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Ask, Listen, Sell: Good Questions Invite Answers That Help To Land The Account

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 1/4/2013

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TAGS: Len Rashkin's favorite statements, sales questions, OCS salespeople, OCS presentation, office coffee service, office coffee sales, OCS education, OCS customer service, customer relations, coffee education, coffee business, Len Rashkin, office refreshments, office coffee service, OCS sales training, vending, vending machine

Last month, I offered an initial series of my favorite statements or actions while presenting to a prospective buyer. When presenting, you have to establish a competitive edge; and by using some of the statements I described, and some of those in this article, you can become more effective and sell more accounts.

First, On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your current Coffee Service?

Once the prospect answers that question -- let's say it's "an 8" -- your next question should be, "What could make that service a 10 in your eyes?" This statement is extremely important during your presentation, and asking probing questions is essential to successful selling. The answers you get will let you know if there is any area of service, product or equipment that the buyer is unhappy or concerned about. Once you know the weakness of your competitor who is currently servicing this account, you now counter with how you would rectify all of the issues mentioned.

Here is also a great opportunity to find out if they are happy with the equipment they currently have. Ask questions about their attitude toward their present coffee. Are they happy with its quality, strength, taste and temperature? When was the last time that they had their brewer cleaned or exchanged? The whole idea is to make them aware of all of the negatives they have been suffering -- and now, you propose a service that will make them happy.

How many employees are working full time, daily, at this location? This question will give you enough information to determine how many, and what kind of, brewers will be needed to service the prospect efficiently. You never want to under-equip a customer, since service will be jeopardized, and it opens the door to your competition to offer a more efficient brewer.

But if you over-equip, you will not get a proper return on investment (ROI). Another negative of over-equipping can arise when a company expands. Let's say you put in an automatic thermal brewer when the client had just 12 employees. The account may assume that another automatic thermal brewer should be installed for a new department with 12 additional staff members. And it is always easier to upgrade to larger equipment that initially was required, than to downsize equipment and upset your customer.

When doing a taste-test between your coffee and the coffee that is already being consumed at a prospect's location, always brew your coffee first. The truth is that if you brew your coffee first and your competitor's second, when it comes time to taste both, the coffee that is cooler will have a better taste, since it's hard to assess the flavor of very hot coffee. This puts you into a better position to land the account.

The coffee break was designed to keep employees in the office, so the staff will be more productive.This statement should be used when a buyer says that his employees are not drinking the office coffee, but rather are leaving the building to get better quality coffee down the street. You should always try to probe the prospect and find out whether any of the staff are leaving the office to get coffee somewhere else.

If the answer is yes, your response should be, "Mr. Prospect, for a couple of pennies more per cup, you can have great coffee in your office and your employees would not feel the need to go down the block. Your work environment would be better, your workers would be saving money, production in the office would increase and your company would see higher profits. Does that make sense to you?" Now go for the closing statement!

Making friends with the "gatekeeper" is essential for your salespeople. The gatekeeper is the person, usually the receptionist, who controls who gets past the front desk to see the decision-makers. If a competitor is soliciting coffee or water service, that gatekeeper will most likely turn that person away, if you have established a good relationship. When the telemarketer from a competing company calls to speak to the person who orders or makes the decision on coffee service, once again, the gatekeeper can stop them in their tracks, if you are perceived as a good supplier.

Lastly, after landing an account, you should follow up with the question, "Do you have any affiliated companies, divisions or departments in another part of this facility, or across town, that I could also offer our great services to?"

As I have traveled from coast to coast to train numerous salespeople, I've found that one thing always has stood out in the sales arena. There are those who are stuck in a rut by not changing their selling-skills though applying new ideas, and there are those skilled salespeople who always take the opportunity to look for more ways to improve themselves. Take this opportunity to use the scenarios I've presented here, and also share these selling tools with your salesforce.

I want to wish all of my loyal readers a very healthy and happy holiday and new year. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or by email at if you would like to share any new ideas or suggest a sales or marketing topic for this column that I may not have written about in the past.

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.