Friday, October 12, 2012

Selling: The Seven Second Delay

I sold real estate after leaving my school teaching job and before starting my catering career running our family catering business. One of the life-changing tactics I learned from a silver haired sales trainer was simply this: Not hearing what you are about to say to a prospect, before you say it, is the enemy of successful selling.

I was taught to "hear" what I was thinking of saying before I spoke the words. As I was listening to what I was going to say, I was supposed to really clearly challenge the usefulness and properness of the words I was about to launch. My trainer mentioned that many radio stations have a seven-second delay from the time a word is spoken to the time it is broadcast to the time it hit the ears of the listener. In this way, it was possible for a director or producer of the radio program to hit a button that would "kill" the words before they were past the point of no return.

When I train catering salespeople I always teach this concept. Now, teaching it and making it "stick" with the sales talent is more complicated than it might seem. This is an easy concept to understand but very hard to actual do, let alone master. My suggestion is to just try it and see how it feels and blends into your selling style. Good luck!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Script: Dealing with last minute menu changes.

I believe that the script below should be launched if the salesperson has a gut feeling that a customer may be the type to make last minute changes on their menu - I believe this script is something you should keep in the back of your mind ready to us if necessary.

“Often my customers ask me about changes in their event menus. While this is possible, it is important to remember that changes become more difficult the closer we get to the event date. Because we use freshly prepared foods, purchased from specialty suppliers, changes made within the (?) days before the event will have additional handling fees added.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Six Axioms For Selling Success

Selling catering isn’t complicated. Here are some simple axioms that will assure success! Use them and your sales will soar! I suggest you discuss them at your next sales meeting.

1. Be enthusiastic at all times. Selling catering is a twenty-four hour a day job. You never know when, or where, a sale will be coming. You need to be “UP” twenty-four hours a day. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you offer it to your buyers, you will receive enthusiasm back from them. A salesperson who is enthusiastic also demonstrates confidence, professionalism and pride.

2. Never make excuses. During a sales slump don’t use these for excuses: “Our prices are too high.” “It’s the slow season.” “The chef isn’t creative enough”. “This is the third time this person has come to us for a bid without buying and I already know she won’t take us.” Excuses drain sales talent and create losers. To be a winner, you need to keep your mind clear of any negative thoughts.

3. Put the buyer first. Demonstrate to your buyer that the information you give will help them do a better event no matter who caterers it. Let them realize that they have finally met a salesperson who cares more for them and their event then they do for themselves. Remember, you are also selling “yourself” to the buyer as well as your catering. In fact, from the buyer’s point of view, since the caterer they select is going to become involved in their personal, or corporate goals it is great if they sense that the salesperson’s motives are based solely on their own goals and happiness.

4. Standout in the crowd. Be different in everything you do! Believe that you have no competition because no other caterer does as much for clients as you do. Do the unexpected. Demonstrate to your clients that you are looking forward to years of catering with them. Be unique in the way you dress, speak, write and care! Being unpredictable and different is often a valid strategy for selling more catering.

5. Take some risks. Yes, it’s “risky” to take risks. Playing safe, on the other hand, usually loses the important sales. Cut through the client’s concerns. Get right to the point. Ask questions that bring the issues out onto the table for discussion. Never make false promises, but never waiver from your “pledge” to your buyer of your total dedication to their success.

6. Keep learning and rehearsing. This is important. Surround yourself with quality books on selling techniques that are to be found at any bookstore. In order to attain greatness as a salesperson, you need to read about what other salespeople have done to get better. Then you need to actually rehearse your own sales scripts before you get in front of a real shopper. Learning and rehearsing are the cornerstones to catering sales success.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Neutralizing Stress

Stress is easy to excuse. Stress comes with leadership. Stress kills. All three of these statements are correct. And stress is everywhere for caterers. It’s hard to stay calm in the profession of catering. There are daily deadlines, the commitment that the show—the party—must go on, no matter what.

The biggest stress maker might be the caterer’s self-imposed requirement for perfection in everything they do. Caterers just can’t help themselves; they cater events to please themselves—not just the host or guests. A caterer is similar to an actor on the stage where everything is live and there are no retakes or do-overs.

Family, marriage and competitive forces constantly face caterers and create added stress. Caterers are often faced with choices between work and personal aspects of their life. Imagine being faced with the realization that you have a huge event on the same day as your child’s first play at school and you have to choose between the two. You’re going to have stress simply from the guilt you will feel about letting down either your customer or your family, depending on the choice you make. In my own career as a caterer, I missed many family occasions because I always chose the company first over my personal obligations. I was often stressed in anticipation of the guilt I was going to live with because I was a cateraholic.

My solution was a simple pill: Xanax. I carried them in a small vial on my keychain and used them as needed. Many caterers turn to activities like exercise, reading or massage to neutralize stress in their lives. I believe it’s the mere idea that they are doing something for themselves that leads to stress reduction.

In all my years in working with caterers, I have not found much alcohol use in the workplace. I’ve seen caterers who have become intoxicated on very special occasions, but I’ve never been aware of one who used alcohol to get through the workday. But I’m saddened by the number of caterers who resort to prescription drugs to neutralize the stress in their lives, just as I did, and I have known several caterers who resorted to illegal drugs to make it through some days.

The surest way to neutralize stress in catering is to say “no” instead of overbooking a date. Three overbooked days in a row are a killer! If you know the addition of a possible booking will take you into your stressful zone, pass on that booking.

While stress may be incurable, it can be neutralized when a caterer simply becomes aware of it and understands they have the ability to limit stress by limiting the amount of work they do. Caterers who take off at least one day a week have less stress than those who don’t.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Solid Salesperson's Checklist

Check your own progress—and do it often—with the answers to these questions. If you answer “no” to any questions, there’s work for you to do to be more effective.
• Are you getting the sales volume you should?
• Do you know how many sales your company expects of you this year?
• Do you always talk to the right person when selling catering?
• Do you have a consistent and proven sales script for qualifying the caller?
• Do you spend too much time with clients who really can’t buy?
• Do you spend at least two days a week out of the office prospecting for customers?
• Do you know how much one of your work hours is worth in dollars?
• Have you set a three-year income goal for yourself?
• Have you read at least three books on selling in the last year?
• Do you keep your past sales figures handy so you can review them quickly?
• Have you spent time analyzing your competitors?
• Do you talk with other sales people or managers at your company about your sales efforts?
• Do you know what your closing average is?