As salespeople or sales leaders, do you follow the same process every time, or do you wing it? A recent exceptional dining experience provided a valuable lesson for how acting with intention and following a defined process separates the good from the great.
You can count on a great dining experience at each of the dozen restaurants in the Great American Restaurants (GAR) group. My wife and I have dined at their restaurants (Carlyle, Sweetwater Tavern, Coastal Flats, Jackson’s, and others) for over twenty years. During a recent meal, I saw the clear connection between the way they run their business, and lessons you can learn about how to run your sales organization.
Whereas other restaurants leave elements to chance, GAR does everything intentionally. Their success is driven by how they do the same things EVERY TIME… ALWAYS.
Details and Process Rule the Day
Each employee wears a starched white shirt, and they all have five black-clipped pens that hang between the 3rd and 4th button on their shirt. Every person on the team knows their job: Delight the customer. Team members’ responsibilities are clearly delineated. Food runners run food, another person clears plates and refills water. You’ll get a visit from a manager at every visit to see how you enjoyed your meal, service, and experience. They don’t just ask a superficial question, they ask questions like “What did you order this evening?” “What would you change about the dish for next time?”
GAR ensures that every guest is greeted the same when they enter the restaurant. They are welcomed the same way when seated at the table. Utensils are always delivered before the food arrives. After each guest has taken at least one bite of their meal, someone will ensure that everything is to your liking. Beyond that, servers are looking for the off-chance that you are not completely delighted. If you barely have touched your meal, they’ll ask if everything is to your liking, or would you prefer something else. The only way you leave their restaurant dissatisfied, is if you jump through the window.
How Does This Apply to Sales and Growing Revenue
Many restaurants do a “pretty good job” most of the time. Similarly, many businesses do a “pretty good job” most of the time growing business. Consider these 5 keys to growing your business with intention.
- Welcome: The way you are greeted at a restaurant sets the tone for your experience. In your business, how you start the conversation with customers defines whether they see you as trying to make a sale, or seeking to determine if there is a fit where you can help them achieve results. There is no opportunity to recover from a bad first impression. Ensure that each person starts a discussion with the customer in the same way; have them focus on what’s important to the customer. If you need some guidance, use the Same Side Pitch.
- Highlight your best: Each server at GAR restaurants highlights the best offerings the team has created for that day. Similarly, your team should be able to clearly discuss the problems you are best at solving for your customers. Recognize that you cannot deliver everything that your customer might want. For example, some GAR customers want to order take-away food. On their website, GAR says “Unfortunately, the food at other Great American Restaurants is high maintenance and does not travel well. Please understand when we decline take-out requests.” Just like when GAR brings utensils before they deliver the food, ensure that your customer has everything they need in order to make an informed decision. Don’t “ask for the order” when the customer doesn’t have everything they need.
- Focus on Results: In a stereotypical sales situation, most salespeople would feel that the sale is done when they took the order. Maybe the server would return to the table to “upsell” a beverage or dessert. GAR teaches that customer delight reigns supreme. It is not sufficient to simply sell and delver what was ordered. You need to follow-through to be certain your customer is getting the results they were seeking. When you do that, you will build a strong pipeline of repeat and referral customers.
- Define Roles: The GAR restaurant employees all work together. Still, each person knows what is expected of them. Each person involved in a sale in your business should also know what is expected of them. What questions must they uncover at EVERY first sales meeting? What information must they collect EACH TIME before they discuss price. How should price ALWAYS be presented? The top performers discover methods that work, and they repeat them. If you are winging it each time with the customer, you are leaving too much to chance. Create a worksheet that contains the type of questions you need to ask to determine a) if you can help your customer; and b) whether or not their issue is important enough to warrant an investment or change. Just about customer-facing employee could ask the customer these questions when an opportunity presents itself.
- Seek Problems: When customers struggle, it is easy to think “They should have told us they were having problems.” Instead, look for symptoms that everything isn’t going smoothly. When you take the time to ask about a potential problem, your customer will appreciate that you are concerned about their success. You just might get there before they become dissatisfied. If you look the other way or hope it will resolve itself… rest assure that such things only happen in your dreams.
You can learn a great many things, even in a restaurant. You just have to look beyond the surface.
It’s Your Turn
The next time you dine in a restaurant, take a close look at their operation. Please share the lessons you see that you can apply to your business (the good or the bad).