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Scoring with the right pitch


My Uncle Charlie used to say, “I hate salespeople!”  Not because he received poor service, but because he received great service. Sounds like Yogi Berra logic, doesn’t it?

What he probably meant was, “I hate being sold to.”  But the savvy consumer should grab a Louisville Slugger and welcome the pitch.

Before watching the boys of summer at Coors Field, I met up with some friends at a trendy LoDo rooftop joint; one of those places that “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”* Our likable server greeted us with a fabulous open-ended question: “What can I get you from the bar?”

I ordered a Blue Moon in hopes that my choice of beer would serendipitously help Colorado secure a win. 

“Twenty-two ounce?” he asked.

“Sure, why not?” I agreed.  Turns out you could get a pint instead, but he didn’t offer small or large. 

Then this clever lad casually said, “Add a shot for two bucks?”

The thought of 1.5 ounces of Jäger before nine long innings in the blazing sun made my stomach turn.  But I actually considered it, rationalizing what a sweet deal it was. I came to my senses and stuck with the ale.

Because I’m a salesperson, I enjoy being sold to. It’s an opportunity to scout new skills for my own playbook. “You can observe a lot by just watching.”*

Also, I don’t fear the process.  I’ve been in the batter’s box a few times and know I’m in control.  So whether the Ace throws chin music or cheese, I’m already ahead of the count.  It’s entirely up to me to take a pitch, lay down a bunt or swing for the fences. 

I’ve noticed that most businesses employ two types of salespeople:  the Order Taker and the Solution Seller.

The Order Taker does just that. They ask close-ended questions (“Can I get you something to drink?”), and don’t educate the customer or up-sell.  The customer is content, the salesperson makes their money and the entire transaction is like the Rockies’ performance during the 2007 World Series … unmemorable. 

The Solution Seller turns the sales process into an experience. They ask open-ended questions you can’t say “no” to – literally. They make recommendations and find out what tickles your fancy.  On occasion, the experience is almost as valuable as the object you covet.

Since food service is my game, I’ll use restaurants as the ball park. You can probably apply this to your business’ playing field, too.

Let’s explore the full range of pitches from an Order Taker’s to a Solution Seller’s attempt to sell dessert.  Does anyone really need dessert?  No.  Just like a giant, purple foam hand, it’s an impulse purchase.  But we all secretly want a molten chocolate fudge cake – as long as it’s not our idea. 

Beanball - No mention of dessert.  Asks “Just the check?” while withdrawing it from their apron.

Brush Back - Inquires “Would you like to see the dessert menu?”

Just a bit outside - Brings the dessert menu, unasked, and leaves it for you to read.

Free Pass - Same as above, but also makes a recommendation.

Payoff Pitch - Brings over a dessert tray, proceeds to describe each mouth-watering choice.

Meatball - Secures the dessert order.  Further tempts you with “Cappuccino?  Espresso?”

A skilled Closer will also employ two subtle tricks o’ the trade that have an 80 percent success rate:

#1- The Assume-a-Sale: “I know you all saved room for dessert this evening” paired with:

#2 - The Sullivan Nod: a subtle nodding of the head up and down. People usually mirror each other. Without realizing it, you become a human bobble-head and your mouth instinctively says “yes, dessert sounds lovely.”

It’s not a dirty little secret.  These sales pros aren’t scalpers selling you counterfeit Rockpile tickets. If you’re willing to play a little Pepper with them, they’ll deliver you delicious food and a great dining experience

So next time you feel you’re being “sold to”, pine tar your bat, take a few practice swings and watch the king of the hill throw a sweet heater right to your wheelhouse.

 Or better yet, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”*

*all quotes by Yogi Berra, catcher for the New York Yankees: 1946-1965.

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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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