We talked to Ronnie Gilmore, District Sales Manager at Markon member Ben E. Keith about the recent Markon Summit. He’s been to a number of Summits over the years and found this one to be especially action packed, engaging and full of learnings to bring back to his team.
“I always love the field tours,” said Ronnie. “If customers could see what we saw during the field tours, they would buy Markon produce and never change their minds.” He said during this Summit’s field tours they learned a lot about sustainability. “They showed us the eco-friendly cardboard packaging they’ve implemented for strawberries – wow, such a great idea. It never really hit me before how much plastic traditional packaging uses. The strawberry cartons are revolutionary for our industry and a great marketing opportunity for us at Ben E. Keith – amazing to see that Markon is so far ahead with initiatives like this and continuing to lead with innovation in all areas of produce.”
He found the Summit’s round robin – during which participants met with a series of key vendors to learn more about their products – to be interesting and information packed. “All the vendors were very well prepared, and I learned about new products I’d like to bring into our mix.”
Ronnie said the sales training piece was one of the most impactful parts of the entire three days. “Our trainers were very good and engaging – and the content was great. In fact, I requested the materials to bring back to my team – anyone can learn from them.” He said all three training modules led back to the benefits of Ready-Set-Serve. “They did a great job of showing that we have solutions to help our entire range of customers. I don’t think everyone understands the value that Ready-Set-Serve provides. It’s not only about labor savings but also food safety and consistency. At the Summit we heard the whole story and it helped me put myself in our customers boots.”
He stressed that it’s all about the customers’ needs. “We had a food show in April and, out of the 60+ food shows I’ve been to in my career I’ve never had so many conversations with customers looking for solutions on the labor side of the business. It’s about more today than the safety issue of using pre-prepped produce to ‘take the knife out of your hand’ – now these operators are driven by labor concerns because they can’t even guarantee they’ll have enough staff to keep their doors open. Ready-Set-Serve saves time and has 100% yield, but it also gives operators price consistency; the price for these products doesn’t change like it does for commodity products.”
We asked Ronnie what he thought makes Markon different. “I see them as a step above everyone else. Our growers feel the same and they were happy to tell us during the field tours. Markon sets the expectation a little higher. They’re pushing us to become better stewards of our business – in areas like finding ways to conserve water and become more eco-friendly.” He said it was all about market excellence – and while this is also driven by the membership, he feels Markon has their backs. “Every day they’re pushing for us to be leaders in our marketplace – they’ve done a really good job at providing solutions at all tiers of the market. And one thing that is never forgotten is the safety component – compared to our competition, it’s unmatched.”
Ronnie concluded by saying, “It’s great to see Markon and the distributor members investing into the Summit – not only is it fantastic for our sales teams, but also for our customers – helping us serve them better and drive the industry forward.”