For manufacturers, relationships with foodservice consultants can be like a golden ticket to getting specified for projects. But, building that relationship can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. We spoke with James Camacho, president of camacho, a foodservice consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta, about what manufacturers can do to get on a consultant’s radar — and stay there. Here are seven mistakes Camacho says manufacturers make when trying to get their equipment specified.
1. Assuming specification will happen without a relationship
Camacho describes his profession as extremely personal. He relies on face-to-face meetings to meet sales reps, learn about products and get a feel for the brand. Even if reps can’t meet with consultants in person, utilizing video conferencing tools can be just as effective.
Face-to-face meetings are important not only for establishing a relationship but also for product demonstrations. Camacho says no tactic is quite as successful as seeing a product in action with a real chef-led demonstration. Consultants often seize opportunities for more tangible experiences, frequenting tradeshows and even making on-site manufacturing visits.
Despite the efficacy of in-person meetings, consultants shouldn’t be expected to retain every piece of information. They need follow-up materials such as brochures, handouts and spec sheets for easy reference during future projects.
Camacho says he also needs to be able to find more information about the product and manufacturer online. He frequently looks for more information on databases such as AutoQuotes or KCL. From there, he searches for product information on a manufacturer’s website.
3. Pitching a product without a proven track record
According to Camacho, the quickest path to having your product written off is pitching one that’s brand new to the market. Consultants will hesitate to specify products that haven’t been in the market for at least a year. They have a reputation to maintain, and, as Camacho says, “I’ve been burned too many times on the latest and greatest product to make that mistake again.”
Consultants need proof beyond the manufacturer’s opinion to testify to a product’s reliability. Customer testimonials and case studies are particularly useful in helping establish credibility and help consultants feel more comfortable spec’ing a new product.
4. Leaving out a product’s unique qualities
One of the most important aspects of a sales pitch is showing what sets a product apart from others. Consultants need a reason to switch to a different product than the one they’ve been spec’ing for years. The foodservice equipment market is a crowded one, and consultants need to know what improvements a particular piece of equipment can offer. In particular, Camacho keeps his eye out for characteristics that will help his clients save time and/or money. Here are a few qualities that make him take notice:
- Energy efficiency
- Space savings
- Unique features
Sales reps are trained to focus on the positive aspects of their equipment and often don’t mention what happens if a product were to break or malfunction. Having a support network for inevitable maintenance needs is a factor in whether consultants spec a specific product.
The accessibility of replacement parts is also a consideration for consultants. Camacho says he wants to know the process for getting parts and know it’s as simple as possible for his clients. Armed with this knowledge, sales reps should provide information on maintenance and parts support when they meet with consultants.
6. Ignoring a consultant’s time constraints
Like many in the foodservice industry, consultants have significant demands on their time. Sales reps who acknowledge consultants’ time is valuable and take steps to make their pitches as efficient as possible are more likely to be viewed favorably.
A little knowledge in how the spec’ing process works can go a long way in showing respect for consultants’ time. Camacho describes his process and what considerations he’s looking for in the following clip.
Personal relationships aren’t just one-and-done meetings; they need to be maintained. Camacho says he relies on ongoing communication with manufacturers to get their products spec’d on future projects. Here are some ways he interacts with brands and keeps them top of mind:
- Consistent follow-up meetings (in person or via video conference)
- Tradeshow booths
- Industry publication mentions
- Email communications
Knowing what foodservice consultants are looking for can go a long way toward getting a product specified with future projects. Building relationships with consultants, remaining respectful of their time and elevating unique product features can help manufacturers make a lasting impression.
Want to hear more from our Foodservice Advisory Board? Check out this Q&A on the most important factors when choosing foodservice equipment.