The foodservice industry was different when Dan Skipper worked as a draftsman for a restaurant equipment company back in 1968. In the days before CAD and computers, hand-drawn plans and snail mail presented a number of challenges.
FE&S: You have been in the industry 45 years. What keeps you coming back?
DS: This is one of the toughest industries to be in, but one I've grown to love. When someone comes to me and says his wife makes the best spaghetti and he wants to open a restaurant to showcase it, I can help make their dream a reality.
FE&S: What is the most important thing you've learned over the years as a salesperson?
DS: It's important to create a sense of urgency for clients to pay. Dealers who don't get paid can't exist. It's important to negotiate a contract so clients can pay on time. Also, don't take it for granted that the check is in the mail.
FE&S: You work with a variety of clients. How do you make sure they each feel they get their money's worth from you and your company?
DS: When I started in this business 45 years ago, it was important to make friends with our customers, because there weren't many of them out there at the time. The customer is most important, so I use whatever means are necessary to treat them fairly and make sure that they receive the proper equipment. Always tell the truth, because you can remember the truth, but you can't always remember a lie.
FE&S: Why is having a broad base of product knowledge important to your success?
DS: The NAFEM Show is so critical for dealer salespeople to learn about equipment and how to use it. Some manufacturers go to extremes to assist dealers with this education, and that is so important. I think it's critical for manufacturers to train salespeople so they are knowledgeable and know what the options are for their customers.
FE&S: Are there innovative ways that you keep current on your product knowledge?
DS: As a salesman and manager, I tell my staff that the more knowledge they have, the less they will have to deal with competition and pricing issues. Seminars are a great resource for information. Customers will benefit from our knowledge, and we'll be able to lead them in the direction they need to go. It's important to take the time to learn about the equipment to provide customers with the information they need to make the right decisions. Rather than looking at photos or a video, the best way to learn is with hands-on training. Dealers need to be able to kick the tires.
FE&S: What's the most important lesson you have learned over the course of your career?
DS: When I started in the business, everything we did was by hand and by adding machine. Today's technology has helped in a big way. It gives me time to handle more projects.