Let me tell you about a time everything my company did differently was a benefit. When I pulled into the parking lot of a particulate corporate headquarters building years ago, the thought of being able to land this vending contract was paramount in my mind, to say the least. Our research had revealed that they had three prime locations in our market. Need I say that opportunities like that do not come along every day.
I walked into the lobby and asked the receptionist to please let the human resource manager know I was here for our 11:30 a.m. appointment. She told me, “Please have a seat and I will let her know you are here.”
A few minutes passed and the receptionist told me everyone was waiting in the conference room. She gave me directions to go down the hall to the third door on the left, and go right in. The first thought going through my mind was that I did not realize I was going to be making my vending presentation to more than one person. However, that was okay because I felt confident that once everyone saw the proposal, they would be impressed.
I opened the door and to say that I was surprised was an understatement. The four people sitting at the conference table included the president, human resource manager, vice president of operations and the facilities manager. After shaking hands with everyone and ensuring they all had one of my business cards, the human resource manager asked me to tell everyone about our vending company.
Cutting to the chase
Just as I was beginning to open my mouth, the president of the company said, “I don’t want to sound rude, but you are the third company we have met with this week. How is your company any different than your competitors’, because all vending companies are selling the same brand name products and, assuming your prices are competitive, why should we choose you as our employee refreshment service provider?” For good measure, he finished by saying that vending companies all say our service is great and that when our machines need service, we will be johnny on the spot.
I thanked him for his comment and then proceeded to agree with him that the overwhelming majority of vending companies are pretty much all just alike. He looked at me and said, “well, at least we can agree on that.”
I opened my presentation book and the first thing I took out was our TOP TEN LIST OF HOW WE ARE NOT YOUR TYPICAL VENDING COMPANY. I jokingly said to the room that if David Letterman could have his top ten list, we could also. I then asked the human resource manager if she could make a copy of my list and pass it out so we would all be on the same page. She said of course, and in a couple of minutes she came back in the conference room and made sure everyone got a copy.
The top ten list
My top ten list of what made our vending company different included the following:
1. We install brand new state of the art electronic merchandisers (vending machines) at each location. I realize that this goes against the typical thought process of numerous vendors who only want to install used equipment at a new location. In the August 2016 edition of this magazine, Mike and Jodi Glimpse were featured on the cover of this magazine and one of the reasons they were able to grow their company, Camelback Vending, to a seven route operation was the fact they always install brand new vending machines at a new location. The same can be said about Jack and Victoria Brown, owners of Refresh Facility Services in Chesterton, IN, who are on the cover of the Feb/March 2017 issue of Automatic Merchandiser.
2. All of our brand new merchandisers come equipped with credit/ debit card acceptors.
3. Each location receives a cash recycler that makes change for their employees in $5 or $1 bills for their employees who need change for a $20 or $10 bill instead of a pocket full of quarters.
4. Our brand new merchandisers all have an electronic guaranteed product delivery system that means their employees either get the product they have selected or get their money back right on the spot. No more post it notes on machines or employees kicking and shaking machines because they did not get their product The HR manger spoke up and said how nice that would be because she spends an inordinate amount of time handling refunds for their current vendor. They no longer have to fill out vending refund slips or wait for their vendor to come by and make refunds.
5. BOGO (but one get one free program) Every month we will have at least one item in the machines that will have free vend tokens allowing their employees to get the second item free.
6. $2 dollar bills will be attached to products for their employees to win when they purchase certain items.
7. Two for a dollar program (our company always has at least two cold drinks and three snack items that sell for 50 cents) It always amazes me when I have vendors say you cannot make money that way. I submit that you can purchase off brand cold drinks that usually cost 20 to 22 cents and products like peanut butter crackers, cheese crackers, etc. that cost 15 to 18 cents for an average combined cost of 35 to 40 cents that you sell for a dollar — that is more than doubling your money.
8. Free lottery scratch off tickets for their employees to win when buying vend products from our brand new merchandisers (be sure and check with your state lottery commission that it is OK to do that ) One of our customers won $1,000 when they bought a bag of cookies and our sales from that snack machine increased over $150 in the two days after the winning ticket. We spent a grand total of four dollars for the lottery tickets in that snack machine that month.
9. Free tasting samples of our frozen food products on a periodic basis especially when we introduce new items. Have you ever been in a Sam’s Club, Target, Costco, BJ’s, local supermarkets, food courts in malls, etc. where they are giving away free samples? The reason they do that is that it works. If you want to sell more food products from your merchandisers, schedule sampling days at your location.
10. Quarterly employee survey forms for their people to tell us what they want in their machines.
Show your differences first
After I had made my presentation and went over our top ten reasons why we were different than our competitors, the president of the company came up to me, shook my hand and apologized to me for possibly sounding rude when he made the comments about all vending companies being the same. Yes, we did end up getting all three of their locations.
If you really want to set your vending company apart from your competition make a list of what really makes your company different and show it to a new location every time you make a presentation. You will close more new business than ever before, 100 percent guaranteed.
While doing research for this article I Googled vending companies in four different markets to take a look at the websites of vending companies in those four cities. One thing that jumped out at me almost immediately was they all look alike and say basically the same thing. If you could tape over the names of the various vendors it would be very difficult to find any appreciable difference in the message they are attempting to convey to their customers.
I found they all basically said that they have great service when their machines break down. This made me wonder, why in the world would they tell prospective new locations that their machines are going to break down?
In addition, everyone says they have brand name products. Who in their right mind would say they have products no one has ever heard of?
There was always a line about professional service, too. I want to know what that means? Customers expect you to have professional service.
In one, I also saw “Highest commissions paid in the city.” Why would you advertise anything about commissions? There are literally hundreds of thousands of locations in this great country of ours that never receive one dime in commissions. However, the vendor who lists that on their website is willing to give away profits when in most cases you do not have to pay commissions. I have been in the vending industry for 23 years and have had hundreds and hundreds of locations over the years that we never paid a commission.
I will close by saying that if you want your vending company to grow, put together a list that shows how your vending company is different from your competitors. Watch how many new profitable locations it helps you add to your customer base.