Andy Dalton knew he wanted a career in sales, but wasn’t clear on what he wanted to sell. After stints selling mobile homes and cell phones, a friend convinced him to give restaurant equipment sales a shot.
“I interviewed with a restaurant equipment manufacturer and when that didn’t pan out, my friend inquired at dealerships to see who was hiring trainees,” says Dalton. “That’s when I landed an installer/sales trainee position at C&T.”
Fast forward 14 years. Dalton now serves on the company’s national sales team serving a wide range of independent restaurants as well as medium and large chains.
FE&S: How did your role as an installer prepare you for your current sales position?
AD: One of the key points to my being able to do what I do is that I can visualize everything happening, how it will fit in and any pitfalls that will potentially cause issues. This allows me to get ahead of problems before they happen. To this day, I still get out in the field and work with installations, which is an invaluable skill. Not understanding how things work creates more mistakes, which results in unhappy customers.
FE&S: How would you describe a well-designed project that meets operators’ needs?
AD: Working with chefs and their concepts to make sure the back of house flows for them is key. If I ask 10 different chefs how I should set up a kitchen, I’ll get 10 different answers. It’s important to discuss what they want to do and how they want it done to come up with a plan. Then we’ll typically go back and forth as many times as it takes to fine tune it until they’re comfortable. This process takes patience and involves detailed explanations.
FE&S: What goes into writing a good equipment spec?
AD: The equipment I like to use is the type that causes the least amount of problems as possible. I stick with the manufacturers that have good support systems. I don’t run from problems and I align myself with people who do the same.
FE&S: Not every project goes according to plan. How do you troubleshoot and resolve issues?
AD: I have two co-workers that assist me when things come up and without them I wouldn’t be successful. Much of my success comes from handling problems in a timely manner. The most important period is the week of the install, because that’s when you find out about oversights or construction conditions that affect the project. Being on-site, I can find out about issues quickly and come up with a solution faster. Most of the time, they want to be open the next week, so there’s not much time to fix things. Being accessible and understanding that this is the most important time is crucial. I feel customers remember those two weeks the most.
FE&S: What is your proudest moment on the job?
AD: No one has ever had a delayed opening because of my mistake. It could happen one day, but my track record so far is perfect.
FE&S: What attracted you to sales?
AD: I grew up playing sports, so the competitive edge is an attractive component. I also love the diversity of this job because it’s different every day. One day I’m designing kitchens and the next I’m cutting stainless steel. I can run a business within a business, and this model works.