Over the many years that I had been selling office coffee service, I had developed a combination of favorite statements or actions while presenting to a prospective buyer. Some of these are my own; others came from my competitors, and from the salespeople that I have met and trained while consulting.
Each one of these statements -- some are questions -- have helped me to sell more accounts. Let's take a look at them and see why they have worked, and how they can work for you and your sales team. This article will be spread out over two months.
First, an action (or the absence of an action): Never give literature to a prospect to read unless you are covering that segment in your presentation. Once finished with that segment, take the literature back, so you can continue with your presentation.
It is vitally important to control the presentation and not allow the decision-maker to lead you down a different path. Once you hand out literature, the buyer may continue to look at it while you are talking about something else, and so not hear a word you are saying.
A good technique to use in this situation is not to let go of what you are showing, rather focus on the area on which you want to make a point and then take back the literature or pictures. You stay in control of each step. What you can say to your prospect is, "Mr. Buyer, I will leave you this brochure to review when we are finished today."
Second, another action: Get the buyer out of his or her office so you can present in your "office" -- their breakroom. Most salespeople make their sales pitch in the buyer's office, and lose control of their presentation because this is where decision-makers are most comfortable. They're in their own environment, and other employees know where to find them. So you will be interrupted by phone calls, and perhaps by people walking in while you are talking; and these interruptions can distract the prospect to an extent that you get tuned out.
Once you have established some rapport with the buyer, you should ask to see the breakroom so you can evaluate the equipment they have and, after some questions answered by both of you, you can make an educated recommendation: "Mr. Buyer, today I would like you to get to know me and what my company can offer; and I would like to get to know you, and learn about your company's refreshment needs. I will then make a recommendation to you on what equipment would most enhance your refreshment break service and make you and your staff more productive and happier. Could we both take a look at your breakroom now?"
Third, when evaluating a competitor's equipment in a prospect's breakroom, never criticize it to the buyer. There is nothing like berating the buyer for choosing the wrong equipment to provoke instant defensive hostility. If you want to make a friend, remember that the prospect may have been the person who chose that brewer for the company.
What you can say is, "Mr. Buyer, the brewing equipment you currently have was a good choice at that time, but since then, new technology has been developed that will further enhance your refreshment break." You have now complimented the prospect and opened his or her eyes, prompting curiosity about "What new technology is there that can make our coffee breaks better?"
Fourth, there is a strategic reply: the question is, "What's your price?" Never give out your pricing at the beginning of a presentation. The buyer may be shopping for just a better price.
You say to the prospect, "I promise to give you a good price, once I have enough information about the coffee quality and strength and the volume your company needs, and the style of equipment that I'll install to provide that coffee. Is that fair, Mr. Buyer?"
Another reply is phrased along the same lines. The prospect has said, "Your price is too high," or "...higher than what I am now paying." This is a statement that we have all heard many times.
You have to say, "High, compared to what? I do not know what the quality of your coffee is, the weight of your bags or the number of bags in the cases you are getting. Once I can have this information, I will be able to give you a price. Also, if you and your employees are not enjoying your current coffee and brewer, the price really does not matter. The most expensive coffee is the coffee that you do not consume, because it is not palatable." So, before you quote a price, get all the information and allow the prospect or prospects to taste the coffee you are going to recommend.
If you sell by price, you will lose by price. There are those buyers who only care about the lowest price; service and taste are not high priorities. This is the kind of customer that you should let your competitors have. If you sell by low pricing, the next time a competitor knocks on your account's door, you are going to lose the client to even lower pricing. I have had a motto from my early years in the OCS business: "Sometimes the best account is the one you let your competitor have!"
Next month, I will finish up my review of favorite statements and actions. If any of you would like to contact me about your favorite statements or questions when presenting, please either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (516) 241-4883.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and after 22 years merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million dollars. Rashkin is also a founder and officer of Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage Products Association. His industry honors include NCSA's (now NAMA) Silver Service Award and NBPA's Lifetime Achievement Award; he was inducted into NBPA's Hall of Fame in 1996. His marketing excellence earned him NBPA's Crystal Bean Award and three NCSA Java Awards. He is a frequent speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing and has is the author of two OCS training programs.