Training your sales team properly to present your equipment, products and overall service is paramount to the success of your company. In this month's column, I'll attempt to describe an exercise that has worked well for me in the past, when I've trained salespeople. You might want to consider using this in your next sales meeting, too. Even if you have no salespeople, you can personally benefit from the following exercise.
Here is a new account scenario for you and your team to analyze. Then come up with a list of questions to ask the decision-maker before recommending the brewing equipment and water machines you propose to install.
The City Arts & Cultural Centers has opened a second office in your town. Ms. Jones has called and requested to see a sales representative from your OCS company. She is interested in having a coffee brewer installed in their breakroom, and your company has been invited to bid. XYZ company is already servicing City Arts' other facility across town, and has set up the new facility. (It's interesting that the prospect is now asking for a competitive bid, suggesting something is wrong.)
Here are some facts about City Arts that will help you in making your list of questions:
This division of City Arts provides expensive artwork to galleries throughout the Northeast region of the United States. It plans events at all of its locations, as well as its clients' galleries. Ms. Jones is the buyer for all of the company's offices throughout the U.S.
Your assignment is to come up with a list of questions to ask Ms. Jones, that will give you enough information to make a proposal for the proper coffee brewers, water equipment and services to provide.
Before reading the next several paragraphs, make your list and see how it compares to mine. Overall, there are no "right" or "wrong" answers. This is the fact-gathering part of the presentation that enables you to make an educated decision on how best to service the potential customer.
Now you are in Ms. Jones's office and you should be having some casual talk, so you can get to know who she is and learn something more about her company. She also should be learning something about you. This is the time to establish credibility for your company and yourself, or your salesperson.
Your first question should be, "Can I see your breakroom now?" Your goal is to move the discussion into your "office," not hers. This is where you will feel more comfortable, and where you'll see firsthand what service the prospect currently has, the equipment provided and many of the products purchased. You will also take Ms. Jones out of her environment so she can no longer take phone calls or be interrupted by other workers looking to speak to her.
Here is a list of many of the questions that should be asked:
Could you give me some idea how old this building is? I need to know whether your pipes are made of lead, which was used years ago, but is not healthy and is no longer legal today.
How many full-time and how many part-time employees do you have at this location? How many are coffee-drinkers?
Do you have visitors daily, weekly, etc.? How many visitors, on average?
Do you have any conference rooms where you serve beverages?
What are your hours of operations?
Do you have water cooler service and if so, what type? Filtration or bottled? If it's bottled, could you tell me how many bottles are used monthly?
On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your current service? If less than a 10, what would make it a 10?
Overall, does your staff like the coffee they are drinking? Would your staff be happy to choose what hot beverages to drink daily?
Do you, Ms. Jones, like coffee, tea or hot cocoa? Does the water taste good from the faucets?
Is there a cafeteria in the building?
Ms. Jones, looking at your facilities and listening to what you have told me, you are appealing to an upscale clientele, is that correct? Would it be okay to quote you on our specialty coffees and teas that would be well recognized by your visitors?
Of course, you will not be asking every question, since you will be observing the location's break area, and some of your questions will be answered by what you will see.
Now, back to your sales training meeting. Have the newer sales representatives discuss the questions they would ask, and then have your more seasoned staff discuss their questions.
This is a great learning tool for all OCS companies. I would love to hear what questions you or your team have developed that are not mentioned above. Please contact me at (516) 241-4883 or 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, 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.