My father instilled in his children that if a task has to be done, do it with a good attitude. You can just imagine how well received his three children thought of that motto when we were young! In my later years my sister-in-law enhanced the saying for me, “if it is not fun, I am not doing it!” We all know that “tasks” and “fun” do not always go in the same sentence, but it is amazing how it makes life go so much smoother for me when I keep the two mottos in mind.
I was accepted as a “Wholesale Foods distributor” on October 2, 1996. I tell everyone I may not be a good Alison’s Pantry representative but no one can say I am not consistent! In those 21 years there have been many changes in my life, as well as the company. No one can expect things, good or bad, to stay the same in their life, or in the life of the companies they work with. From my beginning I worked and used my sales as a home based business. It is important to keep good records/documentation to use for taxes, everything from mileage to order adjustments. It is also important that you do not take advantage of the people you do business. Pay your bills promptly just as you want your customers to pay you. Keep in mind when you use your Alison’s Pantry sales as your own business it is your name on the line!
Like many of you I had ordered products from WSF, Pacific Foods, and/or Alison’s Pantry for some time, and then “our” representative quit. I was the same, and when I used up all my inventory of the products I loved to use I was prompted to become a representative because “how was I going to prepare my favorite dishes without these products I had learned to rely on?” Selling food for me was and is a perfect fit-I love to garden, cook, and share!
What are my favorite products? Oh my, how long of list can I have? I love the fast-food products for just that, but I mostly love the products I can use to scratch cook and bake. Most used “what are we having for dinner” food: chicken tenders, and potatoes of all kinds. Staples: all AP spices, gravy mixes and cream sauce that I use for everything from thickening my soups to flavor enhancers for casseroles and roasts. On my order every month: pepper jack sticks. Utensils: canning lids! My husband’s most asked for product AP no longer offers: smoked rope!
I live in Musselshell, Montana, population of about 40, so you see my clientele is limited. At different times I have covered a broad surrounding area but was happy to give up customers in Roundup and Custer to new representatives in those towns. I still have loyal customers that I serve that will not order from someone new! I use e-mail, snail mail, and phone calls to keep connected to my customers-we do not have cell service here so text and other messaging are out of my realm. (And I hate to learn new things!) Phone calls are what work best for my customers. I think my customers like the time spent visiting, and if something is on sale I know they order regularly, they appreciate the reminder.
The largest block of time I spend on Alison’s Pantry is my order week. When an order arrives I send out catalogs with orders and those without an order are mailed or hand delivered by me within a couple of days. Each catalog is sent out with my “newsletter,” featuring everything from company changes to recipes; and most importantly, my early-bird order date and AP order dates! The Monday before order day I e-mail my first reminder-if a customer ordered before I send that reminder their name goes in my early-bird drawing. I always set my order date for the Wednesday before deadline. The bulk of my orders come that day either e-mail or phone calls. On Thursday and Friday I make calls to those I know that have an order ready but wait for me to call. (I always think that is so funny they will not call on their own when they have taken the time to have an order ready. J) On Saturday I make a “last call” e-mail giving non-ordering customers the final day I will take orders, AND remind them that if they wish to place an order themselves online they can order until Monday night at midnight on the Alison’s Pantry website! Since online ordering I include a small gift with orders, such as yogurt pretzels or caramels, to those customers that placed their order online; because whereas it is not necessary to place their order online it is convenient for me if they order themselves.
My hardest task is generating new customers! Obviously our small population limits the number of events I can promote AP. I take the opportunity to promote products in potluck items I take to events, make sure I plan our community dinner theatre’s menu featuring AP products, and regularly request customers to pass the word about how great Alison’s Pantry products are and get them a catalog.
Through the years I have found, and I encourage you to do the same, that you need to become a friend to your customers because as you become a part of their lives and they become a part of yours, your success will not be a “task,” you will naturally have fun!