Gourmet Coffee, the Best New Product Potential

Filed Under (OP News & Views) by Don on 26-02-2008

Many leading dealers around the country are discovering that coffee/beverage services are a great way to further solidify existing business and to gain deeper account penetration.  Sometimes it is even easier to break into the account by beginning with a coffee service  to demonstrate the quality of your service up front.  Most office’s have a coffee maker/machine and a beverage service is a perfect fit for most.  This category, if properly positioned, could generate as much as 10% of your business.  But most of all it can give you the ability to enter many businesses that may have been closed to you before.  If you have a well trained person on these routes they can be the eyes and ears of any potential to enter that business.

Thanks to places like Starbucks and other specialty coffee shops our tastes have turned to more upscale varieties of coffee’s.  These gourmet coffee’s represent a different type of consumer.  This consumer is willing to pay a little more for convenience and for a better cup of coffee.  Forward thinking dealers such as Kennedy Office Supply in Raleigh, NC have identified this potential.  They are going to market with the Keurig coffee system that utilizes the K-cups and offers the Green Mountain coffee line.  They have invested in a quality machine backed by high quality coffee’s and trained their people on how to sell this product.  Because of this they are experiencing growth within the segment and increasing revenues.  My congratulations to the Kennedy team for recognizing this new potential.  Dealers would be well advised to recognize the potential in this category.  If you can’t differentiate yourself from your competitors then how do you expect the prospects to see you as someone who can meet all their needs and expectations?

Are you offering a beverage service to your customers or is this in the planning stages? What’s your opinion?

Seven Tips for More Effective Sales Calls

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 25-02-2008

For those who may be new to the office products industry here are a few easy tips for making more effective sales calls. More and more these days businesses frown on the traditional cold call selling approach. Sales people have to be better informed and prepared to win the business.

  1. Have a specific objective for the sales call. Just walking in the door or calling on the phone to say ‘Hi’ is not reason enough. Asking for the order too early is as bad as not asking. Relationships take time so take the time build yourself a firm foundation before you try to razzle-dazzle your prospect.
  2. Research and review facts about the prospect. Who is your competition? How many employees and locations do they have? Are they expanding? Research their industry so you can speak intelligently about their business. Practice on being an effective listener and asking open-ended questions.
  3. List all the benefits of doing business with you and your company. Be sure to effectively communicate where you fit into the prospects needs. Show how your company can save the prospect time and money by doing business with you.
  4. Confidently focus on the selling points listed in #3 and explain how these benefit your prospect. Have this list printed to give to the prospect. Demonstrate if possible how this list specifically relates to the prospects business needs.
  5. Prepare and maintain a file that includes sell sheets, testimonials, customer specific data, etc. This supports your sales story. Make the prospect aware of your sincere desire to help his business.
  6. Be aware of common objections and ready to dilute them. You have 24/7 online ordering, free local delivery, nationwide delivery is available, personal CSR’s and assigned driver routes. You know your strengths and use them to nullify the objections of your prospect. Speak confidently about why you are the best choice.
  7. Send a hand written Thank You note after the call. It’s all about the relationship. Remember, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.

Staples Makes Bid for Corporate Express

Filed Under (OP News & Views, The Competition) by Don on 19-02-2008

After several weeks of speculation it has been revealed that Staples has made a bid of €2.5 billion or over $3.6 billion U.S. dollars for Corporate Express. Of course CorpEx immediately released a statement stating “…this proposal significantly undervalues the company and fails to reflect Corporate Express’ prospects. We do not believe the proposal is in the best interests of our shareholders and other stakeholders. We therefore reject this proposal and reiterate our commitment to pursuing our declared strategy”.

Strategy they said? Good grief if anyone can tell me just what their ’strategy’ has been for the past five years I’d love to hear it! They (CorpEx) have reorganized and changed strategy plans more times than I can count and none of them ever made any common sense. It was mostly corporate blabbering. It will be interesting to see what the coming weeks offer in the bid for CorpEx.

Selling in a Sales 2.0 World

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 14-02-2008

Selling in the world of Sales 2.0 is much different than it was in the 1970′s or 80′s. There really weren’t any sales coaches or mentors; this was a fairly new concept that hadn’t yet gained any steam. When I was young, selling in my ‘twenty-somethings’, I made a lot of sales out of stupidity, not skill. I didn’t know much about office equipment or their consumable products and even less about printing. My wife worked in a local bank and she would enlighten me on the supplies they used in their machines and in the office. When I walked into a prospects office I would tell them I can get that ribbon or toner for less than they were currently paying if they would give me a chance to prove myself. People bought either out of compassion because I was hungry or they wanted a better deal. I learned quickly that people buy out of emotion and I used that to my advantage.

So, how is selling different today than it was twenty years ago? Let’s examine a few things to get you started on the road to a successful strategy.  Technology is a dominate factor for one thing but don’t forget attitude and persistence. Rather than expand upon that list let’s think about the most important factor in Sales 2.0. You!

To be successful in sales today you have to be passionate. You have to love what you do and the product/service you sell. You also have to be passionate about maintaining a good attitude. How passionate are you about what you do?

Next, you have to take personal responsibility for your actions. You can complain all you want about the competition, the marketing department, the sales management, the delivery guy, not enough support or good leads. But the fact is, the buck stops with you. Your customers don’t want someone who makes excuses or finds fault with everyone else. They want someone who cares about their needs and solves their problems. They could care less whose “fault” it was; they want to know that you will take responsibility and fix the problem. Do you take responsibility for your actions?

Thirdly, you must be skilled. Skilled in product knowledge, a good listener and have the strength to be successful at everything you do. You need to learn your products, read one good book each month and learn to improve your technology skills and communication abilities on a continual basis. Life is a learning process so become an active participant. You also need a strong belief system. This will remind you everyday that you are special, that you are the best and it will give you a piece of mind that you will not enjoy otherwise. Do you believe you have the necessary skills to be successful?

Fourth, you have to set personal and professional goals and go to work. You can’t watch and extra hours worth of news in the mornings or have one more cup of coffee before leave every day and expect to be successful. Your goals should be written down in plain site so you can see them every day. Have a strategy on how you will reach those goals. Focus on your plan and plan for success. Seek opportunities on every call, in every office and with every person you meet. When you drive around town do you see opportunities on every corner and in every office complex?

Last is self analysis. Are you making any mistakes? If you don’t fail occasionally you won’t grow either. Sometimes it’s necessary for us to get out of our comfort zones to find out just how determined we are to succeed. Are you taking any risks? Every time you play it safe, you lose. If you want the business you have to take the risk and make one more call. Sure, everyone you’ve talked to today has been nasty and rude. You’ve been kicked out of one building and you’re soaking wet from the rain, but if you don’t risk one more call you will never know if that was going to be your next big account. So go ahead, make the call. Are you willing to take the risk?

If you want the order you have to ASK!

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 08-02-2008

This week has been a total blur.  I spent a day riding with one of my reps to see what area he needs support and training.  I spent another day in a Janitorial/Maintenance products training seminar and two-thirds of another day leading our sales meeting.  Now I have about a million e-mails to catch up on not to mention the piles of papers and reports that are on my desk.  But that’s okay too. 

The time I spent with my sales rep was time well spent.   I enjoy riding with my people and watching them call on current customers and prospect for new customers.  I have one rep that rarely ever makes a cold call because she does a superior job getting referrals from her current customers.  But this week I was with another rep that has lots of product knowledge but has some other areas of weakness that we will concentrate on.  This rep has a great personality and attitude but tends to get to eager to talk to the customer that he misses the buying signals they give.  He is very good at communicating product knowledge and does a lot of talking but never asks for the order.  He assumes the order, which isn’t entirely bad, but doesn’t ask or confirm the order.  Instead he waits for the customer to tell him what they want.  WRONG!

You can’t get the order if you don’t ask for it!  You can call on the customers forever but if you can’t or don’t ask for the business how do you expect to get the business?  An early sales mentor of mine back in the 1980′s told me often not to be afraid to ask the customer if you can have their business on the product(s) I was selling.  The customer isn’t stupid, they know what you are there for but they aren’t going to just give you the business without you at least asking for it.  I’ve told prospects before “If I can meet your needs on this product and the price is right for you can I have your business?”  Or, “I want your business on this product, what do I need to do?” I was sincere in my desire to earn their business and I made an effort to communicate that to them.  Automobile sales people always ask you “If I can get your payment where you want it can we do business?”  They are always trying to close you to get the business.  By the way, NEVER give them a “yes” reply to that question!  Because you are committing to buy on the monthly payment not on the actual price of the car.

While we made our calls that day I let the rep lead the call but often could see he wasn’t going to get the order.  I would politely interject with a question or two and over ninety percent of the time I got the order for him.  On a couple of occasions I got a “how did you do that?” look from him which we later discussed thoroughly to bring him to understand that effective questions can open doors to better information and deeper account penetration.  For example, in an eye clinic we were selling only traditional office supplies.  I asked the customer, “In your examine rooms you probably use examine gloves and facial tissues don’t you?”  “Yes, we do.” she replied.  I asked, “When you order those products how long does it take for you to receive your order?”  “Four to five days” she said.  So I asked, “If I can get the same products you are using now and deliver them next day with free delivery would you consider giving me the business?” She pulled her file from her current supplier and we went to her supply room to identify the products we have.  We doubled the business we have with her that day and identified several areas where we could save her money (freight costs), shorten delivery times and made her the hero in her office because when she looks good, we look good!

How do you ask for the business?