I remember an old cowboy movie that I saw when I was growing up about going from the East to the West Coast. Two quotes echo in memory, "Go west, young man" and "There's gold in them thar hills." American pioneers bought covered wagons and moved their families out west to find new opportunities. Many of them prospected for gold, worked hard and finally settled down to build farms or ranches. Looking at office coffee service, all of you are present-day prospectors, looking for your next prospects, hoping to turn them into your next customers.
How do you prospect for new accounts? Promote, promote and keep promoting. This article will cover the main tool of promoting your company to potential new clients, as well as promoting to your existing customers: getting the word out. "If you don't tell, you can't sell" -- and "the more you tell, the more you sell." Corny, but it's true.
OCS has been around since the early 1960s, and most services started with several products in addition to coffee. The product mix usually consisted of tea, cream, sugar, stirrers, filters and cups. Instant decaffeinated coffee (Sanka packs) and hot chocolate came next, followed by the arrival of Cup-a-Soup, packaged for OCS by Lipton.
Operators never want to hear that our customers were forced to purchase an item at a supermarket, wholesale club, convenience store -- or worse. The worst scenario is when a customer tells you to pick up your equipment because your competitor carries products that you did not provide. Our industry responded by expanding into many new categories (juices, snacks and candy, plastic and paper products, janitorial supplies and OTC medicines, among others). The industry exploded with over a 1,000 SKUs, and the new motto became "If we don't have it, we will get it for you." The final requirement was to put our arsenal of equipment, products and services together in one place: a fully developed sales brochure.
Start by planning a full-color marketing brochure -- a menu to tell who you are, what you do, what you offer and why prospects should deal with your company. I believe this is the best medium to promote your equipment, products and services. This brochure is to be used by your sales team when presenting to a prospect, and they will give it out to all of your customers.
Here is a good sequence to follow in planning and laying out your brochure:
Front cover. Start with a picture of owner, management team or both. The front page should display the name of your company and a picture of your management team. Have a brief overall statement of your mission, which is to serve your customers. There should be some graphics showing several brewers and major products to communicate what will be inside your brochure.
Inside pages. Include pictures of your staff, warehouse and delivery vehicles. The photos of your sales and office staff should reside on the inside front cover. A picture of the inside of your warehouse might show pallets stacked with many of your products. Run photos of your delivery personnel standing next to their vans, dressed in your company uniforms. Remember, you are not only a product and service company, but also a people company. When you show your team, you and your company become more credible in the eyes of the buyer.
Here are some basic suggestions to help you create an effective sales brochure:
Customer endorsements. This lists some of your best-known clients. It will help make it much easier to sell a new prospect by adding a high level of credibility. Keep in mind that buyers have a fear of changing their current coffee systems. By demonstrating your company's level of service, you make it much easier for the decision-maker to switch to your company.
How to place orders. At the bottom of your endorsements page, show your prospects or customers how easy it is to place orders with your phone numbers, fax numbers, email address and website. If you are on a route-based delivery system or on a next-day pre-call program, explain briefly how orders are placed, filled and delivered.
Company guarantee. Make a statement that illustrates assurance. For example: "All of our equipment, products and services are 100 % guaranteed to your satisfaction. If for any reason we do not meet your standards, we will make it right."
Creating your menu. Before I get into planning to describe your selection of equipment and products, it is imperative to understand that a colorful display of your offerings is a must. Imagine going into a restaurant in which the waitperson just asks you what you want. You ask for a menu and you are told that there are no menus. Okay, you ask, what do you have? The waitperson then asks you, what do you want? Frustration leads you to get up, leave and find another eatery. Making it easy for customers to see what your company provides and how they can place orders will build your sales volume and profitability.
Next month, I will discuss how to lay out a menu and provide you with several tips on positioning your product lines within the menu to create additional allied sales. Also, I will offer a list of inexpensive ways to promote your product mix to your customers.
If you have any questions or comments on what you have found very effective in promoting your sales, I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or OCSconsultant@aol.com.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and later merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million. He also founded the Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage & Products Association. He is a speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing, and is the author of two OCS training programs.