Top Drivers Reveal their Selling Secrets

July 7, 2007
How the last three ‘Route Driver of the Year’ winners excelled at driving sales.

“I want everything out there.” Those were the words of Dan Friske in 2006, a Wright Vending route driver, Madison, Wis., and last year’s Route Driver of the Year winner.
To be a winner, Friske had to meet or exceed the duties of his job. One way he did this was his quest for new business.

On his route, Friske looks at more than planograms and turn rates. He’s watching for new development. Is that a new company moving into the previously-empty office building? Are they breaking ground on a new factory just beyond his current location?

Since these places are already on the path of his route, Friske knows they are prime locations for him to service. He shared last year that he brings the information back to the Wright Vending office and leaves a “new business” tip for the department in charge of location sales. “The salesperson takes it from there,” he said.

Offering other services
Taking the idea one step further is when a route driver can offer other services to the location. One service Friske talked about in 2006 was third shift filling. He won an account simply because he was willing to fill the machines before the previous driver was doing it (mid-morning).

This extends his reach to other facilities as well with third shift staffs. The early morning hours mean most restaurants are closed or too far away during that shift’s “dinner,” so they depend on the vending bank for food. “People don’t realize how much third shift buys,” added Friske.

Also, the addition of OCS or water services are possible when the route driver is a friend of the location, listening to customers’ wants.

The vending company is about providing service. The more the company services the location, the more the driver is aware of what answers he or she can provide to customer requests or complaints.

For example, when the route driver hears office water tastes bad, talking with the people about interest in a water system will bring in more business.

And even if the vending company doesn’t offer any more services, there’s opportunity with customer relationships. Friske explained last year how he considers many of the people at his locations friends. And these friends have friends or relatives that work at other offices or factories.

In conversation, Friske can often learn about a location receiving poor quality vending service. And the customers will recommend Friske and his company because they are so pleased with his services. This all results in more opportunities for sales because the best route drivers are “people” people.

Retaining Routes
Although an important part of being a superior route driver, good customer service also has a great deal to do with sales. Charlie Martin, winner of the 2004 route driver of the year award and driver for Continental Dining and Refreshment Services, Belleville, Mich., talked about how he is a representative of his company at all times. This may include introducing new products, managing customer requests with pencil and paper as well as an earnest communication style with the various types of people at the vending locations.

“It’s the route drivers that make or break the companies,” said Martin when he won.

Vending companies often have the same products and services. What sets them apart is the route driver and how they sell the company. It’s a very important asset to have, being able to service the customers. Sales go sour if a route driver isn’t performing well, not just due to product sales, but also because the location will likely switch to a different company with a different route driver.

Being a professional
Lester Fields, a route driver at Canteen Vending Services Inc., Verona, Va., and the 2005 winner, explained it well. When he was awarded, he said he doesn’t run a route, he “works” it. He challenges himself to make sure customers buy what he merchandises. And his efforts pay off with impressive retention rates, which brings Fields and his company the continued business they need to stay in business.

Fields takes an interesting stand, adding that technology has made the vending business more professional. Overall, the technology has made the vending machines more reliable. Hot drink venders have especially benefited with improved quality and selections which have greatly improved sales.

While this isn’t specifically controlled by the route driver, he or she still needs to know how customers feel about the service, insisted Fields. Therefore, a driver has to care about people.

Winners of the Route Driver of the Year competition have to be exceptional in many categories. One of the categories least talked about is sales and how this function is directly related to a route driver, something considered important by the previous winners.

Len Rashkin, a Bellerose, N.Y.-based consultant, addresses route drivers as salespeople because he understands their role.

Even if a sales representative has sold the account, Rashkin said it’s up to the driver to maintain the customer with great service. He calls the customer the route driver’s customer.

If customers are lost, the fellow team members at the company suffer from the loss of revenue. Too many lost customers mean a loss in jobs. Rashkin said, “Bottom line, the customer pays all the salaries and someone else signs the checks.”