You Won’t Sell a Single Hot Dog if You Blow Step #1

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So many folks think that all they need to do is get a hot dog cart, set it up at the first place they find, and wait for the money to come rolling in. What could be easy (with the right knowledge) turns into a real grind.

The thing they don’t understand is that a hot dog business, like every other business on the planet, is a sales business. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear a plaid suit and gold chains. Please, don’t do that.

I’ll show you how to make the sales process run itself so you can concentrate on the fun part – slingin’ dogs!

The Sales Process
It doesn’t matter if you sell tennis balls or toilet tanks – every business must follow the same six steps in order to sell anything at all.

Every dollar that your hot dog cart business generates is a result of these steps, sometimes referred to as the sales funnel. If you aren’t making as much money as you think you should, odds are that you’ve got a hole in your funnel because one or more steps in your sales process is broken or missing.

Here are the six steps in order:

1. Prospect for customers.
In our business we do this by attracting attention to ourselves. The first step is getting yourself noticed. Remember – if they don’t notice you, you don’t exist.

2. Qualify the prospect.
Qualifying the prospect means being sure that they are capable of completing the transaction. A qualified lead is one that has enough money to buy your food, and one that is hungry for what you serve. (Even a millionaire is not a qualified prospect if she isn’t hungry at the moment.) We get qualified prospects by being in the right place at the right time.

3. Make your presentation.
I always tell my students, “Don’t just sell a hot dog, sell an experience!” Have a theme, a gimmic, a hook. Your customer should be captivated by the experience, totally immersed in your world while they are at your cart.

4. Address the customer’s objections.
Overcome a price objection by overwhelming them with quality, stocking unique condiments, offering them combo and daily specials, and again – by providing a totally unique dining experience.

The second biggest objection we get is the cleanliness issue. Overcome it by keeping an immaculate cart. Wipe it down between every order. Even if it’s not dirty, the customer needs to see you cleaning. Display your business license and health department certificates to show that you are legal and that you comply with the food codes. Brick and mortar restaurants do it – you should too.

The third most common objection is slow lines. Do what you can to move them through quickly without compromising the experience. I know a slinger who warms up pre-cooked bacon slices with a propane torch. Yeah, it takes some time but I’ve been there and saw a line of fifteen entranced customers watching the process with smiles on their faces. He has more business than he can handle – and over 5000 friends on his Facebook business page.

5. Close the sale.
That means putting the money in your apron. In the mobile food business, once you have the first four steps working for you, closing the sale comes easily and naturally. This is a huge advantage over other types of business (cars, homes, heavy equipment) where the close is actually the hardest part of all.

6. Get repeat and referral business.
It takes ten times more effort to get a new customer than it does to sell to an existing customer so you have to get ‘em to come back again and again. We accomplish this with repeat customer incentive programs such as punch cards – buy ten dogs, get one free. The more they buy, the more invested they become.

Referrals are another way of leveraging your existing hard-won customers. Referral business is just a fancy way of saying, “word of mouth”. The experience that you give your customer will determine how much they talk about it to their friends. One of my customers has a sixties theme. They wear tie dyed shirts and hippie wigs and EVERYONE knows about them. In contrast, when was the last time you had someone say, “Hey, I just got back from the gas station and you know what? They have HOT DOGS!!!”

All right class, I’m assigning homework today. I want you to go over your sales funnel and see where you are leaking customers, then let me know how you are going to plug the leak in the comments. Let’s help each other brainstorm some creative marketing solutions that will really grease that funnel!

-Steve

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard in Berryton ks

Hi Steve. We serve quarter pound Nathan hot dogs. I email Nathan’s international told them i had a hot dog cart in Topeka ks I sent pic’s. They sent me a starter kit with of 100 cards buy 10 get one free combo cards.an sent us a umbrella free. It has Nathan’s name on it. Works great!!!

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Jamming Hotdogs

did you have to agree to any certain terms for them to send you the umbrella?

John

This is great info and I read all you send out. We just moved from AZ mountains and now staying in Indianapolis Temp. Looking for a house.

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Yank's Franks

Okay, I’m not following your instructions…I’m a guy afterall. I wonder what you think of this idea. We are Brick and Mortar. I have had some nice t shirts made. How about selling the shirts for a reasonable price and then offering repeat customers 10% off their order every time they come in with their t shirt on?
Repeat business that advertises for you.
Any thoughts?

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ray

Great idea!!!

Aaron

I think that’s an excellent idea. I’d be wary of having to discount so many people though, especially if their regulars in mass. If you can afford it though, awesome.

R. Matthews

That’s a cool cart but, the price will be rough!

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steve

Yank,
I love it, but you have to test it. Testing is the key to marketing. We all think we know what other folks like but in reality we only know what we like. Testing and measuring the results is the only way to know for sure. Tell us how it goes!
-Steve

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steve

Actually the price is very reasonable, but don’t fall into the trap of basing equipment decisions strictly on price. You need to shift your thinking to an R.O.I. (return on investment) basis. Your cart is not an expense like propane or napkins. Your cart is an investment that has a direct impact on how much money you can generate. A cart like this one will outsell a regular stainless steel cart by a large factor, quite possibly paying for itself faster than a much cheaper cart. And after it’s paid for, it will keep selling more per hour at an even higher margin. Think strategically, not short term.
-Steve

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suerenas wieners

Get lesson Steve we will check our funnel for sure and our rain gauge. The weather has been a bit tough on us here in Wisconsin but looks like we have a nice weekend coming up. Thanks again. Sue and Rena

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Pat

Interested, but want to know how/where you cook dogs in the body of cart?

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Pocono Hot Dog

What is wrong with my Plaid Suit?

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Richard in Berryton ks

Hey yank. I like that t shirt Deal. Im looking in to t shirts now.

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Scott0

Having been responsible for the making and design of thousands of t-shirts for both non-prophet as well as prophet I’ve got some advice. .
1. Buy shirts in bulk yourself. IF you buy from the screen printing co. that makes your shirts double the price. Bulk means 144 which is 12 dozen. 2. don’t buy a shirt so cheap YOU wouldn’t wear it. 3. look for a blend for shrinkage as in 20% nylon to 80% cotton . 4. Pay the extra 20 bucks for the 144 so you get a mix of large to 2x ,”if” you buy standard mix cases you’ll waste 35% of your shirts and end up giving away all the x’tra smalls to mediums. TRUST ME ON THIS!!!! 5. Find a local vendor of silk screening and tell them you want to build a “relationship” with 1 co., not shopping around every time you need more. 6. Be genuine and honest with them. 7. Use the color of the shirt as one of your logo colors. 8. Don’t pick a base color too “LOUD”. 9. The best bang for your buck is a 2 screen shirt which gives you 3 colors to work with. 10. Hee hee, Never buy white shirts as a base. 11. Take the companies advice into account. 12.You want a quality shirt but to start try a 1 screen shirt without pocket, with ONLY the front of shirt screen printed.
I used to get 144 “Hanes Beefy Tees” for less than $1.82 per shirt. Add to that about $1.60 for a 1 screen or $2.40 for a 2 screen shirt. This is having 144 at a time made. The more made at a time the cheaper it gets. screens cost $20 to $50 per screen but you OWN them once made. If they wear out replacement should be FREE. SO………. A one screen top quality shirt should cost about $3.42 per shirt complete. Sell for 5-6 dollars. And more than anything else…….”Realize they are PAYING you, to advertise FOR you”! Any questions? e-mail me………. I wish ALL of us success!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Scott0

Richard in Berryton ks

The pictures doesn’t show any equipment is there any equipment with it like built in coolers or Grill

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Mark

Steve – The picture shows 2 carts, one with lights on top and one without. Both for sale? Are these the bottomless – walk in type of carts? What equipt comes in the cart – see the sink, tanks – but what else?

Thanks -

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steve

Pat,
This is a custom unit to be finished to your specs. Fill in the form and I’ll give you a call.
-Steve

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Ike's Rockin' Dogs

Okay call me stupid, but I can’t wrap my head around the dimensions of this cart ? Do your feet stick out the bottom or do you walk around on your knees? lol I’m sooooooo confused! (Low ceiling and high floors)

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Jack's Last Stand

Steve,
I love the cart and see the potential. I spent the winter custom building a cart and wished this had come out sooner.
On the marketing note; I have a friend in the Shaved Ice business that sells a rubber type bracelet with his company name on it FOR $3.00. If you are wearing it when you come to his stand you get 25c off the price and free toppings.

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RON / Kingman, az.

I saw these carts on the web , but I don’t where, but at the time I liked them very much. I like the old trucks anyway, and this old chevy cart is nice. who ever buys this will have one of a kind any way keep up the good work

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DUGGS DOGGS

Great cart, I must be doing something correct because I did 180 doggs at a Vacation Bible School event at the local church today. That breaks down to 1.5 hotdoggs per minute for two hours, oh! they were combos(drink and chip). The gig was by word of mouth, the cost to set up was free, some of the kids at the event are my regular customers. The kids had a great time, we had a great time, pictures should be posted soon. By the way I did another event at the same church last year, that would make it repeat business too. It must be because I am so good looking, get it Steve.

Duggs Doggs
Good!! Good!!

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steve

No doubt Michael.

Don

hello i just ordered poker chip and had put on them get 10 chips get one meal free to day was the first day of handing them out let see how it will work.i just open my first cart 5 weeks ago at a boat dock in nj i have a few returning cust but i would like to see more so i did this chip thing thank to all for all the tips you have gave me

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Bravo Dawgs

Now that’s one Bad A** looking rig! Can’t beat this forum for information. It’s second to none!!!!!!

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KZ's Rte. 66 Little Red Wagon

Wow! Great-looking cart! Looks like the rest of the old trucks around here! Does the top qualify for a roof, I wonder?? Great idea! Plenty of room inside I bet! Thanks for the info Steve, and you are right about the 10X’s harder to sell to new customers. I wake up every morning still unemployed…. Customers changeing constantly. I did start something fun with a visitor’s log. Signatures from all over the world, I tell them if they come back and find their name they get a 1/2 price dog! Some of them will, but I might have to wait a year!!

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Checkers Street Grill

WOW! I”ve got all the above, and lovin it.

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Checkers Street Grill

Farmers Market on the Town Square, $225. per hr. for 4 hours. It’s GREAT!
Thanks Steve!

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dawg gon hotdogs

just subscribed bought a stainless steel cart a few months ago great blog thanks
Bob

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P & D concessions ( Louis Valentino Minnie Jr. owner

Need more info on yellow dog cart, price, shipping etc. thanks Lou Minnie

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Nick Coby

I just sent off today for plans,after looking at this site for over a year,, has anyone used a old tent trailer for a stand? take off the sides of course but leave the pop top on? I have not bought a trailer yet, but hope to be up and running soon!

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jmarshall hot dogs

I love all the info I read keep up the good work Steve

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fingerlakes top dog's

looking to open up a stand….need all the help i can get to get into fairs, flea markets and such..how do i go about this???

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chucky booker

I got the punch card thing going…..I also run a $5 dollar double dog combo….find most the business here is late night bars service for the Army boys and weekend mornings for the midget football and youth soccer. For visibility I have a couple strings of battery powered LEDs that flash and chase. Always sporting the custom CBP shirts and hats…..keep a clean ship and have fun with EVERYONE. Life is tooo short not to sell em’ a dog.

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Fabio

I just started researching about Hot Dog Shop and came across to your great website, it’s awesome to see so many folks excited about this line of business. So many good ideas and tips from all. I’m considering to buy a very small building (17X10 ft) plus bathroom and basement, in a small college town located right at main street with great visibility. Any tips and/or advice will be appreciated. Thanks.

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Steve

There are a lot of those kinds of hot dog joints in Chicago. They do well. Good luck Fabio!

Aaron

Fabio, you will be needing a kitchen for sure. If you don’t have your own, you will need to rent some kitchen space aka commissary somewhere nearby. Always check with the County Health Inspector before investing. TRUST ME!

joe

hey mike hows everything going . is denver colorado a good place to sell hot dogs

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Aaron

Okay Steve, although I have yet to open (have about a month and half left to wait for that still) I went through a think tank process once I got my funding. I did the fun part first, creating the name, which turns out to also be my product. I wanted to be original and to do more than just sling dogs, I wanted to make my own little local history here so I created my own themed dog for my local area, which to my surprise nobody had done.

Rushed to the store and made my dogs for family and friends for opinions and it was a winner, even for myself. From there took some pictures of the product, built up my website, and started promoting the business and site on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+, and Pintrest. I haven’t signed up for Yelp or Google Local yet as I want to first still have my location set up, but by doing all of this already and getting the word out, I have along line of customers waiting for me to open already.

Well get this … I have been contacted by three journalists already over my product, one being the main local paper. They plan on doing a full page Sunday spread on my business when I open up. As well, I have had 5 businesses contact me wanting me to help host their events, some are monthly.

My advice so far, and very early in the game …. build an original idea, think up a great brand, make yourself visible to the public online.

The response so far … PHENOMENAL!

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Steve

We have a free package that does the same thing – plus we set up the website for you!

http://HotDogProfitsPremium.com/website

You are proof that pre-opening marketing works. Good job!

lee

I live in the UK,but we are returning to US in a few years,so I am using this time to plan.Will you make any money in winter,especially in states that see snow in January-march! Do you make money in states such as Florida,California & Nevada? I want to know the pros/cons of this please.

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Steve

Hot food sells great in cold weather. As long as you can stand the weather, you can make money. On the other hand a lot of slingers migrate to warmer climates for the winter and do well in the states you mentioned. Good luck!

Mona

I live in Florida so it’s hot year round.
Me and my wife are thinking about owning a hot dog stand. Can’t really figure out a name yet so far I came up with 2 women and a dog lol or Bentley dogs. Still not sure yet , we want to go Chicago style because that’s where we are from. Plus no one here sells hot tamales. So how would I promote it? Should I do a discount of some kind? And what do you thing about selling cookies and cotton candy and brownies for the lil kids?

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Steve

I like both of those names!

Cookies and other sweets may not go as well as you think. I tried them on my cart without much success but it doesn’t cost much to try it. Maybe it will work in your area.

As far as commissaries, permits, locations, inspections, and all the other details required to be successful, I’m going to give it to you straight.

Here’s what I recommend:

If you’ve never done this before, you need to join my Hot Dog Profits Premium membership. You’ll learn more there than you would in a month of expensive and stressful trial and error at the job site.

You can get more info at http://www.HotDogProfitsPremium.com

Go ahead and sign up today. I’ll see you inside.

Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you Mona!

Nicole

Steve,

is the website being offered for free too?

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Steve
Steve

Awesome info Scott. Thanks!

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Steve

Yes, they will want you to sign an exclusivity agreement where you agree to not sell competitor’s products.

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