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Chef Laura: Secret sales magic trick revealed


Most magicians are known for their signature trick:  David Blaine levitates, Criss Angel freaks your mind, and David Copperfield defies the limits of bronzer application.

Sales people usually have a few tricks up their sleeves too.  Some are pure voodoo, some are legit; this one’s a little bit of both. 

I call it The Mystery Box

If we apply a little wizardry to the sales cycle, we could potentially double our sales.  Not only is this lucrative for our business, but it also increases our sales people’s commissions and delights our customers.

At the risk of having my SAM card revoked, I will reveal this magic trick here:

Behold!  Nordstrom is where I learned this sleight-of-hand.  I pulled an Al Bundy and did a stint in the shoe department.  This magical maneuver works like a charm with shoes, and it might work for your company’s widgets/services too.

Before given free roam of the showroom, I shadowed the store’s top salesman, Marty.  Unlike a Las Vegas headliner, he wasn’t particularly handsome, didn’t dress in head-to-toe black, and just had me - not a scantily clad assistant – by his side.  But Marty was a magician in his own right, without all the smoke.  We did have mirrors in the shoe department, after all.

When a customer entered our arena, he cast his spell with a nod, smile or friendly wave from across the room.  Then he let the customer browse to her heart’s content. 

Ms. Customer would pick up a pump and examine it.  The moment she held it a nanosecond longer for consideration, was precisely when Marty would gracefully approach and ask “What size may I get you?”  Not “Can I help you?” or “Would you like to try that on?” which could both be rebutted with “No thanks.”

“Do you have a seven?” she’d ask, handing over a conservative beige kitten heel.

“Right away,” he’d reply smoothly, vanishing into the back with me handcuffed to him.

The shoe storeroom was a cross between Imelda Marcos’s closet and the warehouse where the Lost Ark was kept.  We went directly to the beige heels section and secured the customer’s request.  Presto!

Or so I thought…

My mysterious mentor continued shuffling through the shelves like a solo game of Three-card Monte.  Marty handed me the stack.

“Why so many boxes?” I asked

“You’ll see,” he assured me.

Ms. Customer sat patiently awaiting our return.  Marty removed the lid of box #1 and revealed exactly what she asked for.  This was Act One of the trick: “The Pledge”.  Marty earned her trust delivering what she expected.  She slipped them on and performed the obligatory catwalk.

“I also brought you these,” Marty would say as the customer settled back into her chair.  This was Act Two: “The Turn”.  Marty had subtly shifted the sale in his favor.  Box #2 contained another pair of beige kitten heels.  These had an elegant silver buckle on the side, were pricier, and also a size seven. 

As Ms. Customer began to walk the carpet in those, Marty politely excused himself, with the promise of his return.

From our vantage point of the register, I whispered “Why didn’t we stay with her?”

“You’ll see,” he assured me, obeying the magician’s code to never reveal their secrets.

“Okay, but can you at least tell me what’s in the last box?”

“You’ll see,” he purred, clearly enjoying his super powers.

Ms. Customer opened box #3 and extracted the cutest pair of bubblegum colored patent leather slides I have ever seen.  Voila!

Guess what size they were?

Guess what she did with them?

From my post, I anxiously watched as she slid on the size seven pink sandals and pranced around the floor as if happily hypnotized.

Like an apparition, Marty would reappear and say “Oh, I brought those just for fun.  They looked like you.”  Beaming, she nods.  Marty escorts her to the counter with two boxes in hand: the upsold beige heels and the pink slides.  That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the Final Act: “The Prestige.” Ta-da!

The Mystery Box is a touch of hocus pocus with a remarkable track record.  Show your customers what they want, then show them a little more, and then show them something they didn’t even realize they wanted.  Abracadabra, you’ve doubled your sales!  No bronzer required.

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Laura Cook Newman

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

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