'My car is my office,’ says Sven Dörkes with a grin and a shrug. As a Customer Manager for METRO in Germany, Sven travels around the Rhineland, more precisely in the area around Krefeld, Kempen and Geldern. He covers around 600 customers, visiting 6 to 8 restaurateurs , hoteliers or caterers each day and dealing with countless telephone calls. ‘It’s not unusual for me to have 30 conversations in one day,’ Sven says. The 47-year-old is usually the first in-person contact for new METRO customers. As part of the sales force, Sven ensures that professional customers feel they’re in good hands right from the start.
For example, when a restaurateur applies for their first METRO card in a METRO wholesale store, the customer manager gets in touch – not just by telephone but in person too. Sven shows them both the store and other ordering options, as well as the most important METRO tools and offers. ‘Not all in one visit,’ Sven clarifies. ‘It takes at least 2 or 3 conversations over several weeks.’
The METRO sales force: personal connections, online support
What’s on his product menu then? ‘Everything,’ says the experienced salesman, who has worked for METRO since 2005. He laughs again and shrugs his shoulders. Ultimately, he says, the best solution always depends on the needs of each particular customer. The digital tools from DISH, professional catering equipment from Pentagast, food and non-food articles from METRO own brands, and all sorts of vital knowledge about delivery, ordering and the availability of goods – Sven has the whole spectrum covered, both in his head and online. His most important tool (besides his ‘car-office’) is his tablet, which is practically always under his arm or open in his hand.
Digital tools specifically developed by METRO support the sales force in their work. These include options like the Story app, where current brochures are stored. In just a few clicks, these can be sent as automatically generated, personalised emails, which saves Sven having to type various emails manually during the day and adds up to a considerable time saving. The Planner shows completed and upcoming tasks. And, besides sales, the Dashboard also shows if a customer is no longer reordering a certain product, for example. So Sven ask specific questions: Is it about the price? Is the customer unsatisfied? Or is the product simply no longer needed?
Approaching his customers as individuals is important to Sven. ‘You should never forget that many restaurateurs are long-established and still prefer to do everything in a traditional way – by writing thing out by hand, for instance.’ Sven understands this but also shows customers the potential that digitalising the business might bring. This includes having a contemporary online presence . ‘I just google the customer right before their eyes,’ says Sven. ‘If the business doesn’t appear on the first page, it has no chance of being found.’ Many, primarily smaller businesses are completely unaware of this. But to point out these and other advantages – such as margin optimisation through digital menu planning – he needs to have real conversations, not just a good sales patter.
Back office and field sales work hand in hand
‘We’re not a call centre,’ says Sven’s colleague Philipp Seuz, who works in the back office. He is deputy department manager in the Neuss regional office, one of currently 15 regional offices for the METRO sales teams in Germany. Across the country, over 650 back office and field service employees look after METRO professional customers; in the Rhineland alone, this amounts to a staff of 40. Internationally, the METRO sales force currently employs around 6,500 sales reps (see Info box). While field sales staff deal predominantly with new business and visit restaurateurs on site, the back office focuses primarily on existing and delivery customers. The team checks and supports the ordering process, responds to product queries, and actively contacts customers about current offers, new products and customer-specific agreements. They do it all in close collaboration with the wholesale stores and the delivery depot.
‘We don’t want to talk the customers into anything, but to really support them so we can grow together,’ explains Philipp emphatically. Of course, sales are in the foreground. But they’re not the be-all and end-all. ‘Contact among professionals’ is how Philipp describes his conversations with restaurant and café owners, hoteliers and caterers. He trained as a butcher and chef and knows the field well. That helps, of course. But what also helps is genuine interest and being a good listener – even regarding topics that may have little to do with METRO. He mentions the coronavirus lockdowns as an example. ‘We were here and available the entire time,’ explains Philipp. ‘The conversations we had then brought us even closer to our customers.’ This is Sven’s greatest challenge in his job as well, he says, but it’s also the best part: ‘To build a unique relationship with every customer quickly.’ Either in person, on the phone, in the back office – or from the ‘car-office’.
The sales force: METRO’s power team
Trebling sales in Food Service Distribution (FSD) and strengthening customer retention, for example through digital DISH products that make life in hospitality easier: these ambitious targets in METRO’s sCore strategy can only be achieved with a stiff backbone – the METRO sales force. Plans go further than just an expansion of the out-of-store delivery network and the depots. The sales team is set to grow too. By 2030, employee numbers in the METRO sales force – currently 6,500 – will at least double.
More on the METRO strategy: sCore – Wholesale to the max.