Selling - Could The World's Greatest Salesman Be A Waiter?

Claude Whitacre

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Years ago, My wife, in-laws, and I went into an expensive restaurant. The waiter asked us for our order. I don't remember what we ordered, but I do remember this: The waiter gave a funny look & said “The Cod isn't very fresh today, may I recommend the Scrod?" or words to that effect.

As he went around the table, he either complimented us on our choice or made a small suggestion on our selection. We were listening to his every word. Watching this artist at work was interesting enough to keep me from talking much. I knew the Cod was fresh. Other people were eating it. But this was what our waiter did: 1) He recommended a dish slightly less expensive than the one ordered. This proved to the group that he was looking out for our best interests. This also let him take control of our groups buying decisions. 2) The next recommendations, & the recommendations for wine & dessert were not less expensive. 3) Because he had “Taken Care" of us, the group felt an obligation to leave a big tip. 4)Whenever my brother-in-law (the perceived head of the table) ordered, the waiter complimented him on his excellent choice. 5) The waiter gave us a couple small samples of dessert to try for free.

There are so many marketing lessons here, I honestly don't know where to begin, but here goes. . . Make the switch from “Product Pusher" to “Trusted Advisor". Our waiter seemed more interested in taking care of us than making a profit. I said “seemed".

Once the rapport had been established, the customer will be much more inclined to try to mantain that rapport. (by following your suggestions) The Free dessert samples (at no cost to the waiter, & minimal cost to the owner) cemented the idea that this guy was our friend. He kept talking about us & our needs. And kept offering suggestions, sandwiched between compliments. We were sold.

While there was mindless chatter at our table about the weather & who just had a baby, I watched as my new teacher went from table to table repeating the same technique. " the first choice is not fresh, may I recommend this?" & so on. My wife & I never went back to that restaurant. This would be a better story if we did, I know. So I don't know what happened to our waiter friend. But I do know what happened to me. I went home & wrote down what happened, because I knew I would forget.

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