Training yourself, a salesperson or a sales team to fully understand OCS takes time and an understanding of what different customers require in order to make their coffee breaks convenient, enjoyable and economical.
Convenience refers to the ease of preparing the coffee, dispensing it and cleaning the brewing equipment and break area within a short period of time.
Enjoyable refers to giving the employees a good-tasting cup of coffee, tea or other hot beverage. Their satisfaction with what they drink during the workday will make the work environment better, hopefully leading to more productivity.
Economical refers to the value added, not the price. Value added can be:
• Valuable time saved on preparing the coffee and other hot drinks;
• Ease of maintaining the equipment;
• Giving people choices, so they do not have to leave the office;
• Encouraging employees to come to work on time to enjoy a hot beverage, rather than stopping for coffee on the way in;
• Reducing the amount of coffee wasted, due to dumping it down the drain.
There is a wide and varied universe of customers who have different needs and wants. You, as an operator, must find out what these needs and wants are. In order to customize a refreshment program for potential customers, you must ask a series of questions during your presentation.
My Complete OCS Training Guide describes three company scenarios for salespeople to analyze. The hypothetical firms have different numbers of employees, and are unique in other ways, which I detail. Sales trainees are assigned the exercise of coming up with a series of questions, so that they can acquire enough information to structure a coffee service program best suited to each company.
You can make up a fictitious company, or write down one or more of your own customers' characteristics on paper. Have your salespeople or sales trainees propose a series of questions that should be asked of the company's contact person, in the light of the facts listed. It is a very good exercise for all concerned, and creates team spirit.
Have each person then prepare a plan of action that will incorporate types of coffee brewers, water coolers, refrigerators and microwaves, among other things, and related items for each break area in the prospective account.
Let's take a look at some of the key questions that you or your team should be asking.
If the prospect contacted you, where did the company get your name? Was it a referral from a current account, a friendly referral, advertisement, telemarketing department, yellow pages, advertisement on your trucks or other? Always find out where your accounts are coming from.
It's essential to learn whether a prospect currently has a coffee service and, if not, did it ever use one? If they did have an OCS provider, why did they discontinue the relationship? What are they doing now for office refreshments? The key questions are:
• Who is the current supplier?
• How many cups or pots a day are they currently making?
• Do they currently have a water supplier, and if so, is the water bottled or filtered? Who is the water service company?
• What other products do they purchase from the current service? What breakroom supplies do they buy at a retail store, wholesale club or supermarket?
• Why are they looking to make a change? What do they expect from a coffee service?
• On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, what rating would they give their current service? If not a 10, what would make it a 10?
• Who currently makes the coffee, if it's brewed by the pot? Who cleans the coffee machine and break area?
• Does the decision-maker drink coffee? If not, what does he or she drink?
• How many people are employed full-time on premises daily? How many part-time staff are on the premises daily? Are there any days that additional employees come into the office, over and above the regular number of employees?
• What is the budget for refreshments, monthly or yearly?
• Does the company have holiday parties, staff birthday celebrations, etc.?
• Does the company have one or more boardrooms, receive frequent visitors or entertain on a regular basis?
• Does the company have a lunchroom or break area?
• Is there space for the type of equipment you want to recommend?
• Is there enough electrical power to accommodate the brewing equipment that you may recommend? Is there enough water pressure available to operate your equipment, and can you attach your plumbing to their water lines without a large expenditure?
• What does the company do? (You should never make presentation without knowing what a company does.)
• What are the hours and days of operation?
• Are there any affiliated companies, branch offices or other departments that may need service within the same geographical area?
• How many years has the company been in business?
• Can the company pay its bills? This has to be explored by your bookkeeping department.
Do you have to ask all of these questions straight out? Of course not. When you present to the client, you will cover many of these questions and make observations along the way, as you walk through their offices. You must observe the location's breakroom and see what, and whom, is currently being used as the source for coffee, cups, water, etc.
Buyers want to deal with professionals and salespeople that they like. Understanding their wants and needs, and then meeting these wants and needs, is the start to gaining accounts. Knowledge about your client will lead to profitability by providing your customers with the correct equipment, products and services.
Please call me at (516) 241-4883 or email OCSconsultant@aol.com to comment on this article, or suggest a topic you want covered.
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. Rashkin helped found the Eastern Coffee Service Association and served as its president for nine years. He also was a founder of National Coffee Service Association and served as its director between 1971 and '77. He was the executive VP of the National Beverage & Products Association from 1999 to 2006. A frequent speaker at national and local trade meetings, Rashkin now consults on sales and marketing for the office refreshment industry.