What will selling skills do for you?

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How much money is spent on advertising, marketing and promoting hospitality businesses in this country each year? It must be a staggering amount. It strikes me that most of this money is directed toward attracting people to seats or luring likely prospects through the door. How many of you have really thought about your ability to sell once you have the customers present?

In the early 1970’s I was an Area Manager with one of the big take-away food companies. At the time, sales were OK, things were going along smoothly, and we figured that we were managing well. Our head office thought otherwise.

A directive appeared instructing us to introduce a campaign of suggestive selling to all our service staff. For those of you who are not familiar with this term or the concept, suggestive selling is the process where service staff are given sales training and are then expected to ‘suggest’ specific sales to each customer they serve with. I must admit lacking commitment at the time — another damn Yankee idea that would be difficult to translate to our particular breed of staff.

One of my colleagues, perhaps less cynical than me, decided to trial the idea at a country site. A 17 year old girl was thoroughly trained and then challenged to see how many small cheesecakes she could sell in a week. This particular store had sold an average of 63 of these cheesecakes per week in the prior month; cheesecakes were hardly setting the culinary world on fire.

At the end of the one week trial I was astounded to learn that this girl had sold 1241 cheesecakes — on top of our normal sales! It didn’t require the brain of Einstein to realise the potential sales gain company-wide, so we swung into action.

A very careful staff training program was commenced and a system for monitoring individual performance was devised to keep track of results. You want to know what happened? A 23 per cent increase in sales for no extra labour cost, that’s what happened. I remain converted. Think about it.

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