Sometimes, after making your presentation to a prospect, the decision-maker will ask you to put your proposal in writing. This is usual with large firms that need to document everything they do with their suppliers. It could also be that the buyer wants to compare your proposal with your competition. So, how do you write a coffee service proposal that will sell your products, services and equipment?
Your proposal letter should contain the following in order to be effective in closing potential accounts:
Mentioning key benefits about your company will help sway the buyer to switch services. Here are several benefits to mention: insurance coverage (important for larger companies), next-day delivery, uniformed drivers, monthly exchange of bowls, all products are 100% guaranteed, and similar professional practices.
List several branded companies with which you currently do business that can give you a strong recommendation. A branded company is one that is nationally, regionally or locally recognized by the general population or by a particular business group, such as a recognized law firm, accounting firm, medical facility, furniture company, dress house, etc.
If you have not already done so, you should speak to several of these companies that are your clients and ask them if it is OK to use them as references if you need their assistance with a future prospect. Also, ask if it would be all right if, occasionally, a prospect calls them to ask a few questions. These client recommendations are very important, as they lend strong credibility to your image and that of your company. In the buyer's mind: "If IBM is using XYZ Coffee and Water Service, then they must be a very reputable company to deal with."
Mentioning company awards and affiliations is another form of establishing the credibility of your company. If you or your company were acknowledged by your local Chamber of Commerce or coffee association, a charitable institution, NAMA or another civic or industry group, mention this in your letter. Buyers know that if you are involved or affiliated as a member of a trade association, you are most likely there to learn and enhance your understanding of your industry.
Projecting cost savings in real dollars can be a real eye-opener for the buyer. If the prospect has shown you the pricing from his current coffee supplier and if you can save them money over what they are currently paying, then you should project those savings over a year or more. Example: If you can save the prospect $4 a case of coffee and they use five cases per month, if you take that $20 per month and project it over just one year, you will be saving the firm $240 annually on coffee alone. Do this with all the other products that you will be selling them, and you will give them a major reason to change companies.
Sometimes you can use percentages as well as dollars for comparison of costs. Let's say the buyer is paying $35 per case of coffee and you will be charging $31. The percentage of saving for the firm will now be approximately 12%, just on the coffee supplies. Using this simple technique when comparing bottled water service versus water filtration can blow the competition away.
Guaranteeing prices for at least one year can be effective, too. Some buyers may feel that if you are offering a low price going in, you may raise your prices several months later. I do not believe in cutting prices, but there are times when lower prices can be justified (volume discounts, over paying, purchasing several categories of merchandise, along with multiple cases at one time, no investment in equipment).
Breaking down the features and benefits of the equipment that you are recommending will give you another edge over your competition. Do not criticize their current brewer; just show what your brewing system can do to make their coffee break more enjoyable. Example: "Our Thermal Serve brewing system has no hot plates, so there is no need to worry about burnt coffee or turning off hotplates. Your coffee stays fresh and delicious for hours for all to enjoy."
Free trials have worked well since the inception of OCS. Offer the prospect a machine and supplies to enjoy for up to a week, and let the machine and products sell themselves. This technique takes much of the responsibility away from the decision-maker by prompting positive feedback from the employees. Remember that the biggest fear a buyer has when looking to switch services is making the wrong choice and looking bad in front of the whole organization.
Sending your proposal by Priority Mail, or hand-delivering it, is more effective than simply sending it first-class. The buyer will take more notice of your letter if the form of delivery is different from the norm.
A "Grow With Us Plant" is a novel way to get attention. Along with your proposal, deliver a small plant in a planter and attach at brief note: "Thanks for the opportunity for allowing me to send you my proposal. I look forward for us to grow together over the years. Sincerely, Mr. Salesperson."
The bottom line is that you and your company must do something different to stand out in the crowd.
Please reach out to me at (516) 241-4883 or by email at OCSconsultant@aol.com and let me know how you differentiate yourself and your company from the competition.
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.