Planning a Successful Route Sales Promotion: Game Day

Running a Successful Route Sales Promotion

In the previous article, we reviewed the importance of planning to succeed during your promotions. We covered goal setting, homework (creating a target list) and the “Line-up Exchange” (route person and supervisor reviewing the target list to assign ownership). This article will review best practices in the actual execution of the promotion.


The big day has arrived. You have set your plan into motion, made goals, created target lists and know who has ownership of getting a sample to every customer on the target list. Make this meeting fun. You’ve already done most of the heavy lifting. If you are offering rewards, review them. Give your team a chance to dream and visualize success. At the weekly service department meeting during the promotion, let your team talk about their successes. Laud their efforts. Doing so will let your other team members think “if he can do it, so can I”.


I like to start route meetings by asking, “How many of you woke up this morning and couldn’t wait to go sell somebody something”. If we are honest, you can guess how many hands are raised. Very few. Why is this? The answer is pretty simple. Your route professionals HATE selling. The follow up question I ask is, “What comes to mind when you think of selling”. Almost always the answer is car sales, which does not necessarily create a wonderful picture. Tell your people you DO NOT WANT THEM TO SELL ANYTHING. This might sound off-base, but it will get their attention. If the word “sale” or “sell” is a 4 letter word in your service department it’s time to discontinue its use. From now on there should never be a conversation in your organization that sounds like, “What did you sell today”? Instead, use a different 4 letter word…”Help”. You want your team to find ways to HELP (not sell) their customers. This word resonates with your service department. It’s what they do on a daily basis. Now, our afternoon conversation might sound more like,”Who did you HELP today”?


The single hardest thing for your route person during the promotion is knowing how to start the conversation with your customer about trying a sample. I have seen the most out-going cocky route reps get absolutely tongue-tied in front of a customer when it comes to asking if they can leave a sample. The following approaches are the easiest ways for your people to start a conversation with a customer regarding with regards to a sample:

“Here” – Or, “Here, I brought you something”. “Here, I think this will help your people/business”, and hand the customer your sample. The goal is to get your customer to try the product. Keep it simple. Every single one of your route professionals can use, and get comfortable, with this approach.

“I noticed” – Remember that you are the expert and customers will listen to your opinion. “I noticed your ice machine is leaking. I’m going to leave a mat so somebody doesn’t slip and hurt themselves”. “I noticed you don’t have an anti-fatigue mat at your hostess stand. I’m going to leave you with this one, which we just started carrying”. This is a great way for your route professionals to show how much they care about your customer.

“I want to show you something new” – Everyone loves NEW. Sometimes, we get caught up doing the same routine. I submit to you that part of our job is to show customers the newest thing in your line. They are not mind readers. Even if your customer says NO it is an opportunity to show how much we care about their business.

“I’ve got an idea” – Your customers love and welcome new ideas. Not a single one has all the answers. “I’ve got an idea…why don’t you let me leave this anti-fatigue mat at your hostess stand for the next week. It will help your people who stand on this tiled/cement/stone floor during their shift”. Remember, your route professional is the person that your customer leans on for service and expertise.

“I need your Help” – Using this method we simply tell our customer that “I hate to sell, but I know there are items/products in my line that will help you/your people/your business. How would you like me to show you these items”? Then shut up! Wait for your customer to tell you. They will likely give you the keys to the kingdom.


Why do these approaches, which can be termed as being aggressive without being abrasive, work? The answer can be boiled down to one word TRUST. Your business works every day to build trust with your customers. The face of your business is your route professional, and your customer trusts his/her opinion.
TRUST, however, never stays in the same place. It is either growing or reducing. Showing your customers items in your line that you believe will help them, builds trust, and at the end of the day, isn’t this what we want to exist in every one of our business relationships?


It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. The promotional scorecard communicates several things. First and foremost, this is important. It matters to our leaders, owners and us. Keep it up to date and simple to read. Use your imagination. Better yet, assign your route team the task of making their own tracking board. Nobody wants to be the last one across the finish line. During the promotion, ask your back-of-the-pack people what you can do to help them.


This probably seems like a lot of work. Make no mistake about it, it is. But the good news is that the model works for every product in your line from air fresheners, paper products, wet and dust mops, apparel and yes, mats. Want to know more? Ask your Universal Unilink vendors their “best promotional practices.” On behalf of all of the Universal Unilink Vendors, thank for the opportunity to work with your teams. It is a privilege to be trusted enough to work your people and call on your customers. Good luck in your future promotions.


Joe Rubbelke, Mountville Mills
Call (615) 594-9961 or email to