Although it paid well, the travel was brutal, and I was only involved in the initial contact with customers," he says.
Little says he was fortunate to find his career match slightly more than eight years ago, since his only exposure to the foodservice industry was working in a supermarket as a teenager. After joining Rapids in an inside sales role, Little then spent time working at its sister company, Chain Restaurant Solutions. About four years ago, Little took an outside sales position at Rapids.
FE&S: How did your time in IT sales help prepare you for a career in foodservice?
TL: It helped me learn the importance of knowing the details and the value of developing relationships. In the foodservice industry, like in the IT industry, there are hundreds of thousands of different products. It's important to be knowledgeable from the customer's standpoint, but developing the relationship and clients knowing they can trust what I say and do is the first step. Also, I became accustomed to traveling in my last sales job.
FE&S: You often develop equipment packages for your customers. In your opinion, what goes into developing a good equipment package?
TL: The biggest component is to ask questions of the customer to find out what headaches they deal with, what works and what doesn't work with their current process/operation. It's up to us to assist them along the way, but also listen to what they say and need and make sure the right people get involved. I'm fortunate to have a great team backing me up in terms of design and project coordination.
FE&S: You have a reputation for knowing the answers before some of your customers ask questions. How do you do this?
TL: I was once told to approach each initial customer meeting like I would a job interview, and do as much research and develop a list of questions before the first meeting. Having an idea about how the company operates and asking the right questions gives me the opportunity to discuss with the client what they actually care about or want and need to know without wasting their valuable time.
FE&S: What's the secret to balancing the needs of your customers and company to ensure a happy and healthy relationship for both?
TL: My main concern is always the customer. I strive to do everything I can to help and keep clients happy. It's important to provide great service and products, but also to help solve problems. Our staff helps to take the load off so we can focus on customers.
FE&S: When something does not go as planned with a job, what's the key to a successful resolution?
TL: The key is to stay involved and be available as much as I can. I sometimes get calls in the middle of the night. If I don't have the answers, it's important to know who to go to and have resources available to figure it out. I learned in sales training to always try and treat customers as you would treat your mother. I think it is very important to understand customer needs, and truly and sincerely care about their success.