ID Sales Rep of the Month
After selling for more than half a century, most DSRs would lean back—a little bit anyway—and reminisce about their past successes. Not R.W. Hooper.
At the age of 82, Hooper is still setting new goals for himself. Right now he is looking to beat the $1.6 million sales he wrote last year for Labatt Food Service, San Antonio, Texas. As a matter of fact, Hooper says he expects to turn in about $1.85 million by the end of ’85. And that is with less than half the 50 accounts he had a year ago.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much he culls his accounts, Hooper always grows his sales back—and then some—usually within the year. By mid 1984—in an effort to pull in the parameters of his geography—Hooper had begun to trim the number of his customers.
Now handling just 21—14 local chain cafeterias and seven café/family restaurants all in downtown San Antonio—Hooper keeps travel down to 100 miles a day.
It was when he took mandatory retirement from Lever Brothers at 65 that Hooper started to work for Labatt. For years he had been selling soap and shortenings to the then Labatt Wholesale Grocery Co.—and Blair Labatt, Sr., says he knew a good rep when he saw one. He wanted Hooper to sell for his company. “I retired one afternoon and went to work for Mr. Labatt the next morning,” Hooper says.
Labatt Food Service itself has experienced a spurt of growth in the past four years that pushed its sales from $8 million with a product mix that included only 6 percent frozen foods to $45 million with a mix that is 40 percent frozen.
“It has just made selling easier,” Hooper says. “I have more to offer.” Even with dramatic changes in the industry, in Labatt, and in the quality and number of products available, Hooper hasn’t changed his philosophy, which is: closeness to your customers and product knowledge are the keys to success.
“I just listen and I look around. I like to spend at least an hour with a customer—and often it’s more. So I have to know what I’m talking about,” he says. “I think product knowledge is everything. I read all the manufacturers’ literature, the trade magazines, and I talk to brokers and manufacturers’ reps.”
Of Labatt’s now 6,000-plus mix, Hooper regularly sells 600 products. His average order totals $1,500 and numbers 40-50 items.
His weekly visits to customers are regular. “People say they can set their clocks by my arrival,” Hooper says. That regularity and the fact that his sales-call day is over by noon are big factors in his success, Hooper says. Up at 5:30 a.m., he makes all his calls in the morning and then gets organized for the next day.
This wiry, 121-pound former track star from Southern Methodist University says motivation has never been a problem. “I compete with myself,” he says. A 1927 SMU graduate, Hooper earned his degree in geology and expected to go to work for an oil company. “But the Depression was looming,” Hooper says. “And Lever Brothers offered me a job when jobs were hard to come by.”
Hooper says he stays fit simply by eating right and getting enough rest. But to Hooper, “eating right” means eating anything. “I eat cake, pies, steak, potatoes. I’ve never had a weight problem.”
And rest? “I try to get to bed by midnight,” Hooper adds. “I need five and a half to six hours sleep.”
Hooper says he has no plans to retire. “What for?” he asks. ‘I’m having fun now. This is what I want to do.”