Are You a Vitamin or a Painkiller?

 
 

When it comes to offering the best customer service possible, what is your strategy? Are you the kind of entrepreneur that offers your clients a regular supply of low stakes services, or are you the hero that sweeps in and saves the day? Do you make people feel content, or do you exceed all of their expectations, blow them away and make their wildest dreams a reality?

I know which one I want to be. Do you? Think about it this way – if you could only have access to one pill for the rest of your life, would you choose vitamins or painkillers? Sure, it’s great to have easy access to vitamins, but a painkiller is an utter necessity. It will help you when things are at their very worst – it can be a literal lifesaver when the chips are down. When you work in sales, the customer expects you to have vitamins. They expect that you are going to give them the necessary things that they need to keep functioning. But what they really want are the painkillers – the goods and services that will dramatically change the way they live their lives for the better.

Chrysler changes the game – Transforming your company from a vitamin to a painkiller

Back in the 1980s, American car giant Chrysler made a minor change to their design and rocked the automotive industry. Yes – something as simple (and some would say even as trivial) as a cup holder can transform your business. See, back in 1984, cars didn't have cup holders. While in car dining was popular, people usually parked their cars and ate their food in the parking lot. That all changed in 1983 when McDonald’s opened their first drive thru on infamous Route 66. The food and drinks were packaged in a way that made eating on the go the obvious choice. Fast food was now sold as a painkiller – something that any ‘on the go’ family or business professional could simply not do without. The only problem was that while the eating habits of America were changing, the car designs were not yet following suit. The Chrysler design team had a hard time convincing senior execs that the interiors needed to be modified to accommodate drivers eating behind the wheel. They challenged the bigwigs to spend a day in their car, and low and behold – their attitudes soon changed. One sales executive placed a cup of hot coffee between his legs and hit a bump in the road – scalding coffee flew everywhere. He then understood that something had to be done. The 1984 Dodge Caravan included a cup holder, and the rest is history. It became the best-selling car in America that year, and people actively sought out the model for its convenient cup holder. All of the major car companies soon followed suit, proving that what could have been an ordinary vitamin had quickly become a painkiller. Everyone just had to have it.

Are you already selling a painkiller? Many of you out there probably sell painkillers instinctively. You are already selling something high quality, important and of immense value. If you're actually selling a painkiller, but you sell it like it's a vitamin, no one will buy it. You need to make sure you explain from the get go why your service is a painkiller. Make it clear that you can offer peace of mind, fantastic service, and real-world solutions. You have to know your audience, determine what is bothering them, and then make sure your product or service addresses this need. Are you offering something that is nice to have? (A vitamin). Or something that you NEED to have? (A painkiller). Make this clear and shout it from the rooftops – you are a real-life saver, and your clients will benefit from doing business with you vs. your competition. There is nothing wrong with vitamins – but let’s be honest, nothing is exciting or compelling about them either. If you want to stand out from the crowd and be something really special, you need to be a painkiller.

an excerpt of Meryl's new book Cha Ching- There's no money in sales for 2nd place

How to Hire a Great Salesperson

One of the most common questions I get from my clients is, “how do you hire excellent salespeople?” 

This, as you may know, can be easier said than done! Traditional recruitment and interview methods can work well in some cases, but we have all hired an individual this way and been utterly disappointed by the results. While there is no surefire way to ensure that your newly hired salesperson is going to be a winner, I have developed a series of hiring techniques that have helped me immensely over the years. 

From placing a strong recruitment listing to creating an interview process that works for your company, these are just some of the strategies that can be used. It is important that you craft and hone these suggestions to fit your business – but as a basic template, this is a great place to start. 

Crafting a job ad for results

When I perused ads on different sites I noticed that companies are confusing job ads with job descriptions. An ad is to sell the applicant. A description is used internally to describe their responsibilities. 

Keep the ad short:

  • Title that catches applicants attention
  • Intro: Paragraph that summarizes most interesting points of position
  • Company Name
  • Location
  • Qualifications

Try placing this statement at the bottom of your ad. You will be amazed how quickly you weed out applicants that are not qualified.

“Tell us why you are the perfect candidate for this position and leave your phone number for us to call you back”

To ensure visibility, you'll want to repost the ad weekly.

Personality Tests – Learning about your candidate

As a part of our recruitment process, we ask our candidates to take a short series of standardized personality tests, (prior to the first interview) including the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Personality. This test assigns people into 16 different categories based on their answers to a series of questions.

While these tests are by no means a foolproof indication of exactly what your candidate will be like when on the job, they can give you some valuable information. Remember – while there are many different personality types, no one is ‘superior’ to any other. They are all equal, yet different – but this does mean that some personality types are better suited to different careers than others. 

It has been theorized that the ENFP and ENFJ types are more naturally inclined towards empathy, listening, communication and teamwork. These traits can make them excellent sales people, and so we are always on the lookout for individuals who fall into these categories. 

During the interview

The Interview

The Interview

Now that you have narrowed your candidate list down to those who are best suited to your position, it is time to schedule interviews. As an employer, you should prepare for the interview just as vigorously as you would expect your candidate to do so. Carefully select targeted questions, and consider crafting a role playing scenario. 

Ask the right questions – and look for the right answers

Asking a candidate the seemingly simple question, “how did you prepare for this interview today?” can reap a wealth of information about their work ethic. Do they seem caught off by this question, or are they composed and prepared? Ideally, you are looking for an individual who has a polished and well thought out answer.

While some people might tell you about their personal care regime (I ate healthily, got a full night’s sleep and carefully chose my attire), others might blank and look panicked. This will tell you a lot about how they deal under pressure when a client asks them an unexpected candidate.

A truly gifted salesperson will tell you that they have prepared for your interview by researching your company. They will be able to give you a brief history of your business, highlight your achievements and mention any awards or honors you have received in the past. By showing you that they have done their homework, they are telling you that they value your time and that they are serious about the opportunity to work for your company.

This is exactly the kind of impression that you want a top salesperson to make on your clients. A sales professional that comes to meetings well prepared, listens carefully to questions and then demonstrates their knowledge with a thoughtful answer – this is who you want out there in the world, representing your brand. 

Role playing can test your candidate’s mettle

Sometimes the best way to assess your candidate’s abilities is to actually watch them in action. I have our employees pose as disgruntled clients during a salesperson interview. First, they pretend to demand to see me, and when I allow them access to the meeting they express a few pointed concerns.

I then ask the candidate to field the concerns and intervene, as if they are already in the position. They are not pre-warned about this exercise – I truly want to see them on their toes and in an unexpected situation that they could not have planned for in advance. 

Not only do I get to see how well my candidate does under fire, this exercise shows them that working for my company will be a dynamic and exciting experience. No two days are ever the same, and that is why I don’t simply want someone who is adept at answering stock interview questions. I want to know that they are a creative and exciting thinker who can handle a sticky client situation and turn it around quickly and professionally. 

If they break down, fumble too much with their words, completely ‘blank’ out or otherwise fail this test, you can rest assured that they will not be able to handle the complexities of an event when the time comes. Remember – even the best plans can fail, and when a client emergency occurs you need someone who can appease the situation, save the sale and make your company look good. 

 
 

Are Your Salespeople Order-Takers?

Copy of Copy of Copy of need more (2).png

Not long ago, I received a call from a rather frustrated sales manager. He felt as though his sales people were not actively selling, just writing orders. I asked him why he felt that way, and his response was, “they don’t leave their desks to go out and prospect.” It was an issue that caused him concern and frustration, but lucky for him—this is an area I was able to help him with.

Let me share my definition of an order taker versus a salesperson.

Typically, an ‘order taker’ is a derogatory term that is used to describe a person who has a sales job and title, but does not actually sell services/products, etc. However, I have my own definition.

A customer will decide what they want to purchase, and will then contact the business in question so that they can place their order. What the order taker will do is process the order, and may suggest a few add-on items if they are applicable. However, they mostly cover the four Ws: who, what, where, when. Once this has been done, the sale is complete.

If the customer knows what they need, then an order taker is generally all that is required. The main issues with order takers, however, are that they by and large offer commodities. These are, for the most part, identifiable by cost, delivery, and the simplicity of ordering.

Some people think that because their salespeople don’t actively prospect and instead only handle the phone and email inquiries, they are order takers. However, my definition of the term does not agree with this. They are inside salespeople.

A company will spend a good deal of time, energy, and funds in branding their business to get the phone to ring. However, the same time, energy and funds aren’t always used to train a salesperson to handle the calls.

The events industry

The events industry is a powerful one. It evokes emotion in people and is, in many ways, an emotional purchase. This relates to events such as weddings, galas, and retirement celebrations. It is also a unique industry, as most people are in the field not because they excel in a certain area, but because they are passionate. They are passionate about cooking, passionate about design, passionate about planning.

Unlike some industries, we ask our people to do the following:

• Prospect
• Sell
• Book
• Plan
• Execute

These are skill sets, and our people have to be trained in all five and then they need to master them. The thing is, an order taker can be a salesperson. It is all about having the right skill set and knowing when to use it.

Making the change

So, how do you turn your order takers into salespeople? The process is not always a fast one, and it can take time for your team to fully transition. Here are the ways in which you can give your team a push in the right direction.

• The first thing to do is make sure you take things slowly. You need to have realistic expectations of your team and cannot take things too fast. Patience is key when it comes to transitions like this. Seventy percent of order takers will make a good and smooth transition to salespeople given enough time and training.

• A great sales tool that many of us tend to overlook is personality. Personality plays an important role in sales and in the workplace. Anyone might be able to sell if the price is cheap enough or if what is being sold is something that people cannot live without, like air. The truth, however, is that neither of these luxuries are part of the scenario for a vast majority of us.

• A salesperson is engaging and hunts for prospects. They develop relationships with their customers that are built on trust, as well as a pleasant attitude. They have strategies in place for the clients they want to sell to, and often they will sell six to 12 months in advance. They are passionate, skilled, and know what their clients want and need. Plus, they are continually prospecting.

• A salesperson spends time planning the future, and they aren’t always about closing the deal and moving straight into the next call. While they do listen to what the customer wants, they also make suggestions and help them to find the best deal and product for their needs. Unlike order takers, they don’t rely on low hanging fruit.

There are six stages in sales:

– Ask and listen
– Educate
– Know the client’s needs
– Present solutions
– Gain trust
– Close the sale

Moving from an order taker and into a more well-rounded salesperson also helps them to become more conversationally fluid with a prospect. Generally, an order taker will use the same script over and over as they go between calls and clients. A salesperson is able to bring it up a notch and mix up their questions and responses, creating a unique experience for each client.

Those people who are booking an event—remember, an emotional, celebratory, and personal event—want to use businesses that employ people who are passionate, eager, and ready to work with them. Clients want people are friendly and eager to please, but also provide a solid representation of the business that they are working for. The events industry is one that is exciting and alive, and the people working for it—especially in the sales sector—need to be the epitome of that.


 
 

and... the Survey Says

Did you know that special event companies have similar triumphs & tribulations from all around the country regardless of their shape and size?

Well, it’s true!

I have the wonderful opportunity to work with special event companies from north to south, east to west & everything in between. Large and small, newbies & veterans. A company can’t rely solely on word of mouth. The sales department of 1 or 100 has a substantial influence on the profitability of the business. I was curious to know more about the event industry sales departments around the country. I sent a survey to 474 companies and asked them 10 questions.

“Yes” was the overwhelming response, and weekly seemed to be the frequency. meetings are important to keep a team healthy. This isn’t an ops meeting or hash over last weekends events or go over future events. This should be strictly a sales meeting monitoring sales tracking, opportunities within the team and education. It’s best to keep this the same day & time.

“Yes” was the overwhelming response, and weekly seemed to be the frequency. meetings are important to keep a team healthy. This isn’t an ops meeting or hash over last weekends events or go over future events. This should be strictly a sales meeting monitoring sales tracking, opportunities within the team and education. It’s best to keep this the same day & time.

 It looks like about 55% of the companies said  “no.” It's a bit surprising how many companies don’t have this in place. A contract/agreement between a sales person and company is prudent and protects both parties. It spells out job description, goals, compensation and benefits.

 It looks like about 55% of the companies said  “no.” It's a bit surprising how many companies don’t have this in place. A contract/agreement between a sales person and company is prudent and protects both parties. It spells out job description, goals, compensation and benefits.

 “Yes” for the win at about 63%. Policies & procedures for the sales department expedite the training process and ALMOST eliminates, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” However, if they don’t read them it negates the entire process. Sales people need to read, sign off and be accountable for all policies & procedures.

 “Yes” for the win at about 63%. Policies & procedures for the sales department expedite the training process and ALMOST eliminates, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” However, if they don’t read them it negates the entire process. Sales people need to read, sign off and be accountable for all policies & procedures.

Overwhelmingly, the answer was “salary with commission.” Salary with commission works best for the sales person and company. It makes the sales person a little hungry and releases the pressure of making ends meet in the slower months. One of the most common ways to compute compensation is to add the salary and commission together and that total should be between 5-9% of their total sales. pre tax This percentage varies around the country. 

Overwhelmingly, the answer was “salary with commission.” Salary with commission works best for the sales person and company. It makes the sales person a little hungry and releases the pressure of making ends meet in the slower months. One of the most common ways to compute compensation is to add the salary and commission together and that total should be between 5-9% of their total sales. pre tax This percentage varies around the country. 

While the “yes” and “no” responses were close enough, healthy competition between salespeople was way ahead of unhealthy. Healthy competition is a great motivator. Display individual sales goals and watch how your sales people celebrate each other. A fun sales contest is always a win-win.

While the “yes” and “no” responses were close enough, healthy competition between salespeople was way ahead of unhealthy. Healthy competition is a great motivator.
Display individual sales goals and watch how your sales people celebrate each other. A fun sales contest is always a win-win.

“Yes” about 37%, “no” about 63%.  Tracking closing ratio is important for both sales person and management. If it’s too low then retraining may be needed. If it’s too high then prices may need to be raised. Most companies track using this formula: # Meeting/Proposal ÷ # Booked.

“Yes” about 37%, “no” about 63%.  Tracking closing ratio is important for both sales person and management. If it’s too low then retraining may be needed. If it’s too high then prices may need to be raised. Most companies track using this formula:
# Meeting/Proposal ÷ # Booked.

Most companies were “moderately satisfied.” It’s refreshing to see that 10% of the companies that were polled are extremely satisfied with their sales team performance and 50% were moderately satisfied. The remaining 40% may need to look at retraining the sales team.

Most companies were “moderately satisfied.” It’s refreshing to see that 10% of the companies that were polled are extremely satisfied with their sales team performance and 50% were moderately satisfied. The remaining 40% may need to look at retraining the sales team.

Clients may very well tell the sales person that they didn’t get the booking due to price. But the real reason is because they didn’t show the client the differences between the two companies. Think about it, if one company is $1000 and the other caterer was $1300 and the client doesn’t see the difference then they will always go with price. Unfortunately, clients still may view you as a commodity. It is our job as salespeople to show the clients WHY you’re different. Remember features tell- benefits sell.

Clients may very well tell the sales person that they didn’t get the booking due to price. But the real reason is because they didn’t show the client the differences between the two companies. Think about it, if one company is $1000 and the other caterer was $1300 and the client doesn’t see the difference then they will always go with price. Unfortunately, clients still may view you as a commodity. It is our job as salespeople to show the clients WHY you’re different. Remember features tell- benefits sell.

This was fairly close in yes and no, with no being about 20 percentage points ahead. Tracking lost business is a great indicator for a myriad of reasons. If you continually see the same reason it gives you a chance to fix the issue. It could be as simple as that you didn’t offer their favorite dessert or as serious as the client didn’t like your food. If you don’t ask they won’t tell. 

This was fairly close in yes and no, with no being about 20 percentage points ahead. Tracking lost business is a great indicator for a myriad of reasons. If you continually see the
same reason it gives you a chance to fix the issue. It could be as simple as that you didn’t offer their favorite dessert or as serious as the client didn’t like your food. If you don’t ask they won’t tell. 

The number one skill was being able to close the sale. Next was follow up/follow through. In third place was not having a powerful enough proposal. I'm not surprised to see that closing the sale is #1. 65% of our salespeople are truly not “salespeople” They enter this industry because they have a passion for events. Most companies don’t even call them salespeople in fear that they don’t want to be “salesy” They are indeed salespeople which is a different personality type, however, salespeople can be taught the sales process and to ask for the sale.

The number one skill was being able to close the sale. Next was follow up/follow through. In third place was not having a powerful enough proposal. I'm not surprised to see that closing the sale is #1. 65% of our salespeople are truly not “salespeople” They enter this industry because they have a passion for events. Most companies don’t even call them salespeople in fear that they don’t want to be “salesy” They are indeed salespeople which is a different personality type, however, salespeople can be taught the sales process and to ask for the sale.


 

 

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You Said It Without Saying It

Is what you say actually as important as the way that you say it, as well as how you carry your body when you do? Studies show that the answer is usually no. Our body language is often far more important than what we actually say.

Experts estimate that up to 55% of all human communication is non-verbal, and further 38% is tone of voice! After all, as mammals we have a lot more in common with our primate cousins than we often realize, and like them, we tend to use gestures, posture, facial expressions (and yes, even grunts and huffs) to express exactly what we mean. That leaves only 7% of what is actually communicated directly linked to the specific words that we choose.

I am sure you can think of an example of this in your own life—someone saying “have a nice day” in a way that conveys that they are actually wishing you the very opposite. Or maybe you can recall a time that someone was clearly out of sorts with discomfort as they told you a blatant lie? Tone of voice, physical expression, and general demeanor—these can all speak volumes, even when their message is unintended by the individual. Most of us are rather good at determining what a communicator really means, their words aside.

The main types of body language & what they say about you

Whether you intend to communicate certain emotions or not, your posture, gestures, and overall body language can tell your audience exactly what you are thinking. Here are the most common examples of body language and what they convey.

• Crossed arms across the chest
If you have heard about one type of body language, it is likely this example. Crossing your arms across your chest indicates that you are being defensive, feeling threatened or are irritated at the other people in your vicinity.

• Nail biting
Have you ever found yourself nibbling at your nails when you are feeling nervous, insecure, and/or stressed out? The people around you will certainly notice that you are engaging in this nervous habit, and they will instantly perceive your emotional state.

Resting your hand on your cheek
Gripping your chin, placing your fingers over your lips, or resting your hand on your cheek? You are likely lost in thought or deep in concentration about the situation in question.

• Tapping or drumming your fingers
Tapping or drumming your fingers on an available surface (or fidgeting in another similar way) clearly demonstrates that you are growing bored or impatient. Keep this habit in check if you don’t want to offend.

• Open palms (facing upward or outward)
When you present your open palms to another person you are demonstrating honesty, sincerity, and submission. You are quite literally showing the other party that you have nothing to hide. This gesture can be used to diffuse a tense situation in a nonverbal way.

• Nodding your head
Subtly nodding your head while another individual speaks clearly demonstrates that you are in agreement with the ideas being conveyed. A smile and a nodding head can really start to build excitement and develop your relationship.

• Picking lint, examining split ends or similar action  Picking lint or split ends shows the communicator that you think your micro tasks are more important than what they have to say. If you do not want to let your boredom show through, try to limit these kinds of actions.

A lowered head Lowering your head (and therefore limiting eye contact) can indicate that you are hiding something. While this lowered head may actually be the result of shyness or humility, it can easily come across as shame or secrecy. Try to keep your head level and your gaze steady.

Improving your body language

You could be communicating all kinds of emotions, moods, and opinions to the people around you without even realizing it!  A quick perusal of the body language list demonstrates that subtle movements and nervous tics can be making you appear shifty, dishonest, and timid.
If you are about to meet with a client, begin salary negotiations, or even go on a first date, you will want to avoid ‘negative’ body language and work on bolstering the kinds of body language that convey strength, honesty and character.

DO – practice with a power pose. Harvard professor Amy Cuddy has shown that just two minutes of ‘power posing’—standing tall, holding your arms out or toward the sky (or even standing in a Superman stance with your hands on your hips) can really increase your self-confidence. This is a great pose to employ before you enter into a situation that might make you nervous.

DON’T – gesture above your shoulders. While ‘talking with your hands’ is a great way to emphasize your message and keep your meeting focused, gesturing too wildly will make you look unhinged.

DO – Smile! Grimacing, frowning, and glaring will all send a negative message, but you may not realize that these expressions will also send negative signals to your brain. Tasks will become even more difficult if you have a negative expression on your face, but there is a cure—smile! Forcing yourself to smile can actually help to improve your mood and help you to conquer even your most dreaded tasks with ease! Furthermore, you might need to ask a friend what you're ‘resting face’ resembles.

DON’T – Fidget. Just like an uncomfortable child, when an adult fidgets while listening, it very clearly sends a message to those around them that they are bored and unprofessional. In the event that you are a constant fidgeter, consider this your number one challenge—spend time practicing standing and sitting still.

Body language & sales – Closing the deal

What does the above information mean for individuals who rely on using their body language to close sales deals? For one, you need to always remember that even if you are not conscious of your body language, your clients certainly are. While your words may convey a spectacular proposal ideally suited to their event, if your body language is communicating worry, doubt, and anxiety you are likely going to kill your sale. Be mindful, radiate confidence, calm, and skill—and you’ll increase your sales and your bottom line. 

Give your holiday sales marketing a new recipe

 

As fall approaches you have a small window to catch your breath for a few brief moments—and then jump right back in. That’s right—it’s time to promote your holiday sales!
In order to stand out from the others you need to show that you are different. As business owners we can’t just expect revenue to flow our way; we need to compete for the business and prove that we are the best choice for our clients. Following are some tips that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Update your database
You may have thousands of email and postal addresses, but if they are not current your mail outs will fail. Spend some time adding your new clients to your database and updating corporate contacts that may have moved on. (Another thought is to stay connected to individuals who leave your corporate accounts so you are on their minds when they start at their new positions.)

The newsletter no-no
Your newsletter is not the space to promote your holiday events, offerings, and promotions—these beneficial holiday offers may get lost in your newsletter and also dilute your message. Consider a dedicated brochure or mail out in order grab attention.

Tell a story
Your marketing pieces may get some traction if they tell an engaging story—this works well with postcard mailings and social media campaigns. Each ad you create should tell a story or have a theme. Consider creating characters, as this will this leave the audience wanting to know what happens next. (For my company we produced a flutter of children cooking to promote house parties, along with a tag line.)

Cyber Monday
If you do a good amount of online business make sure that you take advantage of Cyber Monday. Consider running ‘limited time’ specials, or a promotion in which your clients receive a bonus, gift, or discount if they book within a certain time frame.

Decorate for success
You probably decorate your office for the holidays, and so why not decorate your website? Create landing pages with specials, menus, tips, and recipes and spread these to your social media platforms.

Spread some cheer on social media
Your social media platforms are a great way to spread holiday cheer. Be careful not to bore your followers by pushing your product, repeating terms like ‘book now,’ ‘taking reservations,’ and ‘still have some availability.’ These terms are sure to prevent any possibility for sharing—no one wants to repost a sales-forward link. Instead, post genuinely interesting and valuable information and your followers will reciprocate.

Additionally, paid advertising can be a great way to attract new clients and reach different audiences. Why not use this holiday season as a chance to try a Facebook ad campaign?

It’s not always about price
Don’t worry if your closest competitors are offering lower prices. Studies have shown that clients do not always make their pick based on price; they want the best that they can afford, and are often willing to stretch a budget to get what they want. Become what they want, and show them why you are different.

“Santa in the Clouds” martini from Feastivities Events

“Santa in the Clouds” martini from Feastivities Events


Up-sell
This one is my favorite!
Spend this small window of downtime to come up with some creative event additions. It could be as simple as a signature cocktail with a fun seasonal name (Santa in the Clouds; Mistletoe Martini; Claus Cosmopolitan; Grinch Nog—just let your imagination take over), or adding lighting to enhance the drama and transform the space. You can easily add 20 to 30 percent in revenue without taking on any more events. There is nothing to lose—you have already booked the event.

Above all, remember to let your own unique personality and your company’s valuable benefits shine through. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and busy holiday season in the catering industry!

MERYL'S BOOK RELEASED!

What Your Clients Need to Know Before They Hire a Caterer

1. Fresh doesn’t always mean fresh

Couples today are food savvy. They dine out regularly at chic bistros and BYOBs rather than settling for the local chain restaurant. Fresh food, creative menus and plate presentation are important to them. And these high standards get even higher on their wedding day.

The thought that their wedding food might be frozen would send them running. Most caterers realize this, which is why few will admit to using frozen products. Instead when asked, they say their food is fresh and yes, at some point it was fresh. Right before it was frozen.

Is there anyway to tell if you’re getting a straight answer? One way is to consider the bottom line. Most caterers in an area use the same vendors and purveyors, so in general, the cost of purchasing the raw products is the same. Ask the caterers you are considering to bid on identical menus and give you the price of the menu alone (without rentals, linens etc.) If there is a big difference in cost for the same menu it should raise a flag.

How can caterer A charge $65.00 a person when caterer B charges $80.00? If nothing else has been factored in then it has to be in the food itself. Is caterer A buying cheaper cuts of meat, old produce or seafood that is a day away from being bait?

Scary, but possible. It’s much more likely that the $15.00 represents the difference between paying trained chefs to actually prepare your meal from scratch with fresh ingredients rather than having a body tearing open boxes. It may seem on the surface that you’re really getting a deal but in reality you are getting what you paid for – frozen food.

Your meal should be prepared from scratch by chefs, just for your event. Your hors d’oeuvre made by hand, not machine.

2. Served fresh means cooked on site, not cooked elsewhere and carried in hotboxes.

This is the difference between green beans that are bright green and snappy and green beans that are dull olive and mushy. Some caterers don’t have the trained kitchen personnel to actually cook the meal at the reception. Instead your food is thawed and cooked at the caterer’s kitchen early in the day, put into hot boxes and then brought to the reception.

The cooked food sits trapped in its own steam for hours before it’s ever served. We’ve all had food from a steam table. Once in a while you have to. But at your wedding? The fresh ingredients for your meal should be prepped at the caterer’s commissary. They should make the stock, clean the fresh vegetables, and trim the fresh seafood. They should do everything but cook it, because we know that the finest food goes from stove to plate not from hotbox to plate. If you want the food served fresh this is how it has to be done.

3. Service is a matter of math – the ratio of staff to guests is critical.

You’ve taken the time, allotted the budget and selected a wonderful menu so now you need to ask how many staff your caterer will provide to serve it. Nothing is more frustrating than having to hunt for hors d’oeuvre or wait in line for a drink.

Service can make or break your reception. Lack of adequate staff is very obvious to the guests and will undo all your careful planning. Be wary if a caterer plans to send 5 staff to attend to 200 guests! Call me crazy but I don’t want to have to look for waiters in order to eat. I want them to look for me. Which brings me to staff quality. It’s important that staff is well-trained. Ask the caterer about their training sessions and manuals. Your staff should be service oriented, pleasant and attentive because your guests should never feel as if their needs are an imposition.

4. Style is significant.

The visual impact of your menu really does have an impact on your guests and the success of the reception. But the best thing any caterer can bring to your table is the sheer enthusiasm and will to create a day for you unlike any other. With the right caterer your sense of style will show in your menu and its’ presentation, as well as in the surroundings and décor.

5. Menu design does not involve picking your food from columns.

Some couples come to a caterer with definite menu ideas but far more come wanting the planner to take the reins. And justifiably so. Your caterer’s event planners should be well versed in menu design but if you want to be more prepared for the menu meeting think about some of the following. What kind of crowd is it? Are they younger and more receptive to many cuisines? Is it more the parents set who prefer familiar but at the same time fine dining?

“Meat and potatoes” is used to describe guests who prefer plain. Keep in mind that the hors d’oeuvres also contribute to the scope of the menu so if your budget doesn’t allow for a raw bar it probably does allow for butlered shrimp during the cocktail hour. When you have finally chosen the menu have the executive chef review it. Often he or she will be able to make welcome suggestions – a seasonal vegetable, a more complementary sauce, a striking garnish.

Source: Feastivities Events 

6. Customer service counts.

How long did you wait for your information after you made your initial phone call? Was it the information you asked for? Are your calls and emails answered in a timely manner? Do you feel important? In a time when you pump your own gas, find it for yourself in the store and wait in line or on hold daily, service seems a thing of the past. In terms of customer service the good old days really were better and it’s this old-fashioned customer service that you want from your caterer.

Planning a wedding is a big job and you should have your catering planner’s attention when you need it. In addition to your planner’s attention you should also have the attention of their whole office team so if your planner is out of the office another planner can field your questions.

And while you most likely will work closely with just one person, your planner should have a support system behind them. The unexpected can happen – a planner can leave, have an emergency etc. If this happens what happens to you and your wedding? If your caterer has a team approach the show will go on without a hitch.

7. Word of mouth is still the best advertising

What is your caterer’s reputation? Look at the list of caterers for the venues you are considering. If you see the same names at many up market locations chances are those caterers are doing something right. An exclusive facility has its own reputation to uphold so the caliber of the caterers on its’ list has to be high. Don’t hesitate to question the facility directors. They have a real sense of the caterers’ abilities so their input can be very valuable. They have seen it all – multiple times.  

With just a little guidance from you the director can often hone right in on the caterer’s that will make a fit with you. Between work, school and everything else on your plate who has the time or inclination to interview 8 caterers? It’s much better to eliminate the 5 or 6 that aren’t likely to be what you want, right from the start. Most places have short lists so the weeding out has already been done for you. But some facilities that have ties to local townships have to have an open door policy. Their directors are also required to “be fair.” With them you might have to probe a little longer. “Who do you use for your own events?” is a good question.

With access to so many caterers they themselves use is probably at the top of the list. Industry pros also have a good sense of who’s who and who’s doing what in the wedding world. Speak with the bands, florists and photographers you are considering. They are at events from start to finish. They see the service, eat the food, interact with the staff and won’t hesitate to share their thoughts.

Remember though, that perfection doesn’t exist in the real world. Servers do drop plates sometimes, musicians hit sour notes, photographers take blurry pictures, and limousines get flats.

Look for a caterer who gets high marks time after time, year after year. In the end this consistent commitment to quality will give you a great catering experience.

                                                                 

 

Really, Another Article on Social Media?

Leveraging Social Media   

I know what you’re thinking… ‘Another article on social media?” But read on… there are some things you may not know.
Social media is a viable tool for marketing your products and services and managing your brand identity. It is inexpensive, easy to work with and offers a great network of potential clients. Daily, millions of people use social networking applications. Social media is all about conversation and building effective relationships. Facebook, Twitter,

Google+, Instagram amongst others are all avenues to sell your company. Social media is powering the world in ways we could never have imagined years back. Today, connections are formed out of thin air. Imagine the millions of people that daily use social networking applications.

Did you know that 22% of Americans use social media multiple times in a single day? Selling your company in today’s competitive market involves a savvy use of social media.  There are tons of social media applications and websites available; however there is need to choose carefully before investing your time and energy in one. You should invest in a platform that supports your brand image. 

Till date, Facebook remains the best platform for creating brand awareness – its user base is diverse and nearly 75% of adult Americans use it. Tell me, how then is this not a wonderful channel through which you could build your brand and sell yourself to the world?

Setting up a Facebook page isn’t enough. It needs to be interactive, drive conversation and promote your brand all at the same time. If you only promote your products and services you will lose viewers. Try adding interesting tidbits, for example, a blurb about the history of pasta. To encourage conversation, you could post trivia and questions like “when you were growing up, what was your favorite comfort food?” How about a category for each day of the week:  Monday’s – “Foodies, Can You Guess This?” Tuesday’s- “What’s Happening in the Kitchen Today.” Wednesday’s- “Recipe of the Week” , Thursday’s – Event of the Week” and so on. Endeavor to provide your followers with something that piques their interest and that they can as well share to other people.


Businesses, especially those that rely heavily on images have lately have been flocking to Instagram in droves and rightly so because Instagram allows you to sell your company  by posting images and short videos. While many companies have difficulty getting relevant content,  we are very fortunate, everyday there is a new event to capture. How lucky are we that we have a professional photographer at most of our events. Make sure when posting to give the photographer photo credit.


There is the option of Facebook group page or business (fan) pages. Business and fan pages let you measure your traffic. With fan pages, you can add feeds from other applications like YouTube Box, Flicker, and Twitter. For Facebook groups, you don't have that many options. When your fans take action on your page, their actions will be documented on the news feeds of their personal pages. Their friends could see the news feeds and check out your business page. Fan pages stand out on profiles, whereas group pages get lost in the mix. Fan pages enable you to provide unlimited news or updates to your fans while Facebook groups are limited to a definite number.


Don’t forget about Pinterest;  a wonderful social network where you can reach people. When setting up your business page make it easy for visitors and name your boards; Culinary, Design, Cocktails, Weddings, and for each photo make sure you add descriptive words so it can continue to be re-pinned.


 Video sharing services like YouTube allow you to add captivating videos of your products and services. When using YouTube, make sure you properly brand the beginning and end of your video with contact information and a call to action.


Blogging is also a wonderful way to sell your brand. Start a blog that is attached to your Facebook and website. Search engines easily pick up blogs. Platforms such as WordPress and Joomla make it easy to promote yourself to your target audience. On these platforms, you could post on topics that would pique the interest of your audience and they would find educational while at the same time highlighting your unique skills and experience. Did you know that Blog posts with images receive 94% more views? Don’t be afraid to make use of visual content. Email marketing is also very beneficial. You could send an email blast teaser to direct people to your Facebook, blog or website. Another way could be adding link icons of your blogs, Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts to your email signature and all internet direct mail. 
Keep in mind that people who post on your Facebook page, Tweet about you or comment on your blog want to be heard. It is extremely important that you engage with your social community and answer or comment promptly. 

With building your brand on social media, you should be careful who is representing your brand. Your employees play a big part in brand management and will need to be screened by you. This is important with all social network sites. Every single piece of content shared should support your brand identity. Poor choices of content, images tend to reflect poorly on your company. Set guidelines for your team to follow, suggest different accounts for business and personal and encourage them to play an active role in the company brand strategy.


The old expression, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know holds true in this new age marketing strategy. Continue to tweet, blog and post and watch your efforts flourish.

Hello, World!

You Just Can't Write This Stuff... Stories within the Special Events Industry

Hello Industry,                                                                                                                 
I’m sure we all have an arsenal of stories that we’ve experienced in the Special Events Industry. Some leave you scratching your head saying, I couldn’t write this stuff.  

In this industry we encounter quite a few interesting clients and employees and handle a particularly large amount of craziness on a day to day basis. Some of our experiences have been off the wall ridiculous, entertaining or downright scary so why not document these situations for all to enjoy.  Stories may be used in social media, blogs or book so, no names or company names.                                                                                                                                                 
Directions:
•    Choose a chapter (or create a new one) tell your story in form below
•    You may submit as many stories as you wish                                                                                  

Chapters:

  1.  Clients Say the Damnedest Things
  2.  That Just Broke My Heart
  3.  No One Would Believe This But..
  4.  You Want Me to Do What?
  5.  OMG- The Cake!
  6.  It Wasn’t My Fault
  7.  You’ll Never Guess What the  _______ Did
  8.  Whew, That Was a Close Call
  9.  And This is What I Told the __________
  10.  What Do You Mean You’re Not Paying the Bill
  11.  LOL
  12.  You Can Only Push Me So Far
  13.  I Want a Discount
  14.  The Police Are Here
  15.  The Event That Almost Ended My Career
  16.  I Need You… the Bride Forgot her ______
  17.  You’re FIRED!
  18.  Sue Me
  19.  Client Added Clause to Contract
Name *
Name
Business Type *
Please do not use names or company names
I have a photo to go with my story *
I give you permission to *
Choose one

Leveraging Social Media

Meryl Snow written for Catersource Magazine

I know what you’re thinking—another article on social media? But read on…there are some things you may not know.

Social media is a viable tool for marketing your products and services, and managing your brand identity. It is inexpensive, easy to work with, and offers a great network of potential clients. Social media is all about conversation and building effective relationships. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram (among others) are all avenues to sell your company’s products. Social media is powering the world in ways we could never have imagined years ago. Today, connections are formed out of thin air. Imagine the millions of people that use social networking applications daily. Did you know that 22 percent of Americans use social media multiple times in a single day? Selling your company in today’s competitive market involves a savvy use of these resources. There are tons of social media applications and websites available; however, there is also a need to choose carefully before investing your time and energy. You should invest in a platform that supports your brand image.

Facebook

Facebook remains the best platform for creating brand awareness—its user base is diverse and nearly 75 percent of adults use it. Tell me, how then is this not a wonderful channel through which you could build your brand and sell it to the world? Setting up a Facebook page isn’t enough, however. It needs to be interactive, drive conversation, and promote your brand all at the same time. If you only promote your products and services you will lose viewers. Try adding interesting tidbits: for example, a blurb about the history of pasta. To encourage conversation, you could post trivia and questions like, “when you were growing up, what was your favorite comfort food?” How about a category for each day of the week:

Monday – “Foodies, Can You Guess This?”
Tuesday – “What’s Happening in the Kitchen Today?”
Wednesday – “Recipe of the Week”
Thursday – “Event of the Week” and so on.

Endeavor to provide your followers with something that piques their interest and that they can also share to other people.

There is also the option of Facebook group or business (fan) pages. Business and fan pages let you measure your traffic. With fan pages, you can add feeds from other applications like YouTube Box, Flicker, and Twitter. For Facebook groups, you don’t have that many options. When your fans take action on your page, their actions will be documented on the news feeds of their personal pages. Their friends could see the news feeds and check out your business page. Fan pages stand out on profiles, whereas group pages get lost in the mix. Fan pages enable you to provide unlimited news or updates, while Facebook groups are limited to a definite number.

Instagram

Businesses, especially those that rely heavily on images, have lately have been flocking to Instagram in droves, and rightly so—because Instagram allows you to sell your company by posting images and short videos. While many companies have difficulty getting relevant content, we are very fortunate. Everyday there is a new event to capture. I am lucky that my company has a professional photographer at most of our events. Make sure when posting to give the photographer credit.

Pinterest, YouTube

Pinterest is a terrific social network, allowing you to reach people through their specific interests. When setting up your business page, make it easy for visitors and name your boards: Culinary, Design, Cocktails, Weddings, and for each photo make sure you add descriptive words so it can continue to be “re-pinned”—shared, that is. Video sharing services like YouTube allow you to add captivating videos of your products and services. When using YouTube, make sure you properly brand the beginning and end of your video with contact information.

Blogs & email

Blogging is also a wonderful way to sell your brand, as search engines easily pick them up. Start a blog that is attached to your Facebook and website. Platforms such as WordPress and Joomla make it easy to promote yourself to your target audience. On these platforms, you can post about topics that will pique the interest of your audience and they will find educational, while at the same time highlight your unique skills and experience. Did you know that blog posts with images receive 94 percent more views? Don’t be afraid to make use of visual content.

Email marketing is also very beneficial. You can send an email blast teaser to direct people to your Facebook, blog, or website. Another way—add link icons of your blogs, Facebook pages, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to your email signature and all Internet direct mail.

Keep in mind that people who post on your Facebook page, tweet about you, or comment on your blog want to be heard. It is extremely important that you engage with your social community and answer or comment promptly. With building your brand on social media, you should be careful who is representing your brand. Your employees play a big part in brand management and will need to be screened. This is important with all social network sites. Every single piece of content shared should support your brand identity. Poor choices of content and bad images tend to reflect poorly on your company. Set guidelines for your team to follow, suggest different accounts for business and personal, and encourage them to play an active role in the company brand strategy. The old expression, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know holds true in this new age marketing strategy.

Continue to tweet, blog, and post—and watch your efforts flourish.

Meryl's book just released!

How to Cultivate Return Guests at Your Next Special Event

How to Cultivate Return Guests at Your Next Special Event
Meryl Snow, vice president of Feastivities Events and senior consultant for
Catersource, has both attended and offered her services at her fair share of special
events. “If people aren’t having fun, they aren’t going to come back. That’s just a
fact,” Snow says. Many supporters, sponsors and donors are invited to several fundraisers annually, and you must take the necessary steps to make yours a memorable one.                                                                                                                                            
Here Snow offers her tips for creating an engaging and memorable evening to
which people want to return:

Read More

Get Motivated!

Motivating a team is one of the most important things that a leader can do. Without guidance, employees can flail and suffer, unsure of what to do next and how to succeed to their highest potential.

While it is true that no one can truly motivate anyone (true gumption has to come from within), a good leader can do a tremendous amount to influence people and encourage their motivation and success.

Read More

Where Have All the Fans Gone? Long Time Passing.

Is it bewildering to you that you may have 2000 page likes on your Facebook business page, but when you review the analytics your post views dropped to the double digits? Now that’s a head scratcher. Chances are you are feeling discouraged, you’re spending many hours keeping your page updated and no one is listening!

When I contacted Facebook, here’s what they said “Facebook’s engineering team makes changes to the News Feed algorithm to help make Facebook more engaging for people.”

Read More

Give your holiday sales marketing a new recipe

As summer winds down and the busy season comes to an end, you have the chance to catch your breath for a few brief moments—and then jump right back in. That’s right—it’s time to promote your holiday sales!
In order to stand out from the others you need to show that you are different. As business owners we can’t just expect revenue to flow our way; we need to compete for the business and prove that we are the best choice for our clients. Following are some tips that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Read More

I didn't book it, our price was too high

We have all said these words – frustrated after preparing a painstaking proposal for a client only to be turned away for our rates. While we know we are charging a reasonable amount for excellent ingredients, top-notch service and outstanding results, the client opts for a cheaper – and or less qualified competitor. In order to find out more about this issue, I sent a survey to 474 event professionals around the country- both large & small – and asked them to rank the reasons why they believe that a client didn’t book with their company.

Read More