Dov Soiefer, Culinary Depot
Dov Soiefer joined Culinary Depot 15 years ago, working in its retail operation. From there, he learned the ins and outs of foodservice equipment and supplies from the ground up, one customer and one application at a time.
That steady yet thorough approach has allowed Soiefer to develop what some of his customers describe as an encyclopedic knowledge of foodservice equipment and supplies. More important, though, it has helped Soiefer earn their trust through his product knowledge, timely and thorough follow-up, and his honest and straightforward approach.
Two years ago, Soiefer made what was a difficult personal decision to move to outside sales, where he continues to test and stretch that product knowledge base today in his role as executive sales rep.
Q: You spent 12 years in retail foodservice equipment sales. What’s the most unusual request you received from a customer?
A: We’ve had some pretty crazy requests. People looking for maps, globes or even parts for tools. There are many examples of customers walking in and asking for, say, a specific food processor. Before grabbing the sale, I would ask the customer what they planned to do with it, and often, the customer would end up walking out with something that was a quarter of the price. Once you build that trust where the customer walks out with what they actually need and not what they think they need, then customers start coming in and asking you for other items. One school foodservice operator came in asking for six convection ovens, but after we discussed the menu, volume and so forth, he walked out with two combi ovens that when used correctly were going to pay for themselves in less than a year. When you have that trust, you can work with them on larger purchases.
Q: What is it that you love about retail?
A: It was a very tough decision to move from retail into outside sales. In retail, we had built almost a family-like environment. In the corner of the retail area, we created a space where we serve coffee and pastries to customers. They come in and have a coffee and talk. Sometimes, they do not even buy anything, but I loved it anyway because we built such a trusting and inviting environment. I fed off that and felt like I built that up and did not want to walk away from that after all these years.
Q: How does your experience as a retail salesperson apply to your work today?
A: The concept I built in the showroom, and I use now, is to be a solutions provider. Don’t be an order taker. This company started with the owner, Sholem Potash, working as a chef. He felt if chefs were not fully educated on all the equipment, they would be stuck. They need a place to come or someone to turn to that understands what they need. So that’s the basis of my success and the company’s success.
Q: You’re known for having an encyclopedic knowledge of foodservice equipment and supplies. How did you get to that point, and how do you keep your knowledge base current?
A: I was thrown into this industry with no knowledge or training. I did not have anyone to turn to for quick answers. So I learned to dig a little deeper. If a customer asks you a question, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know and go dig for more information. I will call the reps or the factories to ask how products work and so forth. Sometimes people can be embarrassed to ask for more help. They should not be. There’s no easy way out. The only way to do it is to ask questions, visit the test kitchens and ask your customers for feedback. All of that stays with your forever.