In the January 2013 issue of School Nutrition, author Patrick White asked school nutrition operators and foodservice equipment vendors to share insights unique to their respective perspectives. Following, two vendors detail the efforts they take to ensure they are responding to the unique buying needs of the K-12 market.
“We conduct trainings three times per year for our reps. We explain to them not only the attributes of the products themselves—the features and benefits—but also how to approach school nutrition directors,” reports Jim Klimt, vice president of sales for Duke Manufacturing. In fact, this past fall, a training for 50 of the company’s reps included presentations by a school nutrition director, as well as a foodservice consultant who specializes in K-12. “I asked the director to explain to our rep force what she is looking for from a rep when they call on her,” says Klimt. “It was a great education for the reps to hear this information directly from her.”
Duke also sponsors focus groups with K-12 directors to help its team uncover the equipment features and attributes that directors consider most important when they consider a particular model or brand. “We’ve found that these [factors] include the equipment’s reliability, longevity, affordability, speed of service and, especially with the advent of the new nutritional guidelines, [our customers are] looking for equipment versatility,” notes Klimt. He adds that his company also highlights innovation, “cleanability” and energy efficiency when promoting its equipment to potential customers.
“I train the reps on the K-12 segment, so they’ll have a better understanding. Many times they don’t understand things like the difference between the child nutrition fund and the general fund,” explains Globe Food Equipment Company’s Kevin Woods, SNS. If reps understand the financial regulations that school nutrition programs operate under, he notes, it’s easier to understand the factors that drive a school nutrition director to make a capital investment in equipment.
Woods also recognizes the value in training his sales team to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. “They usually want ease of use with intuitive, simple controls; versatility; durability and low-maintenance,” he says of K-12 clients. “And they want support—the support that the sales rep gives pre- and post-sale is huge. Especially demonstrating the equipment after it’s installed and training the staff, that’s the role of the sales rep.”