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Both Sides, Now: Whatever You Sell, It Helps To Understand The Alternatives

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 11/4/2011

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office coffee service, office coffee service training, OCS, Len Rashkin, office refreshments, office coffee delivery service, OCS business, OCS sales training, sales training, vending, vending machine, vending machine business, coffee education, memo writing

This past year, I conducted an in-house training program for a midsize coffee service and vending company. I started to present my segment on bottled water cooler service, when suddenly one of the salespeople said to me, "We don't need to know about bottled water service, since we only sell filtration cooler service."

I asked the sales rep, "How can you sell filtration cooler service to a potential customer who currently has a bottled water dispenser unless you understand what you want them to switch from? Don't you compare both delivery systems, with features and benefits, and then show how superior your coolers are to their current bottled-water program?" His answer was, "I have sold our system to new customers, without much knowledge of the bottle system."

I made this statement to everyone present: "You will have a better closing ratio, if you understand the features and benefits of both. Many times a buyer will want to stay with the current bottled system, so it is up to you you to know the ins and outs of both services, in order to persuade the decision-maker to switch -- or at least, to agree to a free trial to see whether the new system will work better for them."
During a short recess, I asked the owner if that salesman was one of his better sales representatives, and the answer was that he was the least productive of the five reps.

I will be covering both pure water systems in this and my next column. Let's start by taking a look at bottled-water service and see how to present it to a potential client.

Here are the five desirable characteristics of bottled water cooler service. We'll see how they translate into features and benefits that you can sell.

Quality: safety, knowing that water will be pure and not harmful to one's health;
Taste: refreshing and satisfying;
Convenience: easy to order, easy to take inventory for reorders, simple to change bottles;
Economy: cost-effective compared with single-serve bottles; and
Environmental: no single-serve bottles to discard as trash.

You must have an edge on your competition. So your bottled coolers must have a built-in "water-safe" or "safe-water" system, in which the top of the cooler is sealed and a puncturing tube extends up from the middle. The water bottle is equipped with a special indented cap protected by a peel-off dust strip. When it's set onto the cooler, the tube punctures the seal beneath that protective tab on the cap. Water then flows into the holding tank of the cooler, and it's ready for use.

Now let's go back and sell the prospect with features and benefits:

F -- Water does not spill or splash the surroundings when placing bottle onto cooler;
B -- Eliminates wet walls and floors, reduces chance of slipping and injury, which can lead to lawsuits;
F -- Bottle cap is left on after protective tab is peeled off;
B -- Easy to peel off, so less chance of breaking a nail than in removing the entire cap;
F -- Sealed cooler top, bottle top and piercing valve;
B -- Reduces the chance of any airborne bacteria or dirt contaminating the water supply. Dirty hands may contaminate the bottle's neck but that never touches the inside of the reservoir. The bottom line -- the ultimate benefit -- is that the "water-safe" system enhances the quality of the water for healthy consumption.

OK, now we'll outsell the big branded companies because of their strict delivery schedules. Most independent refreshment companies have a more flexible schedule for deliveries. Independents will deliver next day, weekly or biweekly, where the branded companies usually will deliver biweekly to monthly.

I am listing the F & B on the topic of next-day or weekly delivery cycles, in contrast to every two to four week cycles.

F -- Delivery next day, or within the week;
B -- Easy to place smaller orders, keeping customer's inventories lower;
B -- Less chance of customer being without water if they exhaust the current supply;
B -- Requires less space to store bottles, compared with bi-weekly or monthly supply space requirements;
B -- Allows for more storage space of the customer's other office supplies;
B -- Reduces customer's outlay of money for deposits and water inventory, which increases cashflow.

Here is an objection that is often heard from buyers. Use the answers to sell the decision-maker.

Q. "The water in our city is rated very high in quality and taste, so why do I need bottled water?"

A. "Your building is more than 50 years old. The water may be fine, but when it travels through old pipes joined with lead solder, you are drinking contaminated water that has lead particles in it. This is very unhealthy for you and for all of your employees."

A. "Yes, you are correct, but you have room-temperature water to drink. Most of your employees would like a more refreshing ice-cold drink. The availability of a cooler in a central area easily accessible to your employees will save them valuable time by not having to walk a long distance to the breakroom for a drink of water. Time saved is money saved, would you agree Mrs. Buyer? I can also provide a hot-water faucet on the cooler, for those who want hot tea, cocoa or soup. Isn't that a nice feature?"

Next month, I will be covering filtration coolers, also known as point-of-use coolers.

Please let me know what other sales and marketing topics you would like me to address in future articles. I can be reached by calling (516) 241-4883, or by emailing to

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.