In marketing, we have all heard the expression, "It's all in the packaging." Well, why should this not be true of OCS? In fact, it really is in the packaging -- how you present yourself, your company, and your products and services to the decision-maker. Our industry is subject to the same principles as other successful businesses that have survived and prospered over the past four years, in a down economy, by offering buyers something different (value-added benefits) from what the competition is offering.
That said, let's take a close look at several areas that can help you stand out from the rest of the pack when addressing the buyer's needs.
1. Purchasing agents will feel more comfortable with a company that can guarantee pricing for at least a year. Operators who guarantee the price of their coffees for a reasonable time will have a good chance of persuading the buyer to sign a contract for a one-to three-year term. You can put in a clause stating that, if the price of coffee increases more than 10% after one year, you will be able to increase pricing. On the reverse side, if coffee price declines more than 10%, you will reduce pricing after one year. If you were the buyer, you would feel comfortable dealing with a sales rep and a company that is flexible on fair pricing. In this presentation, you will let the buyer know that the cost of Colombian green coffee is reported in the Wall Street Journal and, if there is a price change after the first year, you will show the differential.
2. Buyers want to know that the brewing equipment they will receive is brand new. This is a calculated call by you: if you feel that this will help sway the potential buyer, you tell him/her that the equipment will be new, out of the box when it is delivered and installed.
3. Telling the prospect that, every month, your route driver will replace the glass bowls with clean ones, and clean and service the brewing equipment, is an effective selling tool. OCS companies in larger cities usually do not have sales route drivers, but delivery personnel whose job is strictly to just deliver the order and get on to the next stop. If this is the case, these drivers could simply replace the glass bowls only; this still would give you the edge on your competitors.
4. Replacing glass bowls, thermal servers or airpots for free when one breaks is a strong selling-point. Many customers feel that, since the brewer is free and is repaired or replaced for free if it malfunctions, the servers for the hot beverages should come with the same free coverage. Again, this is your call; your decision will depend on your pricing (profitability), the size of the account, the equipment provided and the potential purchasing volume.
5. When presenting to a prospective customer, explain that the client will always have a sales contact person to talk with at any time. Salespeople tend not to service their old accounts, except very large ones. You can assign a new sales recruit to these accounts; the trainee may be able to increase sales and gain some selling experience.
6. Next-day delivery is very appealing and, when presented correctly, looks even more beneficial to the prospect. If you're able to tell the buyer that an order placed by a pre-set time will be delivered on the next business day, you should emphasize that this service can help reduce inventory by enabling the account to order less per visit and save valuable floorspace that otherwise would be needed to store excess product. This is very important to buyers in office buildings, where floorspace is very expensive and limited.
7. One-stop shopping is also attractive to buyers. They know that ordering from just one company will save their employees time in placing orders and receiving deliveries, as well as reducing the cost of bookkeeping by writing only one monthly check. Don't forget to let your prospects know that, if you do not carry a particular item, your company will find it for them.
8. "Try us and you will love us!" A free trial of your coffee and water service is a proven technique for selling new customers. Let the prospect try your equipment and products, and watch them sell themselves.
9. Recent surveys show that there still are numerous businesses that continue to use their own brewing systems to provide coffee to their employees. When you approach a firm that has its own equipment, and you know that your system is superior, offer a free trial -- and also tell them that you will purchase their equipment from them if they take your service. You can add that you then will donate that old equipment to a charity of their choice.
10. When approaching a large corporate account, remember that the buyers want to know that you have the proper insurance coverage to protect their premises and employees if your equipment causes a flood, fire or other mishap. They also need to know that you can provide insurance covering product liability. Show the buyer your insurance certificate of coverage and you will be closer to the sale than competitors who do not present this visual confirmation.
I am sure that you, as an experienced operator, can list several other unique benefits that you present to persuade prospects to use your company. Please share those with me by calling (516) 241-4883, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and later merged it with Dell Coffee. He also founded the Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage & Products Association.