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Comparisons Are Key When Confronting Competition

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 6/26/2014

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TAGS: Vending Times columnist, OCS salespeople, office coffee service, office coffee sales, OCS education, OCS customer service, coffee business, office refreshments, OCS sales training, Len Rashkin, competitive knowledge, how to compete, competitive bidding

There is an ancient Greek maxim, "know thyself." But it is also important to "know thy competition." Knowledge of your competitors is fundamental to outselling them, especially when presenting your coffee services to a prospective customer who already has one.

A classic case in point is when you are competing for a new client and the buyer states, "you're higher in price than what we are currently paying XYZ coffee company." How should you respond? Do you reply "Oh, I can match that price, or I can beat that price and save you money?"

Let's take a quick look at how you should respond to this sales objection, before you make a decision which possibly will cause you to lose money that you could have made, if you do land the account.

Your response should be, "May I see a case of your coffee?" Then you look for the pack count on the case, along with the weight in ounces of each bag. You can also count the packages and weigh the pack, if there are no markings on the box.

If the decision-maker does not let you see the box, for whatever reason, then ask for a package of the coffee and ask how many of those bags they currently get per case. If the number of bags is unknown, ask for a copy of the invoice where the coffee case description may be written. Again, use your scale to weigh the package.

Next, identify the varietal (single country of origin) or blend (multiple countries) that is being provided. This will let you know whether their coffee is specialty, good coffee or a lower-end blend.

Are stirrers included in each case of coffee? If creamer and sugar are included, how many canisters are delivered? What is the monthly cost of the brewer that is provided? Are they paying a rental or is it loaned for free? The buyer's pricing objection can now be answered more intelligently:

"Mr. Decision-maker, the pricing I gave you is a better value for you and your company, since we are providing you with a heavier weight of coffee, which will have a stronger, fuller-bodied taste than the coffee you are currently using. You did say that many of your employees felt that your current coffee tastes a bit weak. Also, I am providing you with 46 bags of coffee; you are currently being supplied with a 42-count box. Can you now see the added value that will make your company's coffee break more enjoyable?"

The more information you gather, the better you will understand how to answer a buyer when competitive pricing issues arise during your presentation.

There are other details to know about your competition (and about your own business) that will be important when selling. Below is a list to consider in order to make the best presentation and possibly a comparison to a competitor, if needed.

This list is just a guide to suggest what you can offer a potential customer compared to what your competition may or may not be offering. It is not suggested that you criticize your competitors, but you can state that "here are some of the benefits we offer that you may not be getting from your current service."

I would love to hear from you about future subjects you would like me to cover. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or emailed at


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.