One of the most informative protocols that I follow, prior to making a sales presentation for a private refreshment provider's sales team, is to send out a questionnaire, or request for information (RFI). I send it to everyone who will be attending, and I usually send it two weeks before my training sessions. The majority of those receiving my RFI are the company's salespeople, customer service personnel and route/sales drivers.
I send this questionnaire to learn about my audience and to gather as much information as possible about what they need to learn to become more productive in the selling process. Their honesty in answering is important to me and I assure them that management will not know who they are and what they said. The only stipulation is that the company's owner or manager wants to know when they responded, and who did not respond. This insures that I get their information in a timely manner so I can prepare for my seminar.
The following questions and the answers to them came from the employees of a large western coffee service organization that serves some 13 states. All of its route drivers and sales representatives are responsible for selling and servicing the company's extensive client base. I'm confident that many of their responses are similar to what you have experienced with your own selling team.
Question No. 1: What sales objections do you hear from a prospect?
"Price too high; You are more costly than our current service; We are loyal to our current provider; We are very happy with our coffee service; I buy my coffee and supplies at Sam's Club; I had your service in the past and was not happy; We are loyal to our current service and they have been with us for many years; Coffee service is not a high priority with our company; We never heard of your company; One of our employees has a friend who services us; Our employees stop on the way to work to get their beverages.
Question No. 2: What are your weakest or most uncomfortable sales characteristics when presenting to a prospective customer?
"Fear of making cold calls; No time to make multiple call backs to prospects; I want a decision made immediately and not later; I am unable to give false information to a prospect; I have a lack of sales motivation; Fear of failure after hearing over and over that a prospect is not interested in my services; Not good in follow-up and pressing for the sale; Not assertive enough to ask for the sale; I am not organized in managing my time to make cold calls, following up on sales and making my deliveries; I give up on a prospect too soon; I have a fear of making a presentation to a group of decision-makers."
Question No. 3: What are your strongest sales and service characteristics?
"Knowledge of my product offerings; I am not afraid to ask for the sale; I possess good knowledge about my brewers and products; I sell with little pressure and honest answers; I have the ability to establish relationships with the buyers and not act like a salesman; I have the ability to listen to my prospects and hear what they are saying to me; I am honest, never lying about our company or services; I am a good networking salesperson and use contacts and referrals from friends, family and customers to generate new accounts; I have a positive attitude in my 20 years of selling and am a good listener; My enthusiastic commitment to our product's quality and services shines through to the buyers."
Question No. 4: What would you like to gain from my OCS sales training program next week?
"I need to upgrade my sales techniques; Opening my eyes to new selling techniques to make more money; More tools to deal with objections and how to close sales to make higher commissions; There are always new ideas to learn, wherever a sales talk takes place; I need to learn how to handle and control negative situations, without just giving in; Any training I receive will be helpful in my goals of making a better living; Overcoming my fear of knocking on doors; I get thrown off my presentation when a buyer asks me a question that's not related to what I am talking about; I want to gain confidence in asking for the sale; I'm looking forward to hearing from an outsider on how to sell."
You now have some insight into what your sales team is up against. The above responses are very similar to those at other office refreshment companies where I have presented over the years. I suggest that you send out a similar questionnaire to your own salespeople and route operatives, and just ask them to send back their responses without their names (or just use a "drop box" to gather their replies).
In the same way you want to equip your customers with the proper brewers in order to make their coffee break experience the best, you must also endow your sales team with the best training to help them increase sales.
I would love to hear about what you would like us to cover in future articles. Please contact me 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.