Nancy Barber, a sales rep with The Boelter Cos. in Milwaukee, credits the strong relationships she has with her customers for the notable success she enjoyed last year - and for her designation as FE&S' DSR of the Month for August 2004. Barber's sales growth last year was a phenomenal 32%. She was her firm's 2003 Salesperson of the Year, recording $1.8 million in sales. This year, she noted, she is looking to raise that figure to at least $1.9 million.
What led to her dramatic rise in sales? "I think it's been the supportive relationships I have formed with my customers and their growth," she suggested. "That, and the exceptional customer service that I provide."
Not only is she helping her current customers to thrive, but Barber has worked hard opening new accounts, an effort that has paid strong dividends. Her territory includes Milwaukee's downtown North Shore area, and the cities of Brookfield and Waukesha. Many of her accounts are local independent restaurants.
Another portion of Barber's clientele is comprised of retirement homes and country clubs. One "very, very big" new account has been a private golf club in Wales, Wis.
Barber said she never set out to make country clubs an area of specialization. "It just turned out that way, in part because I get a lot of business from referrals. You know how personnel at clubs change so often. One day, a club manager goes to a different account and he'll call and see if I can service him at that new location."
"It's that close relationship I develop and the fact that I respond to them immediately that helps me stay as their supplier."
Milwaukee-born Barber handles outside sales of both E&S and tabletop items. She entered the industry 24 years ago when she joined Boelter. Previously, she had worked as an assistant floor manager for Gimbel's department store.
Hired because of her retail background, Barber first became a manager at a Boelter satellite store in Brookfield Square called Chef's Domain. "It was open for about two years. I really enjoyed being part of Boelter, so I went to Bill and he said, 'Well, why don't you try showroom sales?' I did that for about a year."
Among the products most popular with her customers today, said Barber, are martini glasses and "different types of tabletop accessories. At a time like this, the economy is picking up a little bit, but many operators can't buy a whole tabletop, so they look at individual pieces."
Barber's strong reputation among her customers has also helped her outpace the economy. "I go in there and listen to them," she related. "We have a saying at Boelter that goes, Attitude Makes the Positive Difference.' It's part of our logo, it's on our calendars and everything we hand out to customers. When a customer has an emergency or another problem, the first thing they'll say to me is, 'Nancy, remember: Attitude Makes the Positive Difference.' They even know our tag line. It's that close relationship I develop with them and the fact that I respond to them immediately that helps me stay as their supplier."
Barber belongs to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and is heavily involved in the American Culinary Federation. "Being committed all the way around is very important. I have a husband, Michael, who allows me to spend 24 hours a day at this job, when I have to. My customers are free to call me at home. They know my husband on a personal basis, and he's very, very supportive of my job, which is absolutely wonderful." The couple's son, Jason, lives in Milwaukee, while their daughter, Maggie, resides in New York.