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How to Land The Most Profitable Vending Machine Locations


What is a successful vending machine business really built on?

Selling product?

Minimizing cost?

Locking down the most vending machine locations?

Actually—and perhaps surprisingly— none of the above. The real answer: the most successful vending  machine businesses are built upon an unwavering dedication to providing value at every step. Some people call this “customer service.” HUMAN franchisees call it being a “WOW Technician”; that is, someone who can methodically and consistently deliver service, products, and results that leave locations and customers saying “WOW!” It’s a simple concept: value received always follows value provided.

To do this most effectively, shift your focus away from questions like “How can I find the most ROI positive locations” to questions like these:

How can I find locations that will benefits the most from my business model?

What kind of machines would my ideal locations enjoy?

What kind of products do people in my community like?

What sales and promotional events can I be hosting to get my prospective locations excited?

How can I serve my locations better?

These are the true questions and true initiatives of a successful vending machine business owner.

Vending Machine Location- How to start a vending machine business infographic

How can providing value help you secure the best Automated Vending machines a location? Keep reading to discover how value can help you every step of the way:

Step 1: Define Vending Machine Location Strategy 

What comes first, the vending machine or the location?

Some of the biggest questions in the vending business center around location acquisition and equipment.  It’s important to stay up to date on the latest equipment trends, so you know what your locations might be interested in. Some of the most popular vending options to date include: credit card readers, LCD screens, healthier options, and micro markets.

How do you know what equipment is the best investment? 

Honestly, you won’t really know until you know what each location wants. Moral of the story: before you buy equipment, you need to find your locations. 

Step 2: Generate Vending Machine Location Leads & Tracking Method 

What’s the secret to finding high quality vending machine locations?

The first thing to do is realize that you’re not in the vending machine business. You are in the lead generation business—specializing in vending.  The lead generation business is hard work, but with maximum effort and productivity, there’s no doubt you’ll be successful. 

Buyer Persona Analysis

If you’re like many business owners, the phrase lead generation seems a little bit daunting. Let’s make it easier by breaking down a basic action item checklist. Step one: prospect for ideal locations. To make it easier, start by creating a buyer persona analysis.

Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all — in marketing, sales, product, and services — internalize the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

In other words, you may know your target buyers are schools and hospitals, but do you know what their specific needs and interests are? What is the typical background of your ideal buyer? In order to get a full understanding of what makes your best customers tick, it’s critical to develop detailed personas for your business.

The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20. But if you’re new to personas, start small! You can always develop more personas later if needed. Click here to download a buyer persona worksheet from Hubspot.

Although buyer persona analysis is extremely important, it’s not the only necessary factor you have to consider. Here are several additional variables that you must know about each location:

• Direct Foot Traffic
Student population, employees, check-ins, patients, etc. This is considered the primary type of foot traffic, and is broken down into either static traffic (such as students who are there every single day), or transient traffic (such as patrons at a gym who might not be there every day, but the overall traffic numbers are still the same despite the different faces).

• Indirect Foot Traffic
Location rental traffic (like rec leagues using basketball courts at a YMCA), community events, sports leagues, neighboring offices or buildings that have access to the machines

• Exclusivity Potential
Can you secure an agreement to be the only provider of snacks and/or beverages at said location?

• Other Food Service Options
Are there other things such as a student store, after school snack program, free lunches, or a nearby supermarket that competes for patrons’ attention in addition to any cafeteria or primary food option?

• Machine Accessibility
Are there mandated “lockout” hours when the machine must be off to make way for federal or state programs? Is the machine accessible during all hours of the day? Is the machine going to be out in the open or tucked away from the center of activity?

• Current Refilling Timetable
How often is the current vendor coming in to refill the machine? This is a big indicator as to how profitable a location currently is. As a subset, finding out simply what their current commission numbers are will help as well.


After you determine who your ideal location is, you’ll need to discover locations that meet this criteria. And you’ll have to acquire contact information for the decision-maker at this location. This process is known as prospecting, but before we get into the specifics of how to do so most effectively, let me emphasize the importance of tracking. Tracking your prospecting efforts can be accomplished easily through a CRM or Client Response Management System, which will allow you to manage location information, and behavior.  There are also vending softwares, such as VendSoft, that can help with this process. These types of systems will help you to store information about current and prospective locations, including sales notes, email history, purchase history, etc. This can help you provide better service to your locations, handle objections during the sales process, and close more deals. Here are some things you should track with your CRM system:

  • Contact Name Location
  • Contact Information (Name, Email, Phone Number, Address)
  • Last Interaction Type & Details
  • Crucial Dates (RFP, Contract Expiration, Wellness Meetings, Birthdays, etc.)
  • Follow-Up Items, Resolutions, Next Steps

Types of Vending Locations:

Now that you have a good idea of the types of locations you want to go after, you need to put together a master list of potential locations that you can begin researching. The resources listed below help you find location lists for the following:

1. Schools

2. YMCAs

3. Boys & Girls Clubs

4. Professional Offices

5. Other Locations

Remember that your best lead generation tool is YOU! Your feet on the ground, your local knowledge, and your understanding of where the largest opportunities lie will take you further than any computer program can direct you. These lists will get you started on the right foot, but do not let them be your only tools for finding potential business opportunities.

And, as always, be sure to be tracking all of your findings in your CRM. This is absolutely vital in order to stay organized!

School Lead Lists:


vending machine location - schools

The one-stop-shop for finding comprehensive lists for most schools (colleges, universities, public & private middle schools, public & private high schools, etc.) is the National Center for Educational Services (NCES). The NCES has a website (http://nces.ed.gov) with an incredibly robust search function.

Using the NCES:

• Go to http://nces.ed.gov

• Click on the “Data & Tools” tab at the top of the page

Based on this you can search on basically any criteria you see fit (both simple & advanced)

  • School type
  • Geography
  • School size minimums
  • School demographics

This allows you to pick out schools one by one, or do a search at a larger school district level, if the schools send out bids for vending at the district level. In any case, you have at your fingertips all the local schools that could be great destinations for your Vending Machine Locations

YMCA Lead Lists:


YMCA - healthy vending machine locations

Here’s how to use the YMCA Database

• Visit www.YMCA.net

• On the right side of the page, click on “Find Your Y”

• Enter in your zip code and a radius, and see what is around! There is no export function for this search (like the NCES has), but all worthwhile leads need to be recorded in your CRM anyway.

Boys and Girls Club Lead Lists:

The B&G Clubs of America give us the chance to make some of the largest positive impact, as we have a chance to work directly with the youth of the country – many of which need access to healthier items more than most. This fact, coupled with their national database, means you should always have tabs on what’s in your area, and where they stand with providing healthy options.
Using the B&G Club Database

• Visit www.BGCA.org/WhoWeAre/Pages/FindAClub.aspx

• Enter in your zip code and radius, and see what is around!

Office/Professional Building Lead Lists

This is the largest opportunity for growth that you’ll have based on the sheer numbers that exist here (especially with the HUMAN Micro Market Program). Of course, they need to meet the requirements we’ve laid out, but offices are always a good place to be exploring. When it comes to compiling lists for these location types – you have two standout resources at your disposal.

Resource 1: Manta.com

The first resource is Manta.com. Manta is a service that gives you a very robust idea of what professional organizations exist within your community, and will allow you to filter down from there.
Using the Manta Database 

  • Visit www.manta.com
  • On the top, click on the “U.S. Companies” tab
  • Use the simple filters to get the master company list down to only the offices in your community
  • Use any necessary advanced search filters to scale down the list to the types of offices you’re looking for

Resource 2: Your Public Library

One of the most overlooked resources of all time is the vast amount of information that exists inside public libraries. Particularly, the ReferenceUSA database that most all public library systems subscribe to, and make available to their members for free! ReferenceUSA is like Manta.com, but much more extensive in it’s search functions and filters. You’ll get the best possible list from using the ReferenceUSA Database. Unfortunately, not all library systems subscribe to this service, so you need to call your libraries and inquire about it. But, if they do subscribe to the service:

  • Visit the library and register for a library card
  • Work with the library staff to get the appropriate web link and login information to access the database
  • Once you have this information, you’ll be able to access the website remotely and won’t have to go into the library every time you wish to use it.
  • Log in to ReferenceUSA using the appropriate information
  • Click on the ‘US Companies’ tab to begin searching
  • From here, use the series of simple and advanced searches to find what you seek
  • Export your custom data summary to Excel for you to upload to your CRM

Other Location Lead Lists:

Of course, there are an incredible amount of lead types in addition to the ones we just covered. Just because certain locations (gyms, medical centers, community centers, etc.) do not have readily accessible, consolidated information sources does not mean they should not be researched and checked out. Locations such as specialty trade schools, boutique fitness centers, aquatics centers, and more, are hidden gems that need a little extra attention to find.

One of the best tools you have in drawing out these locations is Yelp. Yelp is designed to pull out all local businesses based on what you’re searching for – and we can use it to qualify. Entering in zip codes, coupled with key terms of what you’re looking for (fitness center, community center, trade school, school, aquatics, etc.) will get you more results than you initially thought were possible! Yelp will not provide the traffic numbers that other services will, but that’s why you’ll become a master qualifier!

Related Article: Vending Machine Locations

Free Trial Resources:

Finally, there are several additional resources available that provide great search results, but eventually require you to pay for their subscription-based service. Using them for a brief time period on a trial basis is a good way to enhance your prospecting efforts. The big thing to remember if you sign up for a free trial is that you must know what you’re looking for ahead of time so you aren’t wasting trial time on things that prove to be inefficient.

Bonus Tip: Track the the amount of time you’re spending on each of the activities mentioned above using a time tracking tool. You’ll be surprised on the breakdown of your day and you might learn something surprising!

Step 3: Discover & Engage Vending Machine Location Decision-Maker

I have a list of leads, but how do I contact them? How do I get them to respond to me?

Now that you’ve discovered the best prospective locations for your business, it’s time to engage them. How do you get their attention? The best engagement sequences include a combination of direct mailers (including samples), emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings.

It’s important to note that in order to set meetings and build business relationships, you will sometimes need to speak with the same person over and over again. To keep things unique and fresh, I recommend that you diversify your methods of communication in order to make the process more enjoyable for the contact, and to yield higher results for yourself. Variety creates novelty!

Here’s an example engagement sequence:

How to Start a Vending Machine Business - Engage Leads

Step 4: Define Nurture Strategy for Vending Machine Locations


They didn’t say no, but they didn’t say yes? How long do I wait to let them think about it? When should I follow-up?

Fact: most locations will not buy after the first phone call—the process takes time. This means that you have to have a comprehensive communication strategy which will help you make an initial contact, and stay at the top of your contact’s mind until you can get the deal done.

The most important thing to note here is that ALL communication with a potential location must include some sort of value proposition for the end user. A value proposition should highlight the potential outcomes that a specific location will enjoy because of your vending machine placement. Before you engage any location, make sure you know this value proposition, and you have  a system to relay this information.

Try on this nurture sequence for size:

Location Acquisition-Lead engagement & nurture strategy

Step 5: Recognize & Handle Location Objections 

What if they say they’re not looking to switch vendors? What if they say no outright?

Getting a location to respond is probably the biggest challenge when trying to secure a vending machine location. Once you’ve gotten their attention, you have to make sure you’re ready to answer every question that arises. So, it’s time to get a bit deeper, taking a look at the variables that exist, what they mean for the location AND for you, and where the large opportunity lies. In other words, the more you know about a location can help help you predict their objections. In order to get to know every location, you should activate a second level of questioning during your initial correspondence. This is known as Iceberg Questioning, which will help you get to the core of what a potential location truly desires, what they cherish, and what their existing vendor is not currently providing.

Here are a couple of Iceberg questions to get you started:

1. What do you like and/or dislike about your current vending operator?

2. Ideally, what types of products would you provide to your students or employees?

3. What’s the approximate cost of your current vending options?

Step 6: Secure A Vending Machine Location 

The location is interested, and I know my business would be a good fit, but we’re just going around in circles…how do I close the deal?

So you’ve determined your ideal location, made contact, handled objections, and they’re interested. You’re ready to close the deal, get the contracts signed, and order your equipment…but they just won’t commit. What are you doing wrong?

You probably haven’t clearly defined your value proposition. It’s easy to get excited about your business, and it’s only natural to want to tell your prospects about all of the cool things that come with your program. You’re going to talk passionately about your mission, the machines, the great-tasting products, and the countless other additional elements that your program can bring to the table.

What you don’t want to do though is feature-dump! Feature dumping is the biggest killer of machine placements. Many times, the more features you talk about, the less likely you are to get the placement. Strange, we know, but it happens – a lot.

Here’s a real life example:

One of our operators in the Northeast had a meeting with a potential location that she was super excited about. She went in there prepared, knowing her business inside and out; left the meeting thinking she had gotten the placement, only to find out weeks later that they decided to go with someone else. When she asked why, they told her that it was because they didn’t think the students would adjust to the taste of her snacks. She was confused because she had told them that there was a list of 5,000 snacks that tasted great so we reviewed her meeting with her.

During our review, we found that she talked about the machines’ ability to vend any food item, the machines’ ability to eliminate mis-vends, the catalog of 5,000 snack options, sampling events, and her love for yoga. All of these are great features of her business, but she did not take any of these features and describe how their benefits add value; specifically, she did not address the location’s concern for their students’ adjustment to healthy snacks.

She probably would have closed the deal had she said, “Another feature of my program is our sampling events. We hold sampling events to give students an opportunity to taste some of our 5,000 products and provide feedback on what they like and don’t like. This way, I will know which direction to head when choosing the product selection, and I can choose one that your students will love and easily adjust to. Not only will this event help your students choose what is available to them in the machine, but they’ll also be introduced to healthier products—this type of health education can help them live healthier today, but they’ll also be able to take the education with they learn with them for the rest of their lives.

…and that’s how you close a vending machine location. Understand the difference?


Securing a vending machine location might seem like a complex process—but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be. The main things to remember: understand what you’re trying accomplish with your business, determine what types of locations will benefit from this type of business, seek out decision makers at these locations, and track everything so that you can maintain consistency, professionalism, and provide value better than your competition.

If you follow the instructions in this article you will secure high quality locations. But, don’t forget that the lessons learned here don’t stop once the contract is signed. If you truly want long term success, you must define a value expectation, and follow-through on it each and every day.

Now you know what it takes. So get out there, and make it happen.

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about owning a Healthy Vending Business, download our Ultimate Guide by clicking the image below. It has bonus tips and best practices from over 10 years of healthy vending experience, plus breakdown of the benefits of  joining a vending franchise.

Jessica Conflitti