Coffee Service Corner

An Interview with DSS’ Chris Goade

I have had the pleasure of working with Chris Goade in various roles for the two of us both at DS Services of America and Standard Coffee Service Company. Having worked with many sales executives as a seller and a buyer, I have experienced a full gamut of skill levels, style, substance and preparedness. I recognized early on that Chris had a unique ability to both sell and manage people and processes quite proficiently.

While most individual sales skills and techniques are transferrable to a degree, selling in Coffee Service has its own unique set of behaviors in the sales process that affect the success rate of the sales person and sales manager. I had the opportunity recently to chat with Chris about his experiences and views regarding these topics.

KS Chris, in your career as an operator you have successfully led and managed as many as 100 managers and sales persons at a time. Everything begins with the talent pool, right? Is there a “silver bullet” in the hiring process that has helped you recruit, on-board and retain the best candidates?

CG Silver bullet? No, there’s no magic to finding and retaining talent, but we’ve worked hard over the years to find things that streamline the process as much as possible. First, we have profiled our most successful sales folks and used those profiles as pre-employment screens; this has allowed us to find candidates that are most likely to succeed in our selling environment. Next, our sales managers have used cross-functional teams in the interviewing process to garner perspective from all sides of our business. Once we hire, the onboarding and training process is critical to setting up success for new associates. The process is ever-evolving and we will never be exact, but using these early-stage processes can have a positive impact on your talent acquisition.

KSWith a large group of managers and associates, can you give our readers insight on how you approach the Coffee Service sales process? Or is the approach the same regardless of the size of the sales force?

CG The size of the sales force has little to do with sales process, although having a large group has its advantages and disadvantages at times. On the plus side, we can be extremely responsive to market changes and opportunities. Leveraging more professionals can also glean more and better selling tactics for the entire group. On the other side of the equation, a smaller group more easily yields consistency in process and performance.

The process itself is sequential, beginning with building the foundation of a meaningful relationship and avoiding the temptation of a quick close with a low price motivating decision-making. My experience is that if you sell on price, you will lose the account on price.

KS In the Coffee Service industry, some operators service only traditional coffee service accounts while others expand into other classes of trade. Can or should operators go beyond the industry lines of definition and what are some of the upsides or downsides?

CG I believe the answer is different for individual operators. The factors to consider are:

• Are your sales team members, or can they become, experts in selling to these classes of trade?

• Does your support team have the operational ability to execute against these new customers? Often what looks like opportunity will actually adversely affect your new and current business negatively.

If the answer to these questions is positive and the opportunity is a good fit, then you can build your sales and marketing plan diligently and establish the pace of your expansion in a manner that does not outstrip your ability to execute.

KS Besides class of trade considerations, Coffee Service operators might also be in the bottled water and filtration business as DS Services is, or in the Vending and Micro Market business. Can the selling process be largely the same for all categories?

CG I think the process is the same, but there are nuances to each of these services and the customers that are interested in them. I have found that the selling process is very similar, but getting sales associates to recognize the motivations of customers and being complete experts on the services they are selling is the key to success.

KS What changes and trends are you seeing now that might affect future menus or selling processes?

CG Menus that continue to expand vary with the introduction of countless new items from roasters and manufacturers. I believe most operators need to be able to respond quickly to new items and trends but also manage their menus so you do not see diminishing returns on inventory turns and the dreaded out-of-date conundrum.  I think there is a delicate balance to be realized. I like the “keep it simple” approach where possible.

As for selling trends, it is more important than ever to have the proper plans and tactics for prospecting for new customers. As consumers become more educated and businesses look for more complex services and product offerings, we have to change our business building approach.

KS Chris, thank you again for taking the time to share your valuable insights with our readers. I am hopeful that we can reconnect soon and develop another article for our readers. Continued success to you and your team.

As I wrap up this article this Sunday morning I have just returned from the NAMA One Show in Las Vegas. I took the opportunity at the show to participate on an exciting panel that explored specialty beverage trends in Coffee Service. I also had taken time to interact with many of my fellow operators. In the next Coffee Service Corner article, I will share some of the exciting things from the One Show.

by Ken Shea

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