Sales Success comes from Increasing Opportunity

By Janel Lubanski, media relations and client services

I recently attended a production sales training seminar at a client site and was captivated by what I learned in a matter of minutes. The seminar focused specifically on wine sales, but many of these methods can be applied to other industries as well.

Our instructor was a 20-year sales veteran with experience working within many industries.  Her enthusiasm for the training and skill of selling was contagious.

The Complete Experience
She opened the seminar by having us define what customers in a restaurant want.  Our initial answers were as obvious as good meal, good service, friendly staff, etc. Going further, we discussed that customers ultimately want a positive, memorable experience and a reason to return.  Providing these in any establishment will result in increased repeat purchases and a growing loyal customer base.

Opportunity Equation
Opportunities are all around us, and include every person with whom we come into contact. Determine your total opportunities for selling in your own business. First, take the number of contacts with whom you interact on a daily basis.  These can be customers, business associates, service providers, etc.  All of these connections are sales opportunities.  You may not recognize them as such at first, but with interaction you may uncover opportunities to sell to them or to someone they know.

(# of interactions) x (work days per week) x (weeks in a year) = numerous sales opportunities

Question then Sell – not the other way around
There are so many times when I have been on the “customer” side of a transaction and the sales person attempts to sell me on the product before asking questions about my interests.  To avoid this push tactic and engage your customer, begin with an effective questioning process.  By asking open-ended questions, you can gauge what products are of interest to your customers and offer suggestions based on their particular needs or wants. 

It is so important in the hospitality industry to LISTEN:

L = Look interested, get interested
I  = Involve yourself by responding
S = Stay on Target
T = Test your understanding 
E = Evaluate the message
N = Nurture their needs

People purchase things from people they know, like and trust, so by listening you can distinguish primary interests, buying criteria and motives, etc. and in turn, provide information on the products you have that match what the customer is seeking.  The key is using the information gained from the guest to close the sale in a comfortable way that shows you were interested in the guest and actually listened and learned from them.  This is consultative selling.

Working through Objections
Objection, in this sense, is defined as a customer giving you reasons to not buy your product.  We have discussed the importance of listening, which is an important determent to objections.  Acknowledging, understanding and responding are ways to work through objections.

Let’s say a customer thinks your prices are out of their budget for Chardonnay, start with a cushioning response to the objection such as, “I can appreciate your feelings on this.”  Clarify the objection using a question such as: “what are you comparing our prices to?” or “Were there other wines you tasted today that you enjoyed?” Resolve the objection by informing the customer on similar wines that are at a lower price point.

For success is sales are you swimming or sinking?  Take a look at what works & what doesn't 


Optimism vs. Pessimism, what side is your business attitude on?

By Janel Lubanski, Media Relations & Client Services
What is the correct way to handle business hardships? When you lose a client, do you consider it a failure or an opportunity? How does your team bounce back from disappointments?  When it comes to the aspects of your job, are you an optimist or a pessimist?

In January, Harvey Mackay, New York Times Bestselling author of “Swim with the Sharks,” and regular columnist for Inc. Magazine wrote about business attitude and how optimism outperforms pessimism.

Merriam-Webster defines optimism as “an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events”.  Pessimism is contagious and ultimately, your attitude is the foundation for your employees’ sense of reality.  Business owners and employees who are optimists choose to find the silver lining of all business struggles and focus on how to learn from setbacks and create a productive path forward. 

Let’s say for example, that you are a business owner who is coming to the end of a contract with your biggest client.  A pessimist would only see the loss of the client and income.  On the flip side, an optimist would see the door opening to new clients, the opportunity for bigger accounts and think about the value offered by the experience, connections and knowledge gained from working with that former client.

No business owner or manager can inspire a team with a consistent negative attitude on the inevitable struggles that arise at work.  Great team leaders find ways to rise above the negativity and identify what can be improved and seek opportunities elsewhere. According to Mackay, it’s all about having a positive attitude even when faced with hardships or setbacks.

Dana Lightman, author of “Power Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have…Create the Success You Want” provides a great example of optimism in the work place: “The optimists who are needed in today’s workplace embody qualities that include self-awareness, flexibility, self-confidence, initiative, resiliency and adaptability.” 

Whether CEO, manager or line staff, these optimists employ a system of thinking, feeling and behaving that creates conditions for success. Their optimistic attitude allows them to recognize and redirect unproductive reactions, to think before acting, and to choose beneficial responses.  Optimism equips practitioners with a perspective that fosters personal accountability, innovative thinking and appropriate risk-taking.” 

After reading Mackay’s article, I thought back to when I first relocated to Oregon from Hawaii trying desperately to land a job as quickly as possible.   My first job offer, like a good portion of recent-college graduates, was working in a field that had nothing to do with what I majored in.  Learning the ins-and-outs of a new industry was a lot more difficult than I anticipated and looking back it could have been so easy to say this job really wasn’t for me – but that was just the fear talking.  Instead of listening to my fear, I stuck with my job, taking on unfamiliar, tasks, reminding myself that one day, I would understand all of this.  

I like to think my optimism was a result of a former co-worker and friend telling me that by taking this job, I would learn the business from the ground up – that I would learn so much more than if I took a writing post at a local publication.  Looking back, that was exactly what I wanted: having a job where I could learn all aspects of the business, not just become a one-dimensional employee.

Maintaining a strong optimistic perspective and checking the pessimism at the door is what pushes me to do the best work I can, even when that work doesn’t reach my desired outcome; I keep the hustle.  After all, trials keep you strong and failures keep you humble.  Perseverance goes hand-in-hand with this mantra.  It may not get you to your desired outcome 100 percent of the time, but it will take you a lot further than not trying at all.

Mackay stated, “You need to be able to look on the bright side of tough situations in order to take risks, and survive both successes and failures.” -- And I agree.