Interview with Penny Downs

Through a chance discussion on LinkedIn, I had the enormous privilege of speaking recently with Penny Downs, Head of Customer Service at Sysco Speciality Group.

And if you don’t know who Sysco are (as I didn’t): they are the largest wholesale food group in the world! They specialise is supplying and supporting Pubs, Hotels and Restaurants across the UK.

To listen to the interview in full … please go to my podcast.

And I strongly encourage you to do this: her insights are incredibly helpful, whether you’re in a big business or just starting off on your own … or anything in between!

In the meantime, here are a few gems she shared with me.

  • All customers have ‘pinch points’. These are the times and situations where they have real needs or issues. If you want to be a successful supplier, you need to start by identifying these and making sure you can get these solved brilliantly every time. Then you can move on to the other things.
  • After that, you need to be pragmatic: what systems and processes will give you the best bang for your buck. You don’t necessarily need all the latest technology and systems, just focus on what’s important to the customer and put simple systems in place to make sure that you can solve these every time AND make a good profit for yourself.
  • Speaking of simplicity, I think many businesses try to make things too complicated: I always stick to ‘KISS’ principles: strip every issue to its most basic level and then build a solution, slowly, to provide a consistent and reliable solution.
  • Speaking of slow, you need to slow everything down: the path to profitability for both the supplier and the customer is a long one. Balance the customer need with the business need and the ability to offer it at scale. Work out what you CAN do and what you CAN’T do, and then over deliver.
  • Know who you want as customers and who you can’t work with: there’s no point in promising that you’ll adapt your processes to suit each customer: you can’t do that. Keep it simple: under promise and over deliver … always!
  • Make sure everyone in your organisation knows the whole process and customer journey from start to finish. The small issues are often the important ones to the customer and the small details make all the difference to them.

And lastly: a real gem from her:

  • ‘We’re not in the food service business, we’re in the business of making customers advocates of ours and proud to be working with us’.


For the full 20 minutes of solid gold insights, please do have a listen to her on our podcast.

If you’d like to link with her, she can be found on LinkedIn – Penny Downs – and please do mention the Slow Selling blog!

And if you’re a business owner or head of sales or service in a successful business and would like to share your thoughts and passion on the Slow Selling podcast, please do drop us an email, and we’ll get back to you.

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