Questions Are The Answer

Sept. 20, 2019

The courtroom only had a few people sitting quietly in it when I had the opportunity to watch a very talented attorney begin asking a series of questions on behalf of his client. The attorney I am referring to happened to be my personal and corporate attorney — who eventually became a judge in central Florida — and I had agreed to meet him for lunch after the trial.

One of the things he shared with me about practicing law was that when he was examining or cross-examining a witness in either a civil or criminal case, he never wanted to ask a question he did not know the answer to before asking the question. While that was not always possible, it was most certainly his goal. 

During lunch that day, we discussed the similarities between how a professional salesperson and an attorney present their case to a sales prospect, or how an attorney proceeds with their prosecution or defense for their client. The salesperson wants to present all the reasons their prospect should benefit from their product or service just as the attorney wants to present the best possible scenario for the client.

Just as we were leaving the restaurant, he turned to me and made what I thought was a very profound statement. He said that whether you are practicing law or making a sales presentation, “If you ask the right question, you will get the answer you want to hear the overwhelming majority of the time.”

Asking prospects the right questions

If you are now saying to yourself, “What in the world does this have to do with my vending business?” let me make the connection for you. I will start by asking, “Are you asking the right or wrong questions when you are presenting your case to a new location about letting your vending company provide refreshment services to their employees?”

I am going to share with you some examples of what type of questions you should be asking your potential customers. Since I came into the vending industry in 1994 in Orlando, FL, I have seen and heard a veritable plethora of questions from vending company owners and managers. Unfortunately, I have many times heard vending operators ask some questions that left me befuddled.

Several of my clients have asked the location contact person, “do you want to receive a commission on our monthly sales for your company?” The answer on a number of occasions was, “are you saying you will pay us to have your machines in our building?” Another doozy of a question I have heard is, “do you want Brand A or Brand B products in your cold drink machine?” These are just two examples of asking the location questions that do not benefit your vending company.

I have literally been in hundreds and hundreds of locations since 1994 and I can look you straight in the eye and say I can count on one hand the number of locations we have paid a commission. Some vending companies make a big deal of advertising highest commissions paid in their literature and on their website. You work hard to make your vending company profitable — and then to just willy-nilly offer some of your profits when the location has never been paid a commission just does not make sense to me. 

Asking which of the two major brands of soft drink bottlers want is shooting yourself in the foot. Both bottlers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and advertising to get the consumer to purchase their brand. Of course, we all know the reason the vendor asks that question is because if you are using bottlersupplied vending machines, you are not allowed to put the other major brand of soft drinks in the cold drink vending machine they are letting your vending company use. You are losing sales if you only offer one of the two major brands of cold drinks. Think of it this way: How many supermarkets, convenience stores or big box discount stores only offer one of the major brands?

Far too many times, salespeople fall in love with the sound of their voice. We all have two ears and one mouth, but numerous salespeople forget that fact. When asking a question, never give the sales prospect the choice between doing it and not doing it.

What to ask and how to ask it

The following questions are examples of what you can ask your new prospect to assist you in getting that new location. You can ask the location into more sales than you can talk the location into.

  • Is your primary interest in an employee refreshment program improving your employees’ morale and productivity?
  •  Isn’t it true that a great employee refreshment program would benefit your company?
  •  Wouldn’t you agree that some of the best things your company has said “yes” to are the most rewarding?
  • You are looking for a quality employee refreshment program, aren’t you? 
  • I know that you want as many selections of cold drinks and snacks as possible, don’t you?
  • Am I right in assuming that if we can guarantee that your company will have more cold drink selections, additional healthy food choices, better tasting coffee and a bigger variety of name brand snacks for your team to choose from, that it would be benefit everyone at your company?
  • Who besides yourself is involved in the final decision-making process when it comes to selecting who your employee refreshment provider will be?

Practicing sales techniques

Begin each question or statement with phrases like “Doesn’t it ...” “Isn’t it true ...” and “Wouldn’t you agree that ... .” These are just some of the beginnings of questions you should get into the practice of using whenever you are talking to a new location.

We have all heard the old saying “Practice makes perfect.” But it’s wrong.

Golf pro and legend Ben Hogan, who many PGA professional golfers still say had the perfect golf swing, said, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” If you keep practicing the sales techniques you are currently using, why do you believe you will get better?

You need to develop at least five questions that fit your vending company profile and perfectly practice using the exact words of some of the examples I have given to you, and you will see your sales closing ratios will improve dramatically.

Whoever asks the last question in the sales process controls the final outcome. A well laid-out system of asking the right questions that becomes an automatic part of your vocabulary will get you the answers you are looking for when adding new high-profit vending locations for your vending business. When you speak, your mind is on parade. Words have economic value.

For example, are you telling your new location that you will install a soda machine, or are you telling them you will be installing a state-of-the-art electronic cold beverage drink merchandiser with credit/debit cards option and the ability for your employees to pay with Google Pay or Apple Pay? Which sounds the most professional to the location contact?


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