The number of distributors investing in post-purchase services may be small, but Allen believes it's a mark of quality. Unfortunately, even the top-of-class companies that offer such services often fall short on marketing them.

"It's not talked about much," he says. "I think most customers understand the word 'warranty,' but I don't think everybody knows there's training, loaner equipment or things like that available."

Service is often not advertised or even discussed until the customer has already committed to purchasing a piece of equipment. In the long list of things marketing and sales people are promoting, post-purchase services often don't rise to the top.

"Most distributors that are offering these services have so many other things that consume their time that this part of their business is put on the backburner," says Taylor. "They are putting more focus on the things that make them the majority of their profits."

That may be shortsighted, however, because even "small potatoes" vacuum services can be a great source of additional revenue. Again, the services can be yet another sales hook that helps keep the customer for years.

Why does this matter so much? Studies have found that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Plus, existing customers are 50 percent more likely to try new products and spend 31 percent more when compared to new customers.

If post-purchase services aren't being offered, distributors should think about how to add a few or create a full roster. Once a program is in place, don't keep it a secret; promote the offerings on the company website, in marketing emails and on invoices.

The most important and effective way to raise awareness, however, is by properly training salespeople to educate customers. An alert salesperson should learn to listen for cues from all customers, not just those buying a vacuum.

"If the customer is purchasing chemicals from you, there's a good chance they have equipment," says Cadell. "You should let them know that you have service and how you could help them."

It's also critical to discuss vacuum services with customers who are specifically seeking that type of equipment. During the research phase, at the point of purchase and after the sale, it should become automatic to discuss what comes with the purchase and what is available for an additional fee.

"Some people are happy to purchase for the least amount of money possible, but that shouldn't stop a quality sales rep from asking questions," says Allen. "When a salesperson shows interest and walks the customer through as many aspects of an equipment purchase as possible, then that customer is going to know that he or she will be cared for, period. It will help make more sales."

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance magazine.

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