How To Use Prospect's Inquiry To Get Details You Need For A Coffee Service Proposal

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 10/5/2017

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There is an old sales proverb that still holds true today: "Nothing really happens in business until something is sold." If you are responsible for adding new customers for your office coffee service, it's your responsibility -- as the owner, manager or sales representative -- to know everything about your industry's equipment, products and services. You must also know what your company's strengths are, as well as the features and benefits of all of its equipment and services.

This article is part one of two. The first part covers qualifying a prospective new customer; next month we'll explore ways to prepare for and make an effective presentation to the buyer.

You are sitting at your desk when your customer service telephone person notifies you that there is a prospect on the phone. You immediately pick up the phone, identify yourself and ask with whom you are speaking. The prospect replies that she is Nicole and tells you the name of the company she represents. Now: what is the best approach to qualify the prospect and prepare to land the new client? Here is the information that you need to find out about the prospect and company:

1. How did they hear about your service or company?

2. What are they doing for coffee now?

3. Are they unhappy with their current service, or dissatisfied with the way they are providing coffee and other refreshments to their employees?

4. Are they just shopping around, or checking prices to see whether they are paying a fair price to their current service? (Finding out requires that you listen closely to their questions, and to the answers they give to yours.)

5. What is the size of the company? Are there any local divisions and, if yes, where are they located?

6. Are you speaking with the decision-maker for coffee service?

"Nicole, would it be okay for you to answer several questions that I have, so I can give you the best information on our equipment, services and products that I will structure to your company's size and needs?" Most times the answer will be yes.

"Thanks Nicole! How did you hear about our service?" (Note: if the company was referred by one of your other customers, make sure that you look up the pricing that you charge that client. The last thing you want to do is undercut your own pricing and ruin a profitable customer.)

"Where are you located? Do you have other divisions in this area?"

"Could you tell me how many employees would be drinking coffee, tea, water and other beverages on a daily basis? Do you have a water cooler with bottles or with direct line filtration? What are your hours of operation throughout the entire week?

"What are you doing for coffee service at the present time?" (If they have a supplier, ask, "On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest grade, how would you rate your supplier?" If their rating is less than 10, ask, "What would make them a 10 in your eyes"?) Nicole's answer is critical for your approach to solving her issue or issues.

And, if they do have a supplier, continue your inquiries: "Nicole, could you share with me which company is currently servicing your firm?" If she asks why that is important, you simply explain that many of your competitors are good companies, but have similar products and services. By knowing the company, you may be able to offer her a brewing system that your company has exclusively. "This information will save both of us time in finding you a system that should improve your coffee service experience."

Ask her if she currently has a batch-brew system, where one pot or thermal carafe is made, or a single-cup coffee machine. If the firm is very large, you may expand your inquiry to find out whether it is using several Flavia or Keurig single-cup systems, or postmix single-cup brewers with different hot beverage selections and strengths.

"Thank you, Nicole! Are you the person who makes the decision on which coffee service serves your firm?" If she is, and you like the responses she gave to you, try to set up an appointment. If her answer is no and you still liked her answers, ask whether you could make an appointment with her and the decision-maker. You will show them what is new in the coffee service industry that they most likely have never seen, as well as enhance their coffee break experience. Be prepared if Nicole says she wants all the information on the phone. Depending on the size of the company, you may want to call her back with a proposal and then send a proposal letter, along with your company brochure. Most large clients are not sold on the first call or visit.

In part two of this article, I'll review your presentation skills. Until that time, remember that you only get one chance to make a great first impression in front of the decision-maker.

I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or if you have any questions about this article or suggestions for future ones.

» 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.