Hot weather is upon us again, and selling water cooler service will be paramount when you approach prospects and existing customers. Your salespeople must be fully knowledgeable about both bottled water and filtration (point-of-use) cooler service. There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles of water coolers, and your sales staff must know these differences to be able to outsell your competition. Also, there are still many locations that do not have cooler service, so the opportunities are there to increase your profitability.
This column will be in two parts, the second of which will appear next month.
If you're selling water, the first area in which your salespeople need to be educated is the difference between drinking "spring water" and "purified water" that is processed at bottling plants.
The following is an overview; there is much more to learn and understand about processed filtration for spring and purified water than will be summarized here.
There are two approaches to providing pure-water service. The traditional one is based on leasing an appliance (which may be a cooler or a hot-and-cold or tri-temperature dispenser), then delivering water in bulk containers (typically 5-gal.; there have been 3- and 6-gal. bottles). The client pays a deposit on each bottle, and the driver collects the empties during each delivery. The concept is familiar to prospects.
Bottled-water dispensers display the product they serve, and this can inspire confidence in the consumer. Bulk bottled-water service presents few technical challenges beyond periodic sanitation of the dispensers' water reservoirs. The downside is that bottled-water service can require heavy-duty delivery vehicles.
The alternative is point-of-use water treatment (filtration). This is provided by leasing an appliance that connects to the client's drinking-water supply main. It contains filters to remove particles and chemicals, plus whatever additional purification devices may be needed locally (a reverse osmosis system, for example). It also provides one, two or three faucets, and usually permits connecting a coffee brewer.
The lease includes periodic maintenance, primarily replacing filter cartridges before they become exhausted and sanitizing the holding-tanks. Its logistics are simpler, and it requires little warehouse space. It is becoming more familiar to prospects subjected to sales pitches for home systems, which overcomes the incomprehension encountered by the point-of-use pioneers.
Spring water is obtained from an aquifer, an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface as a spring. It's then collected, at the spring or from an adjacent borehole that taps the aquifer. The water is pumped from the spring into holding tanks at the processing plant.
The water is then put through a filtration process to take out most impurities, and then is "ozonated." Ozone is a form of supercharged oxygen that kills bacteria quickly. Alternatively, the water may be sent through an ultraviolet light system that does the same thing.
Purified water comes from municipal reservoirs or underground wells. It is pumped into holding tanks at the bottling plant and the water's impurities are removed through filtration, reverse osmosis, de-ionization and/or the "ozonation" process.
It is essential that your sales staff informs the customer that the bottling plants are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, since water is considered a food product. The FDA regulators also require adherence to standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes safety, quality and proper labeling of type and content of water in the bottles.
Your state governments inspect the plants and sample and analyze the water, as well as approve the source of the water. The packaging, labeling and the approval of safe bottles (as defined by FDA guidelines) is also reviewed.
Now let's look at the features and benefits of water cooler service. You will see below the correspondence of Fs and Bs between bottled and filtered water, as well as some differences. It will be obvious to you which ones apply.
» F: Quality = B: Healthy, nutritional, safe, no calories.
» F: Taste = B: Refreshing. coffee, tea, etc. taste better.
» F: Convenience = B: Easy to order, continuous supply, delivered.
» F: Cost = B: Pennies per cup; no waste.
» F: Spillproof (water-safe systems) = B: Eliminates spillage, slipping, damaging walls and floor, no rush to flip bottle; helps to avoid lawsuits.
» F: EZ peel-off cap = B: Avoid strain, no broken nails, saves time.
» F: Sealed top on cooler = B: Healthy, no airborne bacteria enter cooler, reduces sickness and absenteeism.
» F: Bottle closure punctured by piercing valve = B: No bacteria from dirty hands get into water tank, reducing risk of illness and absenteeism, resulting in a more productive and profitable company.
After reviewing a prospect's office and breakroom and not seeing a water service unit, ask the decision-maker what they do for drinking water. If they state that each employee is on their own to bring small bottles to work, show them the advantages of having a filtration cooler:
» Employee morale is lifted. Happy employees are more productive in a friendlier work environment, resulting in higher profitability.
» Keeps employees from leaving office for hot and iced cold drinks, such as tea, hot cocoa, instant coffee and soups.
» It's environmentally responsible to eliminate the waste of plastic bottles.
» Bulk water takes up no space in fridge and eliminates guessing whose bottle it is.
» Just one square foot of floor space is required.
Your next step is to give pricing to the buyer. Explain that it's only pennies per gallon, with high-quality water that is filtered by [the system used for your service] to remove many containments (each filtration system is different, so know your product). For a POU dispenser, explain that the filters are changed every six months or sooner, depending on gallons used per month.
Offer a free month trial and free installation. Do a taste-test enabling the employees to compare your filtered water to what they're bringing in. Also, ask if it would be OK to supply a free box of a variety of hot and cold soluble beverages that can be used with both the hot and cold water faucets. Your goal is to get that installation in, and you will have a 99% chance of success.
I can be reached at (515) 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.