Making a career in foodservice equipment and supplies sales wasn't an intentional decision for Lauren Lanza, who earned a B.A. in psychology and began pursuing a graduate degree in the field. During high school, she worked at Harris Restaurant Supply, her family's dealership, moving from a position in customer service to one in sales.
"After college, my father suggested I give sales a try, and I had success with it," Lanza says. After two more semesters of attending graduate school at night, she decided to take a different path and pursue sales at the company as a full-time career. Eight years later, Lanza's customer base runs the gamut from QSRs to schools, country clubs, hospitals and all points in between.
Known for being very detail oriented, Lanza handles opening orders for smallwares and tabletop items with ease. She also attends many buying-group-sponsored educational activities and organizes sales meetings for Harris team members.
FE&S: What attracted you to working in foodservice?
LL: Once I started working in sales, I realized that I loved the challenge of it. Every day is so different — I learn something new. There is so much out there to take in and so many possibilities with what I do.
FE&S: What's the most important lesson you have learned since starting at Harris?
LL: In sales, I've learned that it's most important to ask questions, and ask a lot of them. By figuring out clients' problems, I can be more than just a salesperson. Most importantly, I have trained myself to think of every "no" as a "not yet."
FE&S: You seem to value having a strong product knowledge base. Why is this important?
LL: We sell so many items. There is not one seminar a salesperson can attend or book they can read that is a complete how-to. For this reason, it's important that I expose myself to everything possible. Being a member of the PRIDE buying group and attending conferences and training seminars has been invaluable to my education. It not only helps me sell to my customers, but also provides them with the latest information out there.
FE&S: You are known for being very detail oriented. Why is this important?
LL: When selling smallwares and coordinating multiple new openings, it's important to be thorough, organized and meticulous with paperwork in order to avoid errors. Throughout this process, if questions arise, my clients know that I will get them an answer immediately. Fortunately, with today's technology I typically can give them an answer right on the spot.
FE&S: You are known for leveraging all of the technological tools at your disposal. How does this help you serve your customers and the company?
LL: Recently, we've added iPads at Harris. This has drastically increased the speed of everything. There are so many apps available to increase efficiency, shorten response time and literally provide every answer at our fingertips. I'm excited to see how this will further change the industry, as more manufacturers add apps.
FE&S: If I were thinking of joining this industry, what advice would you give me?
LL: Read everything and take notes. Surround yourself with people you can build long-lasting relationships with and learn from. Set reasonable and attainable goals and take action every day to achieve them.