Delivering the ‘wow’ means investment that goes beyond equipment

June 13, 2023
The importance of business relationships is especially relevant today for operators who want to capture every available dollar during the hybrid workweek that seems to be with us for a while.

Not that long ago, I had over 150 appointments a year, selling OCS, pantry and micro markets – driving 25,000 miles a year on the streets of greater Los Angeles. There were two possible positive things that my clients would say to my team members when they were happy about the refreshment program I presented to them.

One, Bob is a great sales rep. Or, two, Bob is a great guy.

If they didn’t say either, I probably didn’t get the account.

My preference, of course, was to hear from my client services rep that the client told them, “Your boss is a great guy,” because that meant a strong and positive connection had been established. Maybe I’m beating a dead horse here, but this column is about the importance of business relationships. The topic is especially relevant today for operators who want to capture every available dollar during the hybrid workweek that seems to be with us for a while.

When I wasn’t eating that Southern-style cooking in Atlanta, I covered some of the education sessions for at the 2023 NAMA Show. I heard two comments that really stuck with me.

Comment #1: They are looking for something that is ‘wow’

In the session entitled, “Understanding the Functionality and Purpose of Future Breakrooms,” Kristine Cotton, global work experience leader at Jones Lang LaSalle, made it clear that for employers who seek to entice employees back to the office, budget is important, but only a secondary issue. “The customer and the employees are looking for high quality products, functional equipment that needs to be working consistently, and they are looking for something that is wow, something that is cool and something they want to be around.”

Equipment investment

How do we deliver the wow? Certainly, equipment and technology are a big part of the equation. Providing solutions that aren’t seen in every office or workplace will go a long way toward delivering the WOW. For an OCS operator, it could come from a high-end water unit, like the ones from Borg & Overström, a big hit on the NAMA convention floor. The proven filtration solutions from Vertex Water is another option because reliability is a path to wow that can be just right for many clients.

Maybe it’s a bean-to-cup commitment, using equipment that can set an operator apart, like Azkoyen’s proprietary bean to cup and espresso machines. Or, dazzle a client by relying on the long established reputation of Bravilor Bonamat’s coffee and espresso solutions. Evoca North America’s new Symbol brewer certainly delivers plenty of wow, with its innovative modular solution.

Thoughtful brand selection

Take a tip from Mathew Marsh at First Class Vending and Coffee, who advises operators to set themselves apart by making a commitment to highly regarded coffee brands. Some examples I can suggest: The artisan quality of Gavina Coffee or the innovative Estate ’98 products. They recently announced the launch of an ultra-concentrated coffee – made from 100% Arabica beans, grown in the lush mountains of El Salvador.

Exciting products and new technology go a long way toward the wow, but any operator can buy equipment and exciting products. Mutual trust and confidence take the business relationship to the next level, which brings me to the second comment that got my attention.

Comment #2: We need to have visions that align

In the session entitled, “Scaling Up a Pantry Services Operation: A Client’s Perspective,” Kimberly Lenz, the director of sales and procurement at Associated Services Company, and Linda Saldana, CEO of Seventh Wave Refreshments, brought in three clients to provide an inside perspective of what the client is looking for in a pantry service program and their thought process when selecting a pantry service operator.

Theron Thackery, manager of workplace and real estate at Flexiport, said he wants a supplier that understands his priorities and program needs. “It’s important to have a partner who agrees with your vision of the workplace. We need to have visions that align,” explained Thackery.

Impressive client relationships

Both Lenz and Saldana deserve credit for business relationships that are so strong, they could entice clients to attend a NAMA Show education session to share what motivates them when dealing with vendors. When visions align, because of trust and confidence, delivering the wow and getting the price that needs to be charged for it, becomes considerably easier to accomplish.

Not everyone is willing or able to make a commitment to client relationships, but those who do will reap the rewards both personally and professionally. It comes from being sincerely interested in making sure that your client will look good, will never experience stress related to your services and will genuinely enjoy doing business with you because of your company’s performance. Business relationships on that level have a way of turning into lifetime friendships.

Get social again

Fortune Magazine reported in May that the business lunch is coming back. “In New York, the number of seated diners on weekdays at noon climbed every month between January and April from the prior year, according to data from online reservations platform OpenTable. Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle and Atlanta also registered gains during weekdays at noon in April.”

Lunch is the starting point. Take that first step. Start getting out there again and get reacquainted with your clients. Be social, be friendly and build relationships. Take the time to connect on a regular basis with the many new decision makers who have appeared over the foggy pandemic years. Hopefully, when they get to know you on a personal level and see how much you care, they will realize that you are more than just a great sales rep. When that happens, because clients will want you to succeed, referrals will propel you to a new level of success.



Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser/ He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up and specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. 

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser's new podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, hosted by Tullio and designed to make your business more profitable.

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Tullio delivers this promise to any company that hires him for a 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom call: "One short session with me will elevate the performance of your sales team.”



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