Eric Santagato, District Sales Manager, M. Tucker

Eric Santagato M Tucker

Tell us a little bit about what brought you to M. Tucker.

I saw a huge opportunity to work with a growing organization in this industry. During the interview process, I asked to attend the International Restaurant Show. I really wanted to get a feel, an idea of what the industry and the organization was all about. And honestly, as soon as I stepped into the Javits Center and met the M. Tucker sales team and had some conversations and discussions with them, I realized I wanted to be a part of that company.

What did you do before this?

I was a sales manager for Republic Services. They’re one of the leaders in the recycling and trash industry. The restaurant industry is a little bit more attractive! I was there for eight years, and I built a lot of great relationships with internal customers as well as external customers.

How is the restaurant industry different?

In making the move, I really looked at it in one way. If you missed a service day in the trash industry, we would just service you the next day. And besides a little overflow garbage, it’s really not a big deal. But in the restaurant industry, if you miss a delivery, you really put the customer in a huge bind.  And I like being that person you have to rely on.  I like that pressure on you, too, to come through and provide a solution for the customer. It’s like starting over every day. I was an athlete in college and I bring that drive and intensity to my work today.

What types of goals have you set for yourself and your team?

I still feel like I’m in the learning process, because there’s over 150,000 items that you have to become knowledgeable about.  But the thing that I focus on most is continuing to learn the products and the customer’s needs. And really, the only way I could successfully do that is by riding on the heels of my sales team, attending events, asking questions to chefs, just spending time with the people who have been involved in the industry for so long.  The people at Tucker are a huge resource.  It truly is one of the real people companies out there.

National Restaurant Association Show Jan 2019 728×90

As you look at selling today, how have the needs of the customer changed? And what does a sales rep need to do, to be successful today?

I don’t think that the needs of customers have changed.  The time at which they need what they need has changed.  The speed at which you can be reliable to them – let’s face it, you can get information on anything today by calling a company, you can get it at your fingertips.  So it’s about differentiating yourself and becoming that reliable resource where you can give customers the knowledge that they need in order to provide them the solution that we’re looking for.

What is the customer really looking for?

Simple. Ideas and suggestions to help their business. Going online really can’t do that but the sales rep can provide that extra value.

But what if a customer thinks he can save more money by going online?

We provide our customers with great value – next day delivery on stock items, efficient resolution of problems or returns, business credit, and we stand behind what we sell and have for almost 100 years.

Many online dealerships offer low up front pricing, but when you add in the cost of freight, freight damage, challenging handling of returns, and payment in advance, our customers see value in we provide.

What about the support infrastructure that M. Tucker brings to the table to support its customer base?

I look at Tucker as a one-stop shop for everything.  We have the ability to provide service from the start of a project all the way through completion of the project and then on- going as they run their business. In the warehouse and shipping, we have a 99% service fill rate to our customers.  We’re guaranteeing that they’re going to get their product on time. We have a great support team in customer service. They’re able to handle pretty much any question that a customer can throw at them. And then we have our sales reps on the street that are extremely reliable resources that have been doing this for a long time, and understand customers’ needs, understand what they have to do to provide the customer a solution.  Our management team is focused on driving results, but they’re customer- oriented. We put the customer as our top priority, and our main goal is to enhance their expectations and exceed them.

Talk about how M. Tucker provides the whole solution, isn’t just an equipment dealer.

We want to be the company who can provide everything, soup to nuts, if you will – all the equipment and supplies the customer needs. We believe in supporting our customers so we can better meet their needs, whether they’re looking for a stock item or something unique. Because we have the resources, we can solve their request.

Since they’re so vital, how do you get the best sales reps?

It’s such a unique industry, a fun industry.  I was talking with one of my sales reps and I said the amount of things that happen daily, you could really use another day of the week. We laugh because there’s just so much going on and there are so many different ideas and suggestions that we’re offering to customers and they’re coming back and they’re saying, what about this, what about that.  The opportunity here is huge and that’s one of the reasons. But as for our reps?  It’s being able to work with the customers and meeting new people, finding out what they want and giving it to them. 

What sets M. Tucker apart?

There are three main things that set us apart. First, our size. We are the 6th largest dealer in the US and the largest dealer in the market, We deliver to customers daily from southern Connecticut all the way through Washington, DC, which is great for expanding customers. Second, the scope of our product. We carry disposables, tabletop and equipment while many of our competitors carry only two categories of goods. Third, the quality of our leadership. We are family owned and operated and have been in business for 99 years. That says a lot about how we take care of our customers.

As you build your team, what are some of the characteristics that you’re looking for? Do you necessarily need to have a culinary and hospitality background?

A culinary and hospitality background is always a plus.  But we look for other qualities, too, such as competitiveness, having that intense drive, being likeable, and having a leadership quality. And one of the most important things is having a positive attitude. Customers want to be around people who are upbeat, make them laugh, and then ultimately provide them with that solution that they’re looking for.

Next month, you will attend your first NAFEM Show. What is on your agenda for Orlando?

Obviously, there’s going to be a ton of vendors there and my agenda is not to get crowded with everybody – really just schedule appointments with the partners that we have within the industry, and learn more about their products, how we can sell their product and offer the right solution to the customers. So I am really looking forward to spending quality time at each vendor that we really value as a partner. And to try to learn as much as we can from them.

What does the future hold?

We’re going to continue to enhance our platforms from an Internet standpoint, to get ahead of the game. And in order to handle a lot of the changes that are going to be taking place in the market, we’re just going to continue to train and develop our sales organizations to meet the demands of customers, to meet the demands of the Internet.  Just continue to train, develop through this organization.