With locations decided, it’s time to actually talk to people about getting your machines on-the-ground. As obvious, fun, cool, and free it may be, there are just SOME people that take offense to the idea of you turning up and installing a big money-for-food machine on their property without asking them first (ridiculous, I know). So it’s best to discuss it with someone first; and depending on the vending machine and situation, there can certainly be those who need little to no convincing and want to welcome the new attraction/food/drink/snack source with open arms (especially if they could make some money on the side from it). Others, on the other hand, will require one to approach from a fully organized and planned process, refining your request into an attractive Sales Pitch to convince them of the worth in adding a/nother vending machine to their spot. The reason for why this is can be numerous, whether they’re already rather full of vending machines, have had bad experiences in the past, worry about them as an eyesore for the space, etc. Whatever the reason, it’s up to YOU to circumnavigate it and show why YOUR business works from step one. And the steps to do so should always be followed and prepared no matter what business you’re going after; one never knows when an open-arm manager can turn fearful near the end, or even better when those that seem to need the most convincing agree on the spot (despite our best efforts, things can be unpredictable, so better to over-prepare and risk not needing it than the other scenario).
By now you should have already performed some sort of research or staking out of the area, its traffic, etc, but if not (or if kept minimal) then it is imperative you do so now. Besides figuring out traffic and what vending options would work best, which should be made note of in the detailed pitches to further show proof and evidence of its potential success through the logically applied reason, one needs to understand any and all obstacles to each potential location, and what ‘weaknesses’ can be exploited in each.
Does there seem to be viable ROOM for another vending machine without it getting ‘crowded?’ If not, very likely you’ll have to convince the manager to swap a previous loyal machine for your own. So you’ll have to look at each one; are there any that seem obviously well-aged and rarely visited? Two or more machines of similar kind? Do some look in need of notably heavy maintaining, either due to cleanliness or lack-of-inventory? Are there any that just don’t seem to get much traffic, or you simply believe that your machine can outperform (make sure to have evidence or convincing business plan to back this sentiment up)? If any of these are true, it will be your task to express your business ethic and superior product to the manager in question; make sure they’re aware of your complete and professional installation, dedication to keep it maintained and stocked, assistance with any aspect of your machine, and any other service and performance points that can be hit upon.
Or now, could the issue be the opposite? Perhaps a place that’s completely viable for certain vending machines, yet those in charge don’t seem to want any in? In which case, one may want to thoroughly press upon the points 1: how helpful and convenient your machine will be for all the people who come through there regularly; 2: heavily employ their benefits, such as a 10% share in profit (or sending some of the money to charity); and 3: that if at any point in the future, perhaps give them a ‘wait 6 months’ request, they decide they still don’t want the machine, that they can call and you’ll remove it within 48 hours.
Whatever the difficulties may be, whether it’s other business or social preferences, do whatever you can and make any proposal possible to make sure it’ll work. It’s all about getting the machine out there and your foot in the door, after that is when the business can start to adapt and grow.
Getting In the Door
In many scenarios, there should be little to know difficulty in finding someone of connections (receptionist, floor manager, etc), asking them to speak to an Owner/Manager about possibilities for a new vending operation, and simply setting up a face-to-face immediately from which you can deliver your pitch.
But that doesn’t always happen. Either the person isn’t there, is heavily busy, or has instructed others to act as ‘gate keepers’ and try to turn people like yourself away so as not to bother them. When this situation is upon you, always keep a few things in mind.
First, keep the same welcome and professional demeanor that you plan to go into with the official decision-maker. Treat this as the first stage to an interview process, and that means keeping full hygiene, professional dress, and speech.
Give them your full elevator speech (discussed below), let them know about you and the product to convince them you’re here with a real, actual opportunity for their location and not just a gimmick. Really let them know how sincere you are with wanting to discuss the location with their boss, and try to get that meeting that day.
In case of a situation where a meeting just CAN not or WILL not be set up that day, prepare some proper information for sharing. Have a Business Card, Information Packets/Written Pitch, and even some Product Samples ready to have them pass on and inspect (make sure to give extra product for other employees to snack on and build interest). After this is done, make sure YOU get as much contact information you can to facilitate further visits; Name, email/phone if able, what days and times are supposedly best to stop down to meet, etc. Keep up the frame of mind that you WILL be finding another time to meet with the boss about this. Make this happen and we can move onto the actual pitch itself.
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I’m sure by now you’ve heard at least a dozen times in your life how important an Elevator Speech is for your career and how much it needs practicing, not to mention the details of what it specifically IS so I won’t go into that too much. But it’s certainly true that having one set, memorized, and able to flow off the tongue will be a strong boon in this situation. Once face-to-face with the owner/manager, it may take only a minute of explanation before they decide whether or not they want to use your machine. Thus it’s all too possible that the very first thing you tell them could also be the last, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad will be up to how well your concept is communicated. In terms of the Vending Machine business, the main points to consider when crafting this are as such.
About Three Sentences worth of information is ideal, maybe Four if the idea is highly unique or otherwise have a lot more to say (in which case you’ll likely have to prepare for ‘phase 2’). Make sure to start off with something that strongly implies a need for your machine: “Don’t have one,” “I see need a replacement,” “Little variety,” etc, something to get your foot in the door of their mind that they want this product in here. Mention the benefits, namely that or why you think people will love and buy from it, not to mention if you plan on giving part of the profits to them or some organization in particular. Make sure to stress that they have to do NOTHING; you’re taking care of installation, maintenance, stocking, collecting, etc. The more they feel like they have nothing to lose and all to gain, the better.
And the most important is being able to keep it FLEXIBLE. No location is the same, so don’t treat them the same with an identical pitch every time; make sure you’re able to adjust your main points based on the research that’s been previously done. Then all that’s left is practice so you can deliver it in a smooth, easy, conversational pitch.
Here’s an example of a classic pitch template which you can start basing your speech off of; but don’t try using it word for word. Change it around, mold this speech to better fit YOUR business and, more importantly, personality, not to mention the values and benefits you specifically want to instill in that first meeting.
“Hello my name is [NAME HERE], I noticed you don’t have a ____machine at your location/had space for a vending machine/have some rather out-of-date vending machine types (whatever best fits situation) and was wondering if you would be willing to let me put in a _____machine that I know your employees/customers/people walking through will love. It’s absolutely free to you and if you at any time decide you no longer want it call me and I will remove it within 48 hours. A portion of the proceeds go to charity/you’ll receive 10% of the profit, which is great for your business and publicizes to your customers your community involvement(this latter for charity scenario). Besides saying yes there is nothing you will have to do, I handle all the refilling, and maintenance that is involved. Does this sound like something that would fit with your business and you are interested in?”
The Long Pitch
Sometimes a simple greet-and-meet simply won’t cut it, either due to various extra details that need figuring out (unique installation, different situation, or attempting MULTIPLE machine additions to site) or, though interest is burgeoned, the owner/manager needs or requests more information. This is when we move to the longer pitch; complete information, going through the machines and plans, how and why it’s needed and beneficial to them. This may be handled at-the-moment or rescheduled to go over in-depth at a later time, but either way this pitch should be prepped and prepared beforehand, and the best and most presentable way to do that is through an official Proposal form.
This is a rather simple document made up of a few major sections, each of them as long or short as befits your particular project.
Cover Letter: it’s not actually part of the proposal, but you should have one attached on front, and should explain why you’re sending the proposal and what you want the customer to do after reading it. Contact info is a must of course.
Title/Introduction: a simple title page with a basic, descriptive name for the proposal to officially state what it is, such as “Proposal to Place Drink Vending Machines in ____”. If the overall proposal is a short/simple one, then this is all that’s needed for the ‘Introduction’ aspect as well. However, an Executive of Client Summary, listing the most important points the customer should understand, should certainly follow with an Introduction to your business proposal idea if there is notable length and/or complexity in the detail you need to get into.
Table of Contents: should only be needed if putting together a LONGER proposal, after the Title page and before Introduction
Client/Customer-focused Section: why are you pitching this idea to THEM, and why should THEY be interested and want to do it? These are the parts of a proposal that dictate why they have a need and can benefit from this partnership. Examples of sub-sections in here includes Needs Assessments, Requirements, Limitations, and so forth.
Product/Service Description: it’s time to describe exactly WHAT you propose and want to do, machine specifications, costs to you and them , profit projections, advertising and marketing (if applicable), etc. This will include Spacial and Electrical Requirements, Profit and Loss statements from previous projects (if at hand), as well as Earning Projection pages, along with anything else that may apply here.
You and Your Organization: a “Bio” page of sorts, this is where you covertly show evidence as to why they can rely on YOU to fulfill the made promises. Note your Experience, any Certifications you have, previous projects and happy clients you’ve worked with, etc. Like a resume or job interview, use every part of this proposal you can to make you look good.
Further Tips and Notes
If planning on using monetary measures to better convince a potential client to let you set up a vending machine there, it IS strongly suggested to go for something like 10% of profits. Avoid paying a flat up-front fee unless very reasonable and you are absolutely CERTAIN you can make it back easily. Otherwise you risk barely selling anything and getting your machine replaced after a while without ever making a profit yourself.
Going off that, when agreeing to a % of profit given, you’ll want to make sure that the Manager is there in person when you Empty/Count out the cash for that period as a show of trust and proof of how much you’re both making.
Besides samples, don’t be afraid to load up your actual machines (empty), if possible, into the back of your van/truck/other-vehicle when driving to these pitches. This way you can take the manager out and show them exactly what you’re planning on putting in, see how attractive it is and how easy the design is to work with.
It’s always a good idea to set Goals when going on walk-and-talks, such as getting a minimum number of locations each day, or being able to get to a certain stage of negotiation with your next potential client, or simply talking to a minimum number of places each day, etc. Work at it, and once that goal is reached, you can go home for the day satisfied.
As much as we mention the ‘benefits’ these clients can get from having you there, at the end of the day the money made from this is often minimal for these business owners/managers compared to what they are (or should be) making in their own job. And if you’re a charity vendor, there’s no official benefit for you being there. So the bottom comes to the fact that, more than anything, you’re selling YOURSELF and not just the product.
Note: at the end of the day, this is all assuming you plan on giving the pitch in-person, one on one, which will very likely have the HIGHEST probability of success in nailing a location. If anything, it’s YOU that you’re selling, as someone the owner/manager wouldn’t mind letting try out their vending machine on, and not the product. That said, there ARE other strategies, such as sending other mediaries (friends, family, employee/s, etc) to do it in your stead, relying on a vending machine placement service, etc. These are options ne may want to consider if attempting a larger scale business from the start, or otherwise have a schedule that keeps you too busy to go to every single potential location in person.