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A Smooth Start Will Make New Accounts Into Customers

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 6/3/2011

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Last month I explained about setting up controls to monitor your new accounts' product purchases, and how to handle problems that may arise with clients ordering from other sources, minimal seasonal buying and similar challenges. This month, I'd like to make some suggestions about servicing and protecting a new customer. The first impression is the most important.

At the National Beverage & Products Association convention and trade show seven years ago in Atlantic City, NJ, operators at a roundtable discussion concluded that it cost $1,700 to acquire one new account. This expense will vary, depending on your area of the country.

The above number is calculated by adding the cost of new equipment, the cost of paying your salesperson's salary, commissions, car expense and phone, as well as all the direct and indirect expenses of installation, warehousing and marketing.

It often has been said that an account cannot be considered a customer until it has been with your company for at least six months. What should you do, then, to ensure that a new account will become a long-term client?

It is very important to identify a new account to all of your staff. During the first 90 days, you should implement a procedure that targets them with some extra care. Yes, all of your accounts should be treated well, but the first impression is especially important, and should be reinforced by making a good second and third impression, too. All of this will help reduce the chance of losing a new client, if a problem arises along the way.

Here are several ways to keep a new account active and serviced. Setting up these controls is paramount for new account success.

1. Communicate to your equipment service manager that he or she must personally check all equipment before installation, and verify that everything is working and spotless.
2. Give a similar checklist to your packer, to double-check all orders from new accounts for the first 90 days. You should make up a special code for all new clients.
3. Installation day and time must not be missed. It must be made a priority to have everything go smoothly.
4. Include a gift for all of the new location's employees when the first order is delivered. A great gift could be a mix of all of your hot beverages, snacks, flavored coffees and other items that you would love them to sample and, ideally, reorder.
5. The salesperson should be present when the equipment is installed. He or she is your lead person, and must be prepared to answer any questions or solve problems that may arise. The salesperson should visit a new account monthly for the first 90 days.
6. You or your general manager should be sending a welcome and thank you letter to the new location's decision-maker. At left is a sample letter with a built in promotion to stimulate additional allied sales.

Now simply print, on different paper colors, 12 months' worth of dollars-off coupons. On each coupon, highlight the products that are in season and that you want to sell. For example, December's dollars-off coupon might read, "$3 off a box of Swiss Miss or Carnation Hot Cocoa." Or June's dollars-off coupon could offer "$2 off any case of Coke or Pepsi products" -- or July's dollars-off coupon, "$30 off the first month's Rental of a Cooler and Bottled Water." You can be inventive and promote any of your allied products, but do it.

If you feel that 12 months is too long a period for discounts, then promote for only three months and see how it works for you and your customers.

We all know that new customers are getting harder to find and more costly to acquire. It is much easier to promote additional products than to add accounts. You, as an owner or manager, should be leading your team to try something new. Don't be afraid to test the waters and think outside the box.

Please let me know how you promote your allied products. I can be reached by calling (516) 241-4883 or by emailing me at