Several years ago when calling on a prospective new vending location for my company, I walked into the lobby and approached the receptionist. What I saw was a real eye opener, to say the least. The name plate on her desk read “Brenda Boyd, corporate director of first impressions” (her title all in capital letters).
In my many years in business I had never seen anything like it. We have all heard the saying “You can never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Let me reassure you that the receptionist certainly did make a good first impression that day.
After the meeting, on my way back to the office, I wondered, are we really making a good first impression when presenting our follow up proposals? Truthfully my answer had to be “maybe.” That fateful day was when we decided as a company that every proposal we present to a location had to be the most outstanding professional proposal we could possibly make going forward.
A poor, yet common proposal
In 2013, one of our best locations was a vocational school that had approximately 925 students and a staff of 75 employees. This location was doing over $135,000 in annual sales for us and the administrator of the school called and asked me to stop in her office as she had something to share with me. When I met with her the next day she said I have something to show you that you may find interesting.
What she had to show me was a proposal that another vending company had presented to her the day before. When she handed it to me, she laughed and said, “Can you believe this?” The proposal was in a two pocket folder. Smudges on the front page were the first of several laughable, but sad issues that were in the proposal. Some of the items included inside were several manufacturer vending machine specification sheets. Two of which were in color and three were black and white copies, with a couple of the features crossed out in black ink. The company letterhead on the first page was in color and the rest of the letterhead sheets were old black and white copies.
The administrator told me that the other vending company actually thought she would consider their proposal when it looked the way it did. Needless to say the proposal was thrown in the trash as I left her office.
This was obviously not the way to make that good first impression. Instead, I submit that you should include the following with every proposal you present to your prospective new vending locations in 2018. When you include these items in your proposal you will close more locations, 100 percent guaranteed.
Present using a notebook
Every proposal should be presented in a notebook binder of some sort. The more professional the binder, the more impressed the location will be with your proposal. Notebook presentation binders can range in price from $1.25 up to $50. That’s right, I said up to $50. I have had vend operators say to me “I’m not spending $50 on a notebook binder to get a new location.” However, these same operators will spend $50 or more to take their spouse out to a movie and dinner. I am not saying that you have to spend $50, but you should at least present your vending proposal in a three ring notebook binder that can be had for $1.25 at Sam’s Club, Costco, BJ’S, etc.
Over the years, my experience has been that people generally will not throw away a notebook with your vending proposal in it, but they have no reservation in throwing away full color printed presentation folders with your vending proposal in it. I have had many locations call me as much as two years after I presented our vending proposal and when I go to see them, they still have the notebook with all of our sales material in it.
Purchase a laser printer
Purchase a laser printer to print your vending proposals. When you compare how much more professional a laser printer makes your proposals look to your prospects, it does make a difference. Prospects will be comparing your proposal to ink jet using competitors. Very good laser printers can be purchased for under $500 from most office supply companies.
High grade laser paper will also make your proposal stand out from ink jet printers. A good quality 28 pound paper with a brightness rating of at least 96 goes a long way in creating that great first impression you are aiming for in your location’s mind.
References available upon request has become the norm in many vending proposals that I have had the opportunity to peruse in my 23 years in the industry. Why in the world any vending company includes that as part of their proposal baffles me. How does it portray your vending company in a professional manner when you make them ask for something that should be included in your vending proposal from the beginning. You should include a list of references as a part of your proposal each time you present a vending proposal to your prospective new location. Photos of the references facility and their breakroom, or wherever your vending machines are located in the building, are an absolute must, along with a short letter from the location. Remember the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It still rings true today.
Offer a referral program
A must for every vending proposal should include your referral program available from day one, so they know upfront. A word about referral programs. I don’t mean a referral program that says something like, “We will give you a $10 gift card” or some free vending products. How excited would you be if someone you are currently doing business with told you that they would give you something like that for providing a potential new location that could generate $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or more in sales for your vending company? I recommend that your referral program offer $500, $1,000, free cruises, iphones or more, depending on the number of employees at the prospective new location. If your location is willing to provide you with the name of the new location, contact person, etc., and endorse your vending company, you should be more than willing to compensate them very well for it.
Make a leave-behind video
In today’s high-tech environment there is a way for you to make your vending proposal stand head and shoulders above any other vending company in your market. I suggest you leave your written vending proposal along with a DVD player and a DVD of the benefits of how your vending company will help increase employee morale and productivity for the location. Smart phones, ipads, tablets and other devices enable you to make a short video highlighting your company. Be sure that before you leave the DVD player, all the contact person has to do is press one button when they show it to the decision maker.
We all know, and realize, that it is difficult to meet with the decision maker when presenting your vending proposal. Let’s face it, you will usually be meeting with the facility manager, buyer or human resource manager who then has to show your vending proposal to the decision maker. If you only leave your written vending proposal and then expect your contact person at the location to sell your program for you, your chances of closing the sale go down dramatically. A short video about your vending company including references singing the praises of your company will go a long way in convincing the real decision maker to choose your vending company.
I said earlier to leave a DVD player and the DVD about your vending company with your contact person. Many times I have heard, “Why would you leave a DVD player with the location instead of a thumb drive that the customer could just insert into their computer?” The main reason for leaving the DVD player is that it gives you a second chance to speak with your contact person when you stop in to pick up your DVD player.
There can be no doubt that your vending company will increase in sales and profits when you make the decision for your vending proposal to be unlike anything your competition is doing. This is 100 percent absolutely, positively guaranteed.