Hall embodies every quality commonly associated with top salespeople: charisma, confidence, passion, drive, empathy and problem-solving skills.
His approach to the sales representative role refutes any notion that success in sales comes by way of being pushy or unscrupulous. His energy comes through with ambition versus force. A fine line, to be sure, but it is precisely what sets him apart from his peers. His authenticity, combined with an unlikely mix of being both scrappy and savvy, serve as cornerstones of his successful career as a dealer sales rep (DSR).
Hall transitioned from chef/small business owner to DSR with Innovative Foodservice Group (IFG) in 2016. In the past seven years, he has built a book of business that is on track to hit $4 million this year, expanded his territory and evolved into a leadership role where he now oversees more than 10 salespeople. Hall added more to his plate in July, when his title became East Coast regional sales manager. He will now set out to conquer the Atlanta area while continuing to oversee his existing IFG markets.
IFG has grown through acquisition to now include nine different entities under its corporate umbrella: Louis Wohl & Sons, Beltram Foodservice, E.H. Thompson, B&J Foodservice, Beltram of the Carolinas, JES Restaurant Supply, Chef’s Warehouse, Food Service Renovations and Big A Distributors.
Rising Up the Ranks
Hall grew up in Rillton, Pa., which sits about 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh. He describes it as “cow country.” His first foodservice job was at a local pizza shop at age 16.
In 1995, Hall moved to Orlando, Fla. That decision became the launching point into his chef beginnings when he began working as an entry-level cook at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort and Dolphin Resort. Participating in an apprenticeship program while at the resort boosted his career. “I worked in every outlet by the end of my stint with them and ended up as a junior sous chef — a roundsman [part of the kitchen hierarchy nomenclature: one who can fill in at all stations versus having specific duties].” He credits the late Luis Felix with teaching him both necessary culinary skills and life lessons during his time at Walt Disney World.
Hall’s rise through the ranks is entirely the product of hard work and hands-on training. He has no formal culinary training and no college degree. Neither are an embarrassment nor regret for him — they are simply credit to his determination to press on to higher ground.
In 2002, Hall became an executive sous chef for the opening team for what is now known as the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal Hotel; he was named the executive chef in 2004 and then spent the next eight years developing the Crowne Plaza brand and menus with other chefs from around the globe.
Hall assumed his final chef-driven role in 2012, when he purchased a local pizza concept, SmashMouth Pizza, and started Paleo RX, a local meal-delivery company based on the paleo diet. The meal plan included two deliveries a week that met the calorie intake and requirements associated with a paleo diet. He sold both businesses in 2016.
While in the process of easing out of SmashMouth Pizza and Paleo RX, Fred Rose, Hall’s sales rep at Louis Wohl & Sons at the time, had been talking to him about a possible sales position at the company. “Occasionally, he would ask me if I was interested in coming over to the other side, but I didn’t really take it seriously because so often chefs were not taken seriously for those roles at that time,” Hall recalls. Eventually, Rose convinced him to meet with the director of sales at IFG, Steve Marano, who was impressed with Hall’s demeanor, and Hall navigated the transition from chef to salesman.
What made Hall finally put the chef’s knife down? “Quality of life. 100%,” he says. “When you miss every holiday and virtually everything because you are working — I didn’t want to keep missing it all.” While he continues to maintain long hours on the job, it’s a different kind of challenge, he says. “I had some people tell me I wouldn’t be good at it and to stay in the culinary side of the business. That motivated me on every level to make this new opportunity work.”
And make it work Hall has. He started with Louis Wohl & Sons as a street sales rep in Orlando, tapping his lengthy list of chef contacts and relationships in the area to grow his book of business. Now, as Hall heads into the Atlanta market, he returns to cold calling. “I have no set customers [in Atlanta],” he says. “And there are lots of dealers to compete with there.” First on his agenda will be to carve out a niche where IFG can be successful.
“From being on the chef’s side, I know there are existing commitments; a chef likely has to do 80% of their budget with the corporate contract, but that leaves a window for me,” Hall explains. The remaining 20% will generally go toward beef or seafood purchases, he notes, as chefs often prefer to source those items through a specialty house. “At the end of the day, out of that 20%, maybe I can get 5% of that,” Hall admits.
But make no mistake: Once he gets his foot in the door, and someone allows him the opportunity, Hall will pull out all the stops on customer service, pricing — everything. “If something is not available from their corporate contract order, and they call me for help, my answer will be ‘yes, I’ll have it there tomorrow.’ Once you get in, it’s your job to grow the roots,” he notes.
As Hall’s career history clearly shows, when opportunity knocks, he enthusiastically answers. “I like a good challenge,” he says of both building the Atlanta market and his early days starting out as a DSR. “I started as a chef off the street, and I’m one of the strongest guys now. I started cold calling my territory — first with my chef colleagues.”
Maintaining close relationships with customers from all business segments allows Hall to always have a finger on the pulse of what is next for hotels, resorts or restaurants. He seizes every opportunity. “I talk to general contractors when they are building,” he adds. “I’m not afraid to walk through a dirt lot and talk to someone.” Additionally, he watches for businesses applying for licenses and starts making calls off that list.
Even in a large market like Orlando, Hall still feels like it’s a small community of people — and he knows most of them.
“Everyone in Orlando knows him,” confirms Patrick Daly, IFG sales representative. “He’s worked in a lot of places and keeps in touch with people. He’s also a guy that can read a room, and then he puts the effort in to know everyone in the room.”
Considered the rookie on the team with a mere three months’ tenure, Daly’s connection to Hall dates back 20 years when Hall worked for him at Crowne Plaza. Daly finds Hall always at the ready to help him learn the DSR ropes. “He’s quick to hand off clients and genuinely supports his team,” Daly says.
Bob Saraceno, director of sales for Eaton Marketing, a manufacturers’ rep group, likens Hall to the human version of social media. “He’s the living, breathing version of social media,” he says. “Scott goes above and beyond in every way, and people like him don’t come around very often. He takes care of his customers and is willing to go outside his comfort zone. When you know someone and trust someone, you want to stay with them.”
Indeed, Saraceno and Eaton Marketing have been nurturing their relationship with Hall for nearly a decade. “He leans on us for technology and the heavy-equipment side,” Saraceno says. Often that comes by way of Eaton Marketing’s test kitchen, where Hall invites customers to test different equipment pieces and layouts.
“Chef” will forever be how Scott Hall self-identifies, regardless of any official title attached to his name. He holds the chef role in the highest regard. While he relinquished the chef’s jacket when he “went to the other side” (an often-used phrase when someone switches from working in foodservice on the operator side to the manufacturer or distributor side), he keeps his jacket at the ready.
Hall credits Jeff Simon, former owner and president of Louis Wohl & Sons (now part of IFG), with giving him the DSR opportunity. “He took a shot on me,” he says. “Every day, I am thankful for him giving me the opportunity to learn and grow in this industry to what I am today.”
Doing Business Today
Hall’s client list to date totals nearly 200 customers. He works his territory on an A-B-C system with largest-dollar volume customers earning the A ranking. The As secure the greatest percentage of his attention. “I’ll reach out every three or four days,” he says. “I have a good feel for when they will be busy in their territory. Knowing their volume, I can kind of gauge when they might be in need of more glassware, for example, or logo cups. They appreciate that.” These are large customers purchasing in large quantities, mostly in the Orlando tourism area, some making weekly china, glassware and silver purchases. Disposables top off reorders since storage at restaurants tends to be minimal. Equipment has a longer duration, so naturally those purchases are less frequent.
One of the main tenets of Hall’s approach is to stay consistent with customers. That holds true for all clients, regardless of the spend. He makes himself available to clients far outside of traditional work hours, commits to returning calls or texts within 24 hours and maintains a strict policy of honesty above all else.
Hall is not afraid to speak frankly if a customer requests an item that he does not think they need, which largely comes from his confidence as a former chef. “I talked someone out of a steamer this year because they really didn’t need it,” he says. “I understand what they really need; if they still want the item, of course I’ll sell it to them, but I have never had someone say I misled them.”
That customer that originally reached out about that steamer ended up reallocating that money to tabletop items as part of a refresh.
Hall’s daily routine is anything but ordinary. One week involved troubleshooting for a hospital that had a problem with a piece of equipment, helping a customer with backordered items they needed for a banquet (these were items not ordered through IFG) and taking a 5 a.m. phone call to help another operator whose oven went out. Hall often finds himself as a bit of a first line of defense for customers in a panic, and one simple reason explains why: He comes through for them.
Hall’s quick to resolve problems himself. Indeed, during the photoshoot for this story, a situation arose with a delivery that missed the truck. When the photoshoot was finished, Hall and his team resolved the problem themselves by loading their cars and driving the items from IFG’s Tampa warehouse to the customer in Orlando. Perhaps not completely out of the norm for top-level salespeople, Hall navigates it all at an incredible speed and with the kind of poise that makes those around him feel like heroes and routinely part of the solution, not the problem.
On the equipment end, Hall finds himself looking for pieces that include more technology without huge expense. “I’m always looking for newer items from factories that will fit into daily operations without breaking the bank,” he says.
Again, Hall leans into his chef training when it comes to technology in the back of the house. “I start with what an operation needs. If a chef asks me about a combi, that conversation starts with an examination of multiple kinds of equipment. I start with the need and the application,” he says.
After that, quality rules. “I don’t want the call later that something isn’t working right because it was cheap,” Hall says. “Everything I send is quality.”
Hall also knows how to partner internally when he lacks knowledge, such as design expertise. “I was teamed up with a legend on the project and design side of my book of business with Tim Calhoun. I pray that one day I will have learned at least half of what he knows. Being able to work alongside him gives me an advantage every single day when it comes to projects,” he says.
Hall leans on manufacturers’ rep groups, including Eaton Marketing in Clearwater, Fla., and Finn Foodservice in Tampa, Fla., to demonstrate new technology to customers. “It’s a great way to introduce a chef to the technology, show them how fast they can get things out and talk about ROI,” he says.
Relationships with manufacturers help Hall with lead time accuracy. “Customers still sometimes think they can place an order for a fryer and have it delivered in two weeks, when it could actually be several months,” he says. Those conversations with factories help him set realistic expectations for his customers.
His communication style wins people over, says Yani Santana, a purchasing agent that works directly with Hall daily at IFG. “He is straight to the point,” she says. “Frank and honest. At the same time, he listens to input from others. I can go to him and say I made a mistake, and I have a solution, and he will listen. He inspires others to achieve the best of our potential.”
Andrew “A.J.” Jones, an IFG DSR on Hall’s team, succinctly states that “he breathes this job.”
The biggest thing for Hall is being honest with people. “Some customers might not like the phone call, but they know with me, they will get the honest answer,” he says. “I want to meet their expectations and never fall short. I want to rope everyone in and create my circle of customers and service them.”
To achieve the level of success Hall has reached today, he credits peers, mentors and, above all else, his family. “My wife and my mother-in-law are rock stars,” he says. “My family unit has contributed more to my career than anyone else.”
Top 3 Sales Strategies
Scott Hall points to these tried-and-true approaches as enabling him to elevate his career:
- Honesty with customers. Hall preaches honesty as a key factor in the relationship that you build with them.
- Product knowledge. Know how a piece of equipment works and where that product will have the best application for the customer — and be cost-effective for them. “A good example is, don’t sell them a salamander when all they need is a cheese melter, even if the
salamander means you make more money,” he says.
- Remember them. One ingredient in Hall’s secret sauce is his supernatural ability to remember people: their personal stories as well as their professional quirks. He knows who to ask how their bowling game was last weekend, who’s dealing with a family issue and who is comfortable with him pitching in to unload product when the kitchen staff is overwhelmed.