Six things for operators to think about in today’s business environment

June 13, 2022
Bob Tullio shares his insights to consider when selling refreshment services in today’s environment.

Earlier this month, I was asked to provide a video for a large operator’s national sales meeting. The title: “Four things to think about when selling refreshment services in today’s business environment.” In the interest of time, I kept it to four, but in the interests of this column, I have six to share.

1. Do not even think about price-driven selling

Back in the day, I was always perplexed by operators who were charging 75 cents for a can of soda, while the convenience stores were selling it for $1.00 or more. Forget the fact that the bottling companies were vending that same soda for 50 cents! Somehow, vending operators were always seen as discounters, even though we deliver the ultimate convenience.

Clients seek better products

Joel Skidmore, president of J&J Vending in northern California, shares my frustration. “We’ve always been discounters in our industry, and it stems from that fear of losing the account, because someone can always sell it cheaper. While there is always price sensitivity, it is more in the industrial accounts today. In white collar and tech accounts, they want better products, and we need to offer them,” said Skidmore.

For operators, this is our opportunity to turn the tables. Sell on quality, service, value, safety, sustainability – anything but price, whenever possible. If a client is price-oriented beyond all else, that is not an account you want to serve.

2. Spoil your customers: In a self-service world, personal service is increasingly uncommon

Think about it – everything today is self-service, and the data shows that.

We love pumping our own gas, placing our own orders, troubleshooting our technology, and doing all the work because there is no choice. As a result, personal service, paying special attention to client needs, entertaining clients and spoiling them with performance is such a rarity today that it becomes a true differentiator – especially after the pandemic.

Differentiator: Exceptional service

Louis Baresh of Executive Refreshments in Dallas said his company is using exceptional service as a differentiator. “We focus on innovation and customer service. We are going above and beyond because we know the bigger competition is unable to match our service. Clients have my cell phone number. We are pouring it on from a service standpoint, and it is working,” said Baresh.

3. Open your eyes – maximize revenue

Those old sales gurus used to say: close the deal and shut up.

Instead, I say, before you close the deal, be confident enough to open your eyes and maximize the financial opportunity. Go to the appointment to get the OCS business – but get the water, the beverage, the snacks, the micro market, the pantry, the cold brew – maybe even the food lockers if you are moving in that direction. Go after every dollar available and sell it on the benefit of vendor consolidation.

4. Focus on relationship development with an eye on referrals

When I train operators in a program designed to create elite performers, the question I always hear is “How do I get the big accounts like you had as an operator?” Warner Bros., Disney, Netflix, Space X, the big law firms, giant call centers and huge distribution facilities – the ideal targets.

The answer is simple. Spend thousands on pay-per-click advertising (which works) and get some very hot leads on a regular basis and learn to cultivate referrals. I wrote about it last month. If you have not read it, read it today. It is the secret sauce for landing big accounts. There is a wrong way and a right way to ask for referrals.

5. The clients you want are the ones who want to be dazzled. Invest in the industry’s best equipment and technology

The late great operator, B.H. Williams from Dallas, once told me, “If a location isn’t good enough to get the best equipment from you, they are not a client you should be doing business with.” His wisdom holds true – especially today in every facet of convenience services.

It has to be a partnership

Make it clear from the beginning that a business relationship is a partnership. Your company will invest in the right solutions and will put your best foot forward from day one. Continue to earn the business throughout the relationship. In turn, you need appropriate pricing and the opportunity to continually provide as many products as possible for the entire relationship.

As an operator, if you are committed to solution-based selling, is there really another way to do business?

6. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone to capture more opportunity than ever

Industry consultant Steve Closser of Translucent believes that in certain locations, operators should set up a barista for four hours each day to provide the ultimate convenience – specialty coffee drinks that eliminate a stop by employees to their favorite coffee house down the street. The numbers can work, if there is a true partnership.

High-end solutions

High-end water systems, like FRIIA from Marco Beverage, take drinking water to a new level, largely because of their sleek design. Similarly, some of the new ice machines on the market will command tremendous rental fees. ansā Coffee’s on-demand micro roaster, soon to be widely available, will bring fresh-roasted coffee to the point of consumption. When innovative solutions like these are successfully implemented, the result is a snowball of referrals.

Great example: Judson Kleinman

Judson Kleinman of Corporate Essentials is a classic example of an operator who is willing to leave his comfort zone to capitalize on opportunity. The commitment to his Martin & Fitch catering and corporate dining is no easy task, but Kleinman reports that the service is coming along nicely and that clients – anxious to entice employees back to the office – are embracing it.

While these solutions are not for every office, when operators can capture those lost dollars that are alluding them in workplaces, they need to move forward and leave their comfort zone. That is especially true today, as we head toward 70% being the new 100% in terms of employee headcount.


Industry consultant and Vending Market Watch contributing editor Bob Tullio is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up and advises suppliers on how to successfully connect with operators. Tullio’s YouTube channel, b2b Perspective, is designed to “elevate your business in two minutes.”

At the 2022 NAMA Show in Chicago, Tullio presented a pre-conference session entitled, “Selling Convenience Services: Strategies of Elite Performers.”

For more information on the services that Tullio offers to operators and suppliers, visit his website at or contact him at [email protected].


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