After managing a pizza franchise for a number of years, Eric Harrison, Supplies on the Fly, knew he wanted to be in sales. He joined his first foodservice equipment dealership in 2003 and was determined to educate himself about every aspect of the industry along the way.
"I became a sponge to learn as much about equipment, smallwares and tabletop as I could," Harrison says. "I wanted to be as well rounded as possible."
That mission has served him well for the past decade as a sales rep for Supplies on the Fly, a division of Kennesaw, Ga.-based dealer Instawares. The company was purchased by Sysco in early 2016. Harrison manages a very diverse client base that ranges from independents to chain restaurants, hotels and nontraditional foodservice operators, such as amusement parks and offshore customers.
FE&S: You are a self-described jack of all trades, meaning you know a little about everything from teaspoons to walk-ins. How do you keep your knowledge base current?
EH: I consider myself a student of the industry. I make a point of going to all training sessions that I can attend, as well as trade shows. I'm constantly studying spec sheets. I'm always learning and absorbing as much as I can.
FE&S: Good follow-up is important when working with customers and supply chain partners. How do you make sure none of the details fall through the cracks?
EH: First and foremost, I have a great support team that helps with open orders and tracking. I make sure to stay on top of where my projects are and the stages they're in. I also know when to follow up and when drawings are expected. Staying on top of open projects is key.
FE&S: When something does not go as planned, what's the most important step to rectify the situation?
EH: The speed in getting it handled is most important. Mistakes will happen, but it's how you correct them and how quickly these are resolved that matters. Customers should not be delayed in opening or need to change their daily activities because the equipment is not there.
FE&S: How does technology make working with customers more effective?
EH: Technology helps with the speed in getting answers and working during off times. Manufacturers have portals where dealerships can get tracking information on an order or find out what the lead time will be.
Many manufacturers also are sharing their feed in Autoquotes, so I can get tracking information at any time in real time. I was recently on the phone with a customer who ordered 100 line items, and I could tell him it shipped without putting him on hold and also provide specifics on the delivery. It's that immediate.
FE&S: What are the most important qualities of a successful DSR?
EH: Knowledge is number one. Knowing the product and what you're selling is key. Also, cultivating relationships and knowing who to call if you need help is huge in this business. Without those, you can't be successful.
It's also important to learn everything possible and keep learning. The industry and its equipment are always changing, staying current and educated helps ensure success.