Over the past 43 years that I have been involved in the OCS industry, I have lived by a series of essential principles or statements that I kept always in mind when preparing to present to a potential customer, and again when actually presenting our services. Here is that list; I will expand each statement or principle.
But first, I want to thank the hundreds of operators throughout the United States and Canada who have contributed by giving me their own successful selling tips as well their insights into mine. This discussion will be in two parts; look for the second column in January's issue.
It's important to remember that we all have our own ways of selling to new customers. My way works for me; if you feel that you can add additional ammunition to your sell points, please do so.
When preparing your presentation, do your homework. It is important to know as much as you can about the company to which you will be presenting.
While cold canvassing, if you can't get an appointment when you call but you can make one for a later time, pick up a company brochure. Find out its Web address, speak to the receptionist and ask questions that will enable you to make a better presentation to the decision-maker.
And now, a statement:
A sale is not a sale until it is paid for.
There are times when you receive a call from a prospective customer who wants to see you immediately. You may say to yourself, "this is going to be an easy sale" -- the buyer is easy to talk to, very cooperative about the style of equipment that he or she wants and pricing is not an issue. You inspect the breakroom and see a competitor's equipment, and you ask, "Why are you switching services?" You are told that the current service is horrible; and then you are asked, "When can you make the installation?"
Okay, sometimes they are that easy -- but if it is a large company, run a credit report to protect yourself and your company. Many times, the prior service has notified the eager prospect that they are picking up their equipment for nonpayment.
Get out of their office and into your office.
During your presentation, you are talking to the decision-maker and his or her phone rings, so you are interrupted while the buyer takes the call. A few moments later, an employee walks into the office to ask a question, and again you're side tracked. What do you do the next time to avoid most of these interruptions?
After meeting the buyer and making some small talk, ask whether you can go into their breakroom to look at what they are currently using to provide refreshments. Now you are in your office, where you have much more control.
When talking to the buyer, never hand out literature for him/her to read. If you need to show the prospect a piece of literature to clarify a subject you are covering, then take it back once you've done that, and tell them that you will leave it with them at the end of your presentation.
Giving out literature to a potential customer, rather than just showing a picture or a brief description of something, is setting yourself up for failure. Once the prospect has the document in hand, they will be looking at the rest of the details, and not paying any attention to what you are saying. You have lost control of the selling environment.
When reviewing a prospect's current brewing system, never criticize it.
The buyer may be the one who chose that system and he or she may be offended if you insult it. What you should say is, "The system you currently have was a good choice at the time. But new technology has been developed in the past few years that will further enhance your refreshment breaks. Let me show you new state-of-the art features and benefits to make your coffee break more enjoyable."
When reviewing the prospective client's current service or the system that they are using, ask, "On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your current service and system?" Wait for their answer and then, if they don't give it the highest mark, ask: "What would make them a 10?"
This is one of the most important questions you can ask a prospect. If he or she answers it, you've been given the key selling-points you need: what they want -- and are not getting -- from their current service or present coffee brewing system. If they do not answer with a 10, your next questions is, "What would make them a 10, or make the brewing system a 10?" Just wait for the answer(s); let the customer speak. Now take their criticisms and turn them into positives by explaining how you and your company can overcome them.
Next month, I will complete my list of principles and statements that have been extremely effective in selling new customers.
I would like to thank you, my readers, for the many positive comments that I have received throughout the years on my columns. I want to wish you, your families and all of your employees a very happy and healthy New Year.
Please let me know how this promotion worked out for you. I can be reached by calling (516) 241-4883 or by emailing me at OCSconsultant@aol.com.
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.