The Power of Suggestion: 6 Tips to Build Sales

publication date: Sep 6, 2017
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author/source: Michael Attias

Customers laughing

"Let's raise those check averages!" the manager calls out to his staff at a pre-shift alley-rally.

All the employees, except the brown nosing, people pleaser, roll their eyes and head out of the kitchen to finish up side work before the restaurant opens.

No one wants to be sold, yet we all want to buy. Selling has negative connotations of pushy salespeople. Now suggestive selling. That's different. Someone who suggests something is doing us a favor.

I'm guessing that one of the easiest strategies to increase sales, suggestive selling, has been abandoned by most operators. When things are down, it's easy to pull out the fold up chair, grab a beer and have a pity party.

Well, let's discuss how to get off our cans and use the power of suggestive selling to build sales. Here are some key points:

1. Suggest

Don't Sell. Your folks should suggest what would enhance a guest's experience, not sell them something they'll regret later. A 95 pound grandma does not need, nor will she appreciate a double cut pork chop, most of it going home. When I first started waiting tables I would ask about dessert. Most would look at me with that "we're too full look."

I quickly replied, "Our desserts are half the calories and half as filling as other restaurants."

My customers perked up, "How's that?"

"One slice, two forks," I'd volley back with a devilish grin in my eye. Most of the time they'd order dessert.

2. Enhance The Experience

The best upsells enhance the experience. I would often recommend a shot of Bailey's or Amaretto to pour over the cheesecake. It turned ordinary cheesecake into extraordinary cheesecake (and doubled the sale). My guests left thrilled with taking my suggestion.

3. Sell The Benefit

I loved booking catering jobs. There were certain items that were almost a given a catering client should order like drinks and desserts. If ever I met with resistance with the drink upsell, I would use the following script, "Our drink packs give you enough for each guest to have two drinks. You can pick from two flavors in gallon jugs: sweet tea, unsweet tea, peach tea and lemonade. We give you the cups, ice, lemons, sweeteners and spoons for only $1.25 per guest. It sure beats schlepping down to Kroger, loading up your cart with all of that and hauling it back to your office."

The mental picture of wasting an hour, lifting heavy drinks to save a few bucks made the sale. The benefit was time and energy savings!

4. Give Them A Reason Why

Why should I buy from you? Why should I take your suggestion. Sometimes you may offer a discount if the guest takes an upsell or if they buy two upsells. "My manager ordered in too many of our fudge-nut iced brownies. If you order the drink pack for only $1.49 a guest, I can throw in the fudge-nut iced brownies. That's a $1.25 a guest savings.

5. Sell Specifics

"Would you like dessert?" "Would you like brownies?" "Would you like to add our homemade fudge-nut iced brownies to your catering order? They're a little thicker and richer than regular brownies, but not quite as thick and rich as a piece of fudge. It's the perfect bit of sweet after a barbecue lunch."

Now which phrase would get you to buy? Enough said.

6. Ask For The Order

Zig Ziglar has one of the best lines I've heard, "Shy salesmen have skinny kids." You must ask for the order: "Would you like me to add the fudge-nut iced brownies to the order?" "Would you prefer the tea and lemonade service or the canned drinks and bottled water?" Don't Ask. Won't sell.



Michael AttiasMichael Attias is the founder of Restaurant Catering Systems and a former partner and operator of a restaurant that sold over $1,000,000 a year in catering out of a 104 seat location. After he sold his interest in the restaurant, he dedicated his resources to the creation of the first web based catering software for restaurants.