If the preliminary assessment supports moving forward, a deeper conversation is needed. Ellison says because of equipment cost, which can run over $50,000, budgets are something he prefers the sales team to address sooner rather than later. He likens autonomous machines to Tesla vehicles — there are plenty of people who want to test drive one of these cars, but far fewer are willing or able to purchase.

Carrizales agrees this should be broached early in the conversation since these machines are considered a capital expense, often worked into the following year's budget. He also inquires about traffic patterns, when cleaning starts and finishes, and then moves on to when the next contract renewal is.

"If the BSC is close to the end of their contract and they don't know if it will be continued, it may not be a good fit," says Carrizales. "However, if the contract is going to be renewed, then further discussion may be warranted. If it is possible, I would like to get the facility manager or owner involved in the discussion."

Schneringer says during this conversation, he asks about labor. For example, he inquires if their costs have gone up or if they're having trouble finding workers. He also likes to learn their appetite for innovation and how open they are to new technology. This could be as simple as asking where in the facility they've applied innovation or talking about unrelated technology, such as the latest smartphone or smart-home technology.

When introducing the idea of autonomous equipment, Ellison focuses on the benefits, such as increased productivity, reduced operating costs and consistency of cleaning performance.

Return on investment (ROI) can be another selling point, says Carrizales. If the fit seems right, he'll generate a cost analysis, taking into account square footage, frequency of use (five days a week, at least is ideal), water and chemical savings and the customer's labor rate. Although there is no standard ROI (since this will vary depending on these factors), the equipment will typically start generating income in about 18 months, says Carrizales, adding that the more it's used, the faster the ROI.

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