Posts Tagged ‘situational selling’

Selling More in a Tough Economy

November 2, 2012

In today’s economy, consumers are viewed as being much more frugal than in past years, so the idea of selling someone more than what they want may seem daunting. In times like this, however, it is especially important for restaurants to find ways to maximize their sales even when dealing with the most frugal of guests. The traditional approach to maximizing sales in a food service environment is to “upsell.”

Unfortunately, while this worked extremely well thirty years ago, consumers have become very aware of when someone is trying to sell them something more than what they asked for, and tend to say no immediately. The problem with upselling is that once you ask someone if they want something else, they’ve already made their decision. The key is to make relevant suggestions that will help your guests make their own decisions.

Situational Selling

Situational selling is a term used to describe the practice of assessing a guest or group of guests and making suggestions for their order based on that assessment. Rather than using the scripted questions that are so common for upselling, a server engaging in situational selling needs to be able to start a conversation with his or her table. This type of service demands that the server be comfortable with showing some personality and creating a kind of relationship with the guests. This allows the server to guide the decision making process rather than simply making suggestions after the decision has already been made.

Servers may still make suggestions to complement their guests’ orders, but it is best to keep the suggestions tailored to whatever they’ve already decided upon. For instance, offer a specific side that will pair well with the dish they have chosen, but do not try to persuade them to convert an order of grilled chicken to lobster which would likely only be offensive to the guest. Either way, the server needs to be able to read his or her table well in order to anticipate and guide their decisions, as well as when making suggestions after the fact.

Anticipate and Adapt

One of the most important things for servers to recognize is that their service should not be a one size fits all approach. Different groups of people will have different needs and different expectations. A server should first make a mental note of who is at the table. If it is a family with children, chances are they will want to order, eat, and leave fairly quickly without lingering for much conversation. A group of friends, on the other hand, may not be in so much of a hurry.

Then, the server should find out if his guests have been to the restaurant before. If not, they may require more time and may appreciate the server explaining the menu or specific menu items. If the guests have been there a few times, however, they might find that kind of behavior on the part of the server irritating. The server may also ask what brings the party to the restaurant in order to establish what kind of time table they are on. All of this will allow the server to better help his or her guests as well as giving them a chance to start a conversation that will open the door for the server to make suggestions.