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Opportunity Knocks: Setting Qualified Appointments Is Key To Micromarket Success

by Amanda Puppo & Leah Skye
Posted On: 10/17/2012

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TAGS: vending business, vending machine, micromarket, micro market, automated retailing, self-service retail, vending operator, micro market sales, Amanda Puppo, Leah Skye, Market­Reach Inc., business-to-business outbound telephone marketing, refreshment service operators, lead-generation

Have you hopped aboard the fast-moving micromarket train? More and more operators are eagerly adopting this new approach to self-service, 24-hour delivery of fresh food, snacks, drinks and more as an alternative to traditional full-line vending service.

While most operators understand the benefits of the micromarket approach and how it can be very beneficial to their bottom lines, the concept is fairly new. Many prospective micromarket service providers are faced with the challenge of getting in touch with the appropriate prospect base in order for the service to flourish. Just as with any potentially lucrative business endeavor, you run the risk of epic failure if you drop the ball on marketing.

A micromarket operator, like any service provider, will recognize some requirements for the types of companies to pursue as the most desirable prospects. After all, you're investing in licenses and installation, so you need to make sure you're finding qualified businesses that are going to make the service profitable. You'll require a certain staff size to assure that the micromarket will attract high traffic; and additionally, an area serving as a private employees-only breakroom in which the equipment can be set up.

During the introductory phone call, a lead generator can establish the company's staff size and current vending situation, along with other variables, in order to eliminate the ones that do not qualify and to zero in on the target group. This can often be accomplished by probing the screener, who is typically the receptionist.

Deciding on the clients with whom you want to work is only half the battle, though. Once you've done that, you must establish an effective method for contacting them and pitching your service.

In this day and age, interpersonal contact has been made more and more challenging by the wall of technology -- or has it? By making that contact, and then establishing a personal relationship with an in-person meeting, and through building rapport and trust, you render your prospective clients more likely to buy, since this new endeavor will likely put you "first in," for the time being.

Micromarkets are still in their infancy, so if you can get in the door, you'll have a solid opportunity to knock the prospect's socks off. The ultimate objective of an introductory calling campaign is to set up operators for scheduled appointments with interested potential clients that have been prequalified as promising targets. Do not try to sell the service over the phone -- seek only to get an appointment!

In order to land that appointment, some engaging questions must be asked. These will help you to get an idea of where your prospect stands currently, so your message can be tailored for a successful outcome. A phone lead-generation campaign makes use of some special scripting techniques during the introductory phone call to accomplish just that.

"What is your current vending situation?" is a great way to get started. Asking open-ended questions allows lead generators to obtain the information they need, show that they care about understanding the prospect's specific needs, not just selling what's on the agenda, and so propel the conversation toward a favorable end.

Giving prospects a chance to speak first not only avoids the fatal error of bombarding them with information, but also opens up the conversation to address their particular needs and concerns. For example, "Tell me about the kinds of items you have in your vending machine now," is a useful invitation. If they reveal that traditional snack and soda vending machines are their only sources of food, the chances are that they wouldn't mind having a wider variety. And now you've got a golden pathway that can lead to your emphasizing a crucial bene­fit statement of the micromarket: Fresh food at no cost to the company.

We all know that in this health-crazed society, everyone and their mother is on some sort of diet or wellness plan. While "healthy food" in vending is often requested, micromarkets at present offer the perception of a higher level of quality that clients desire. Comparing the food choices you'll offer in your micromarkets to those offered in vending machines often will appeal to a prospect's inner health nut, leading them to the notion that having a wider variety of fresh food available will make it that much easier to make guilt-free choices.

In addition to offering a wide variety of fresh food, a major benefit of the micromarket setup is that its 24/7 accessibility rivals full-line vending's. By inquiring "Do you have employees who work late or overnight shifts?" a lead generator can gently guide them toward a statement that is pretty difficult to argue with. Any business that has employees working off-hours shifts will be likely to admit that the food options are limited to snacks offered in a vending machine. While some do have sandwiches or meals available through refrigerated venders, products can't be picked up and viewed, and the quality and variety often don't compete with that of the micromarket selection. Understanding your prospects' current circumstances by asking the right questions, first by phone, is the fastest and best way to gain that coveted in-person appointment.

Once you have asked some good, probing questions and presented the benefit statements, it's time to close for the in-person appointment! "Do you have a calendar in front of you?" is a great leading question to nail down the appointment. Of course, you can use the tried-and-true alternative choice close: "Which day is better for you next week, Tuesday or Thursday?" Or, schedule the appointment around your availability, because after all, if you're able to sell a market right now -- as you read this issue -- then you've got the goods!

The benefit of investing in a micromarket is not some guarded industry secret kept under lock and key; it's becoming common knowledge to anyone paying attention in the OCS and vending world. The competition is becoming fierce as more and more operators realize just how successful a self-checkout service can be. Many vending companies are switching over or adding micromarkets to their repertoires of services, so acting sooner than later will give your business a competitive advantage.

Being the first one in the door imprints your brand on clients' minds and significantly increases the chances that they will choose your services over your competitors'. So you should honestly ask yourself: "What am I waiting for?" While you just did that, another operator was walking out the door after a successful sales appointment arranged by their timely investment in a micromarket lead-generation campaign. Go get 'em!

AMANDA PUPPO is chief executive of Market­Reach Inc. (Lawrenceville, NJ), and LEAH SKYE is the company's lead generator. MarketReach provides business-to-business outbound telephone marketing for refreshment service operators. It offers lead-generation and appointment setting, customer satisfaction surveys, database cleanup, customer reactivation and introductory call training. Visit