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Emphasize Positive Differences To Pull Ahead Of Competitors

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 11/25/2010

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office coffee service, OCS, Len Rashkin, selling OCS, OCS sales, competitive sales, soffice refreshments, office coffee delivery service, OCS business, OCS sales training, sales training, vending, vending machine, vending machine business, coffee education<

Selling against a good competitor is much harder than presenting to a company that does not have a coffee service provider. When a strong competitor already is in place, success or failure depends largely on the sales personnel on either side.

Over the years, I have seen many OCS companies with sales forces, and the same salespeople consistently outsell their colleagues, the people with whom they work month after month. Why does this keep happening? Is it luck? Is it skill?

In fact, these winners possess a combination of traits and characteristics. But, one technique that can be learned easily is to know your competition and upsell a prospect with those products, services and equipment types that your competition does not provide, but your company does.

Here is a list that you and your salespeople can use to land more accounts, along with some suggestions on the kinds of accounts in which they are most likely to succeed. The specific selling situation will determine which to use, and when -- or whether to use one at all.

• Does the competition offer free stirrers? Many providers no longer give them away.

• Are filters free, and are they whitened with oxygen? All prospects want to avoid ingesting any chemicals, and it has been suggested that bleaching with chlorine leaves a residue of dioxins that may contribute to cancer. Natural filters, and those whitened with oxygen, do not contain these chemicals.

• Do you exchange glass bowls, airpots and thermal servers on each delivery?

• Are there charges for deliveries and/or supplementary fuel? Larger clients who order thousands of dollars of product a month may be turned off by having to pay these add-ons.

• Are your deliveries made personally by company trucks, or by a common carrier like UPS?

• Are your deliveries scheduled for the same day, next day, weekly, biweekly or monthly? Are they predictable?

• Do you provide same-day, next-day (or 24-hour) service on equipment? All customers want immediate service, but foodservice providers must have 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service.

• Are your delivery and service personnel uniformed, bonded and readily identified as your company's employees? This is imperative when you are servicing financial institutions, law firms, brokerage houses and government offices. Security is important, and they want to easily ID visitors by requiring drivers to show a badge.

• How many bags or single-serve portions are packed in each case or box? This would make a difference in per-case pricing.

• Do you provide a wide variety of branded and private-label coffees and teas?

• Do you offer "green" products? Today, many companies are concerned with their impact on the environment.

• Do you pick up empty beverage bottles and cans to reduce the location's solid-waste stream? This can save space and time for accounts.

• Are there deposits on bottles and crates delivered? Large customers might be more prone to switch services if they did not have to be concerned with deposits.

• Does your company have liability insurance for your products, persons and assets? All buyers want to know that their company is protected.

• Do you supply a full line of products, services and equipment that will meet the needs of most companies? A colorful product menu will certainly impress prospective buyers.

• Can you provide vending equipment for snacks and beverages?

• Do you offer discounts for volume, purchasing by the case and for early payments? Larger firms with good cashflow will want to take discounts on early payments.

• Does your company conduct monthly or seasonal product promotions?

• Does your company have the policy of getting products for a customer, even though your firm does not usually carry that item? This can be a big advantage in selling larger companies, since their ordering capacity is very wide in scope.

• Do you offer credit-card or corporate-card purchasing?

• Does your billing department have the ability to bill by department, division and location, among other designations?

• Do you offer "free trials" so that a prospect can experience the benefits of your services before they sign? Try installing a filtered-water cooler for one month on trial. The chance that it will be taken out is very slim.

• Do you have contracts or lease agreements for your equipment? Try using a three-year agreement, and show the prospect that this guarantees the price for the three-year term.

• Does your service include 3- or 5-gal. pure water? (See next item).

• Do you provide filtered water (point-of-use-coolers)? Offering choices always is more powerful in winning over a prospect.

• How are orders placed? Do you offer pre-call, route selling, automatic delivery, fax or email? Make it easy for your customers to place orders the way they want.

• Do you have a website at which your customers can view, and order, your goods and services? Today, having a website with updated products is a must.

• Is your company an exclusive distributor for certain products or equipment?

• Are real people answering the phones or do you have a machine?

• Do you have customer service people visiting accounts to clean equipment, introduce new products and services, and just let your clients know that you care?

• Does your company participate in local charities, chamber of commerce, etc.?

• Has your company won any awards?

• What trade associations do you belong to, and is anyone from your company an officer in any of them? Let the buyer know that the company strives to improve itself.

• Do you guarantee all of your products, services and equipment?

Our industry today has access to a very broad spectrum of merchandise and equipment, and ample experience in offering a great many services. The company that can offer the most will come out on on top. As salespeople, you must be aware of what your company can offer a new client -- and also be aware of what your competition is not offering. Use it or lose it!

I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or by emailing to I love hearing from my readers, what they are doing and what they would like me to write about. So, please communicate with me.

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.