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Start with a Locater, a Beginners Guide

Most vendors agree the hardest part of this business is the locating phase. Getting machines into a business is very difficult for some of us. We’ve all had some trouble, and there is no shame looking for help. This is the guide to locater basics.

First, I must say that this is not an endorsement of any particular locating company or vending location service. I believe that whoever you use is your choice. For live side-by-side comparison of locating services, please visit the VENDiscuss forums. Thanks!

To begin, what is a locater service, and how does it work? In vending, there are two types of locaters- phone locaters and in-person locaters. Phone locaters are essentially telemarketers trained in placing vending machines. In-person locaters are just like it sounds- your company hires an individual to go door to door to try and find vending placements.

Phone locaters are cheaper, usually faster, and straightforward. However, many locaters are based far away, and even overseas, and they don’t have much to go off of beyond a digital phone book. Locations are more of a roll of the dice in this regard, as phone locaters are shooting blind.

In-person locaters are almost always more expensive, but generally they can accomplish much more difficult tasks than phone locaters are equipped to handle. They can land high-traffic accounts, place toy racks, specialty machines and more, for a fee. The largest downside to these locaters, in my opinion, is how scarce they are. If you aren’t in an area where they operate, then there isn’t very much you can do.

Because I live in a more sparsely-populated region, I do not have access to in-person locaters, so I had to choose a phone locater company. To begin, select the phone locater you wish to use. For this exercise, I’ve chosen locaters R Us (LRU), a smaller locating firm from the Philippines. This is not an endorsement, but rather an exercise in how purchasing locations from a locating service can be accomplished.

To start, check out the company’s website. Instructions and pricing aren’t hard to find here. Most locater companies accept PayPal as their default payment method, making it much easier and safer for vendors to begin working with these groups. Take some time to familiarize yourself with their services, prices, and their employees if possible. In this instance, LRU offers multiple options and pricing schemes for the prospective vendor. Determine your needs, and order appropriately.

For LRU, you fill out an order form from their website. Within a few business days they will contact you to confirm your order, and their call center will go to work. Currently it is LRU’s policy to charge half of the fee up front, and the rest following a placement. They charge with PayPal invoices, which are similar to eBay’s checkout.

Soon, you will receive a call or email from them confirming a location. Contact information will be given, and you will be prompted to deliver your machine. It is my suggestion to place your machines as soon as possible for a number of reasons- first and foremost is the “stale” issue. If a location agrees to a vending machine placement, and no vending machine is delivered, they tend to forget, or change their minds, and you will have to work twice as hard to get the spot then, or be rejected outright.

Some vendors choose to call ahead, others prefer to show up- diminishing their chances of being turned down over the phone. Another vendor taught me a great approach to this- a few minutes before you would arrive at the location, pull over and call the business. State who you are, what charity you are with, and announce you are a few minutes away. Then ask them if they would rather you brought the machine in through the front door, or if they have a side entrance or service door they would prefer you to use. Location operators are unlikely to turn someone down who will be upon them shortly (who really enjoys confrontation?) and are unlikely to turn you down for showing up unannounced. This approach has worked very well for me, and it is the best I have found to date.

Some locations are walk in, drop off and go. Very little, if anything needs to be discussed. However, there are occasionally spots where you will encounter some confrontation. In these instances, it is best to fall back onto your self-locating skills, and try to salvage the situation with a basic sales pitch. Failing that, report all of your experiences to the locaters immediately, and see what they have to say. In my experience, they will either salvage the situation, or begin the search for a replacement, if those services are offered.

Following the final payment, you are done with the locaters. You have a machine on location, making you money. Though I maintain that the “best” spots will always be found by the vendor, this is a great way to keep growing your business.

Good luck locating!

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