There is a stigma around selling. When I say “Natural born salesman”, what comes to mind?
Is it a smooth-talking door-to-door salesman with a slightly larger right foot wedged in your door, refusing to take no for an answer...wearing you down with verbal half-nelsons and headlocks until you tap out with your American Express card?
Maybe you’re old enough to remember the movie Tin Men with Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito; a movie about the sleazy business aluminum siding sales.
Or maybe the film Glengarry Glen Ross with Alec Baldwin, the real estate sales manager berating his team...telling them, “coffee's for closers”.
Today this antiquated model of selling is dead!
The need to be a master salesperson, whether over the phone, in person, or via the written word, is more important and relevant than ever.
But the definition of being a great salesperson has changed.
Twice I have taken team members inexperienced in “sales” and turned them into master salespeople.
In their minds, they had a picture of someone selling ice to an Inuit.
Many of us in the restaurant/catering industry started from the bottom; me as a dishwasher, working my way up. It’s the love of food and seeing a smile on a guest’s face that drives us.
The extent of our sales training is suggestively selling our food specialties and upselling cocktails, appetizers, premium entrees and desserts. This is largely accomplished through education.
Always Be Educating
Today’s buyer doesn’t want to be sold to. They want to be educated.
It all begins with a thorough understanding of what your catering prospect wants.
Ask a lot of questions…
“Tell me about your event.”
“What’s your vision?”
“What’s on your must-have list?”
“What is your budget range?”
And my favorite…“If I had a magic wand and could grant you one wish for your event, what would it be?”
Once I know a prospect’s hot buttons, I can educate them on my options that fit what they want.
For instance…“We can’t run out of food. Last year the caterer ran out of food before our President and his wife could get fed.”
I heard versions of that many times, so I created the “120% All You Can Eat Guarantee”.
“Mr./Ms. Prospect. I understand that running out of food is a real fear. And you don’t know us well enough to know we won’t run out of food too and embarrass you. That’s why we give you a 120% All You Can Eat Guarantee. If we run out of food at your event, you won’t owe us a dime and you’ll get a 20% discount on your next event!”
I sold a ton of catering with this strategy.
And I have used lots of educational-based selling techniques to sell catering.
“Our food is more expensive because we smoke our shoulders for 22 hours, so the meat literally falls apart and melts in your mouth. Other barbecue caterers take shortcuts and smoke their pork for 14 hours to increase the yield, but the meat is a bit tougher. I am happy to have you out for a tasting, so you can taste what I’m talking about.”
Sometimes it’s educating a prospective buyer on the logistics of how you’d pull off the event.
By taking the time to really listen to your prospect and using that information when discussing what you offer, they will feel heard. Proper educating will allow you to stop selling and allow them to buy.
Literally every aspect of your catering business can be turned into mini-selling scripts to educate prospective customers as to why you make sense.
And if you can’t deliver what they need or a portion of what they need…
No one wants to be sold a bill of goods. By being authentic and revealing your shortcomings, people will appreciate and trust you. That will get you more business.
And even if you send them to a competitor for this particular event, they will come back to you. I’ve seen it over and over again.
At CaterZen, we are quick to let a prospect know whether we are a good fit or not. We are in the business of finding lifetime raving fans of our catering software.
Broken sales promises make for a terrible onboarding experience and cancellations.
Selling may be dead, but educating your prospects will keep your catering business alive and well!