Friday, November 2, 2012

Objections From Prospects

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you made your presentation, the customer nodded and bam, you had a sale? It almost never happens like that—nor should it.

Objections are required to make a sale! In fact, the caterer should encourage them and be suspicious when a buyer is not stating any objections; they are the foundation of most sales.

When objections arise, you have an opportunity to determine what really motivates your customer. That means you can do a better job of satisfying the customer by responding to those motivations, concerns and worries.

The single biggest reason that buyers give objections is to insulate themselves from having to make a decision—even when they already have decided to buy your catering.

In general, most buyers of anything want to hold off until the last moment to say "yes". Answering objections is the path to making the sale.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

There's Always A Cheaper Caterer

They can get cheaper food from dozens of other places. 

Isn’t a chicken-salad sandwich the same whether you pay $7.50 or $4.75 for it? To understand the impact of this, ask yourself this question: When you buy Driscoll strawberries for your business, don’t you shop for the lowest price? Isn’t your assumption that a Driscoll brand strawberry is the same no matter where you buy it?

That’s just the point. To your buyers, the brand is the product line, or chicken-salad sandwich, not the caterer who is making it for them. The obvious solution is to stress the benefits of your brand name over others.

You would do this by stressing that your price contains much more than just the words “chicken-salad sandwich.” Your price includes the highest quality purveyors, 6 ounces of salad, safe temperature control, on-time delivery, sanitation and overall quality service. This is hard to do in a society where most people are looking for price advantages.

My point is that a caterer should explain their price rather than apologize for it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Important Part Of Qualifying The Prospect

Just because the customer is sitting in front of you, doesn’t mean he or she will be in charge of making decisions about this event. It’s important to understand what the customer’s expectations are, and how different parties involved with the event (family of the bride, the customer’s manager, etc.) will interact.

Questions like these can help:

1. “Who, besides you, is going to be involved in the decision of which caterer you use?”

2. “Who should I send a copy of the menus and other information to?” 
     (This tips you off to who else is important in the decision)

3. “What is your expectation on the time for me to get my information back to you?”
      (If you hear the words, “There’s no rush,” be very suspicious that this might be a waste of time.)

4. “Ideally, when would you be ready to make a decision about which caterer you will use?”

5. “What are your expectations for this event?”

6. “What is your experience in dealing with your boss? What menu is likely to appeal to her?”

The point I'm trying to make is that the salesperson needs to take charge and determine what is what with the real reason the shopper is asking for information. A salesperson just can't waste their valuable time by trying to sell someone that is not a valid buyer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Being "Nice" Is The Way To Go

One of the more important stresses placed on catering businesses today is finding, training and motivating staff. As our industry grows, the need for more people to fill new or soon-to-be-vacant positions increases.
What makes it even more difficult is the fact that catering is a tough business with longer hours than most other businesses. Add to that weekends ... Well, you know what I’m driving at. Long hours, hard work and lack of time for family and personal activities makes recruiting people to staff our companies challenging.
While I don’t have an answer for how to fill this need, I do have some thoughts. Whether you’re trying to find full- or part-time staff for culinary, sales, office, operations, management or whatever, the single most crucial guideline is to hire as many “nice” people as you can. Sounds sort of weird doesn’t it?
As the work force gets younger, the work ethic changes. I’m not suggesting younger workers have a poorer work ethic, but people in their 20s and 30s look upon work in a completely different way than those who are older. They see work as an important part of their life bur, for many, it’s not the most important part. They expect not just to work, but also to enjoy what they do and to find it meaningful.
We can’t guarantee nice customers, but we certainly can’t afford to have staff that isn’t nice touching our customers.
 I don’t believe you can teach a staff person to be nice, so it’s extremely important to hire staff who demonstrate that they are, more than likely, nice.
The employment interview needs to draw out a measure of the potential hire’s level of respect for others and their need to please and serve. Catering is a low-tech, high-touch business where many words are spoken before, during and after a sale. Buying a catered event is a major purchase for most customers, so they demand a much higher level of communication, empathy and service from a caterer than from someone selling a set of tires.
For those staffers behind the scenes who never get a chance to “touch” customers, the need to be nice is also crucial to maintain staff morale, safety and teamwork. The days of not-so-nice employees are limited, and that’s true for everyone from the lowest paid staffer to those in upper management.
Never before have workers had so little concern about “staying on the job.” If they can’t be both productive and happy, then they will most likely leave in search of a better situation. 
Losing outstanding talent because others were not nice is a waste for all concerned.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Keeping Food & Guests Safe

Note: Sanitation is a subject that is very important. Unfortunately, many caterers only become agressive about sanitation after something goes wrong or almost goes wrong. So, I thought I'd give you some points to consider for your next company meeting:
Bacteria needs time, food and moisture to grow; but they won’t grow when the temperature of the food is colder than 41º F or hotter than 140º F. This temperature range differs slightly in different jurisdictions. The area between these temperatures is the Danger Zone. The goal is to keep food out of the danger zone until just prior to serving. Caterers, especially off-premise caterers, usually prepare food ahead of serving time, store it, travel with it, reheat it and then let it stand ready for guests.
Check with your health department to make sure that your staff has taken all the education and received all the certificates obtainable from your city or state. Hire sanitation experts to visit your location and check your facility and watch your staff at work to discover any incorrect procedures. The health department will do this for free.
Obtain and study your health department’s codes. They generally are multiple pages and may be filled with hard-to-understand information. A few samples from one state’s health code:

Critical violations creating an imminent danger to public health means those critical violations in which at least one of the following conditions exists:

(a) Food and drink is spoiled, unwholesome, or contaminated with pathogenic or fecal organisms, toxic chemicals, insect or rodent parts or excreta, or other harmful substances or articles;
(b) Potentially hazardous foods have been kept at temperatures above 45 degrees F. and below 140 degrees F. for four (4) hours or more; (this range also varies by jurisdiction)
(c) Food employee has a reportable disease or medical condition.

Critical violations creating a significantly increased risk for foodborne illness include:
(a) Potentially hazardous foods at improper temperatures.
(b) Cross contamination of raw to ready to eat foods.
(c) Poor personal hygiene and handwashing.