My absolute favorite thing to do is to learn about other people. I love to experience the culture of others and learn as much as I can about them, how they are made, and why they do certain things. I love to experience what they experience and how they live. I enjoy listening to their stories, triumphs and struggles.
The produce industry is full of interesting, colorful and amazing people whose livelihoods are in one way or another tied to feeding the world nourishing and healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. Learning who these people are and forging lasting relationships is well worth the time, money and effort that it takes.
It is obvious that the sales function of any business needs to build strong personal relationships with decision makers on the buying end. Ideally, any sales-side relationship-building that takes place will include other departments such as receiving, QA, warehouse, etc. The more personal connections that are made through multiple departments, the easier your products or services will get accepted without issue, and the more difficult it will be for a competitor to displace you.
Also, when I say personal, I mean personal. Make it a point to make friends and build lasting relationships. There is nothing wrong with this at all. I like doing business more with folks who I am friends with and have fun with. If all else is fairly equal, I will give them the benefit of the doubt every time.
Meeting with vendors on the procurement side of the business is just as important as meeting with buyers on the sales side. When is the last time you visited each of your top five vendors? If it has been more than a couple of years, you should strongly consider taking a trip to see them.
Humans are social animals, and believe it or not, you will be treated better if you are more than a commission check. Also, it shows that you care about your vendors and what they do. More often than not, you will come away with something more than you expected going into the meeting.
If you are not making it a point to visit with both ends of your supply network, you are missing out. You need to get out there and meet more people in person — digital or virtual meetings don’t count. You will run a better company, department, or whatever you do if you make this happen. If you are in a management position, encourage and incentivize your direct reports to put themselves out there. The entire organization will benefit.
By investing in personal relationships, it really does make our industry much more interesting than would otherwise be the case. I hope that when I am an old man, I can continue to build relationships with the newest generation of produce colleagues and tell them stories of the produce days of yore.
Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at [email protected].