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.

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