Linda Tell, The Sam Tell Companies
The foodservice industry remains a business segment that rewards old-fashioned hard work and dedication. Such is the case with Linda Tell, a sales representative with The Sam Tell Companies, a Farmingdale, N.Y.-based dealership. The fact that Marc Tell, Linda’s father, leads the business made her reluctant to initially pursue a career with the company. Instead, she started her career in advertising, looking at clients’ target demographics, products and budgets before working with a team to build messaging. It’s a skill set that has served Linda well since joining The Sam Tell Companies in 2017. Her growing book of business includes independent restaurant operators and some restaurant groups.
Q: How do you leverage your advertising experience to support your current customers?
A: The agency I worked with trained me to be very results driven. A lot of my job was reporting. If we ran a campaign, we had to prove it was successful. I use those reporting skills to track orders and manage logistics. The skill set I built in advertising helps me add value to my customers.
Q: You learned the industry from the ground up. What was that learning process like?
A: VP of sales Heather Kogan put together a really thorough training program when she hired a new cohort of sales reps. We met with our manufacturer partners and learned about their products and how we would work with them. And over two weeks, we had a foodservice supply boot camp, which was really helpful. From there, we just had to do it. I had to do a lot of cold calling and have a lot of conversations where I would have to say, “I will have to get back to you.” We got started right away selling and making mistakes and calling manufacturers for answers. That all happened until I knew what I was doing.
Q: Tabletop and smallwares are specialty areas of yours. What goes into developing a good tabletop?
A: Everyone is different, and everyone has different tastes. I don’t want to be an order taker. I want to be more of a consultant. When someone wants us to make a proposal, I ask a lot of questions. I ask about the number of seats and volume. I ask about the look and feel of the restaurant. I ask if they want white china. And, of course, I ask about budget. When possible, I like to take them to a showroom and even send them physical samples. Receiving the samples allows the chef to plate menu items to see what it looks like in the restaurant.
Q: What excites you most about the industry?
A: People are engaged with restaurants in a way they have not been before. It’s a time where people have social media accounts dedicated to restaurants. Celebrity chefs bring in clientele simply because of their reputations. But because I started in this business young, I have the chance to make relationships with up-and-coming chefs and develop long-term relationships with them. We will be able to grow together. I am starting to get calls from chefs that worked with me on past jobs, and it’s because they like my service. I think things are really starting to get good.
Q: Complete this thought: In ten years, I hope to …
A: Be a part of ushering in a new era for the industry. I really like what I do in sales and am definitely leaning on my strengths. I have so many ideas and am starting to lean on my advertising background to pitch in with our marketing efforts. In ten years, I hope to have a much bigger impact on the industry and help bring it into the 21st century. So in ten years, I hope to see more women in the industry. And if I can inspire more women to join the industry, that would be amazing.