For some, industry expertise can be parlayed into diverse careers. Rosana Greco has been involved in hospitality since moving to Miami from Venezuela in 2002. Greco first worked in a small firm, selling fabric and drapery to hotels, where she was initiated into the world of interior design. Five years later, she joined a company that supplied furniture for hotel rooms.
In 2010, when the hospitality industry was hard hit from the recession, a recruiter connected Greco to R.W. Smith. “At that time, I was selling health insurance to make ends meet, but was looking to go back to hospitality,” she says. “I didn’t know much about foodservice, but had worked with restaurants and clubs when I was in the fabrics business.” Greco was among the first salespeople R.W. Smith hired to serve the Florida market. Her clients mainly consist of hotels and mid- to high-end restaurants.
FE&S: What was it like opening a new geographic market for your company?
RG: It was very challenging, especially in the first two years, but I had a couple things going for me. First, I came from an industry that is about relationship building, with mid to long sales cycles, so in this regard it was similar to my new position. Second, in both businesses, we want to be active partners, help with new ideas and provide opportunities to save money.
FE&S: How did you build your product knowledge base and maintain it?
RG: Our company has great training in place, especially when it comes to products. When we first start with the company, we spend three weeks in our San Diego office, then go back every quarter for more training. My Florida team meets once per month with a local rep group to learn about new products and innovations. In my spare time, I read magazines, go to festivals and visit new restaurants, which keep me updated on what’s new and fresh.
FE&S: How does your background selling furnishings and other products help you get the most from your relationships with reps, factories and the like?
RG: Foodservice is quite different than the furniture or the fabric industry. What I brought to my current position from years in the hospitality business is knowledge of the sell cycle and experience in selling value, as well as the relationship-building skill. Fortunately, I had familiarity with the industry as a whole from past experiences working with restaurants from a design perspective, which helped a lot. Chefs and interior designers are very much alike, so with my professional background, I can provide valuable advice in tabletop presentations by understanding their menu and overall concept to complement their vision.
FE&S: You’re known for having a very solutions-oriented approach to selling. What steps do you take to make sure you come to the table with the right solutions for a specific project?
RG: I rely a lot on my team. I work closely with my manager, and sometimes the VP will get involved if we need extra help. It’s important to sit down with a cool head and figure out the different scenarios and avenues to take. I’m not afraid to ask for help or guidance because, at the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s about the customer.