the other hand, many DSRs today, Arellano believes, are growing complacent. “A lot of people assume, 'The business is out there and I’m going to get it.’ In my opinion, the industry is not doing a great job servicing our customers. We’re just doing a good job. It’s a lot easier to get business when you’re great than when you’re good.”
Arellano, who joined Bargreen-Ellingson 11 years ago, specializes in selling to grocery and convenience stores; coffee houses; and bakery and sandwich chains. Along with Division Manager Brett Olson, he handles a 1,400-store grocery account out of Bargreen-Ellingson’s Portland, Ore., office.
Working with retail, he said, is “a whole different ballgame. You’re dealing with multiple departments within a store. It’s like having five or six restaurants in one store. You’re pulled in many different ways and asked to do many different things. One moment you’re working on a smallwares package and before you know it you have been pulled off to work on an equipment deal.”
Arellano’s business mix breaks down to about 60% smallwares and 40% equipment. All told, he accounted for roughly $2 million in sales in 2004. 2005 “looks like it’s going to be a much greater year,” he said. He has developed some new chain accounts, but even more important is that he is growing with his existing customers.
“I’ve always thought the best way to grow your business is to grow within the accounts you have,” he explained. “For a lot of my accounts, there is so much more that we could go after.”
To gain this work, Arellano closely examines his clients’ businesses to find additional ways he can be of service — even for those operators who buy direct, which, he said, “happens a lot among the bigger chains. I ask myself: How can I take the direct business and redirect it back my way and benefit both the customer and our company? How I do it, for the most part, is to develop the client relationship.”
Arellano, who, with his wife Marcy and children Elizabeth, 8, Ashley, 6, and baby Kaden, lives in Beaverton, Ore., urges colleagues to “listen to their customers. A lot of times our customers will tell us things we’re just not hearing. A lot of times DSRs will talk themselves out of a sale. The true key, in my opinion, is to develop your people skills. People skills will be the number-one way you will win your customers over.”