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Posted: July 03, 2013

Scoring with the right pitch

Turns out baseball and business have lots in common

Laura Cook Newman

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.

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

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

So true, and that's why I love being in sales. By Harley Mom on 2013 07 10
i would like fries with that. By Ta Tee on 2013 07 04
I think waiters could sell more desserts if the menu featured a "Home Plate" special whereby selections were attractively boxed to take home and savor later. By Minerva on 2013 07 03
And probably is lonely because of the social skills he/she displayed! By Notfamilias has no sense of humor on 2013 07 03
Your article stimulated a conversation with my daughter who recently started working at a fast food joint. She noted that they have an automatic up sale at the drive thru, the recorded message that says you should try whatever the hot food of the week is. Personally I hate that, but I wonder how effective it is? By Good conversation on 2013 07 03
I'm not a baseball fan and don't understand what throwing the cheese is. Is it like cutting the cheese? By Question on 2013 07 03
Only 27 metaphors? Well shoot, I counted 38! I just give my readers so much credit for their smarts, I didn't think they'd mind the "heavy lifting"...metaphorically speaking, of course. And yes, there's always room for pie. Apple Pie and Baseball - does it get any more American than that? Happy Independence Day everyone! By Chef Laura on 2013 07 03
Hard to see the forest for the 27 metaphors on the other side of the fence. What is the message? And if you can answer in one sentence, why isn't that sentence included? By NotFamilias on 2013 07 03
I'm always amazed at the wait staff who, as soon as we've finished chewing the last bite, abruptly appear at the table and hand us the check. My husband loves dessert but we never order when the check follows the final swallow - but we do often go somewhere else for pie! Excellent analysis and recommendations, Laura. By A Pearson on 2013 07 03
Good article - you really did your homework. Harry Doyle lives! By Pater Familias on 2013 07 03
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