How to Carve Your Role as a Mentor in Your Company

written for Catersource Magazine

People often consider mentorships to be something built outside of a company, whether you hit it off with someone at a networking event or run into a social media friend in a coffee shop. I’m here to explain how (and why) mentorship within a company can be an extremely valuable relationship that carries on well beyond company walls.

As a leader in your business, you hold the unique role of being an influencer within your organization. When your employees have questions, they look to you for answers. When they make mistakes, they look to you for feedback. However, these discussions are often done strictly regarding company matters, like a deadline concern or a question about an assignment. You have the power to transform these relationships into mentorships by positioning yourself as someone who provides guidance in all situations.

Here are some ways you can carve out your role as a mentor within your business.

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Be open

The key to becoming a mentor in your company is the openness in which you handle situations that arise with your employees. Rather than discipline a team member for a mistake, turn it into a learning lesson and discuss how the issue can be prevented in the future. Communicate often and ensure that your employees trust that you have their back. Don’t be afraid to be transparent about your own mistakes; you’re human too, and your humility will build trust with your staff.

Take ownership

At the end of the day, the buck stops with you. When things go wrong, avoid placing blame on your employees—that’s how you lose their trust and respect. Instead, ask them how you can be more of a resource in that situation. Look to yourself to see if you could have made a difference, whether it’s something you did or didn’t do.

Celebrate your team

High morale goes a long way in a work setting. It can increase productivity, while decreasing turnover rate. Happy employees aren’t looking for new jobs; they want to be their very best in your company. Don’t take this for granted. Find time to celebrate your employees’ wins and recognize their successes. Invest in your team by taking them out to lunch regularly or planning a retreat—the goal is to build a personal relationship that isn’t restricted to your office.

Act as a resource

As a mentor, you need to recognize that your team members are not just employees. They are career-seeking individuals who are likely several stages back from where you are. Whether they plan to stay with your company indefinitely or they have lofty dreams that will take them elsewhere, you need to be steadfast in your support for them. Listen to their questions and give them advice, even if it feels like you’re coaching them for their eventual next gig. It can certainly be uncomfortable to talk future goals with an employee, but rest assured that the relationship that you build will be stronger than if you simply maintained your role as a boss. Plus, there’s a chance they will leave sooner if they feel that they aren’t getting much beyond a paycheck.

There is a big difference between being a boss and being a mentor—whether you pursue mentorship is up to you. Know that, if you want to make a difference in your employees’ life, it’s the most meaningful way to do so.

The Negotiators: 3 Typical Buyer Habits

 

written for Sage Wedding Pros

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The Flinch

Usually, the phrase that accompanies this reaction is something along the lines of “your price is what!?” I can see you rolling your eyes now; we’ve all heard it before. Yes, there are cases where the buyer is genuinely shocked by the price, but a lot of the time it is all a dramatic act. 

They want you to trip over yourself, to doubt your pricing and consider lowering it for them.

Instead of responding to their flinch, remain composed throughout the act and then calmly speak to them once they are done. Ask the client why they feel the price is high, and you will usually find that their answers are quite flawed, opening a new conversation based on this discovery. A good salesperson can often navigate their way out of this tight corner. Persistence is key here.

The Squeeze

“I can get it for less.” Words that irritate even the most hardened sales veteran. It’s quite a common technique because it works typically for those who use it. It’s a pushback tactic that prepares you to lower your price, naturally because the customer expects it. People are often taken aback by this, and it can be easy to panic over losing them and drop the price. Don’t do it.

Instead, approach them gently and ask them why, as well as who they are comparing you to. Never ask where you need to be because this is a trap that will ultimately lead to a lower price. Hold your ground, defending the pricing and the product, and show them where there is value and how it can benefit them. If you probe to create solutions with the buyer, they will typically back down.

The Sob Story

These will often start with “all I can afford is this…” and “all I have in my budget is…” – don’t fall for them. These are the beginnings of a sob story that has been designed to get you to lower your price. We are empathetic creatures by nature, and it is easy to feel sympathy for someone who is struggling and lower the price based on that alone. More and more buyers are starting to use this technique to reduce costs, and it damages the genuine cases.

Don’t back down on the pricing; you must remain firm because you have no idea if it is a good case or not. Ask them if there are any other budgets that they can draw from, and see if there are different packages or services that might be better suited to their funds. It can be hard to tell who is playing you, but it’s a very clever technique.

After it is all said and done, the satisfaction of your clients is the most important. That doesn’t mean budging on your price; stay firm on that, but it does mean being calm and reasonable during their attempts to negotiate. You need to listen to what they have to say, provide them with justification, and just be yourself when you are selling. Fear of reaction can be difficult to overcome in these situations, but as a salesperson, you need to get used to it; it’s going to happen a lot.

Storytelling: The Ultimate Sales Technique for Special Events

written for Special Events Magazine

A great event sale depends on a great pitch--here are tips to help you tell the story.

STORY TELLING

Our life is all about telling stories; it always has been. Since prehistoric times, we have passed knowledge on through stories, and it’s something that continues today.

The problem is that when we are selling events, we leave stories out of our pitches and presentations. We are so stuck to the same set of rules that we forget deviation can often be a good thing.

So, why aren’t you telling stories in your pitch? Why do stories matter anyway?

Why It Matters: Stories Create Connections
We are all connected by the stories we share and by those we tell. We can relate to people who have a story, and we feel closer to them when we understand more about what makes them who they are. The most significant part of our brain, the neocortex, is responsible for how we store memory, for remembering patterns and sequences (like in songs) and for conscious thought.

This part of the brain is why you can recognize a song after three beats, and it plays a significant role in making connections with others through stories.

The Different Types of Story
There are three different types of story that can be told, and each of them is important when building a connection with customers:

  • Connect

  • Differentiate

  • Close

The stories that act to connect contain your personal stories, how you got to where you are and why. They also have important stories that relate to your staff (because they are crucial to your company, too), and those that revolve around the creation of the company.

The ones that differentiate give insight into the company and the way it works, why it is the way it is, and what makes you different from the rest. They also contain success stories, because people like to feel good and celebrate these things with you. Customers should be rooting for you, and success stories achieve this.

The stories to close are those that contain morals, company values and the things you appreciate about your customers. They are stories that teach customers through your experiences, as well as showing them just how important they are to your business.

A Storytelling Case Study
One of my favorite examples for a company that does storytelling right is BrewDog.

Let me tell you, I don’t even drink beer, but I would buy theirs, and I would spend more than retail price on it. That’s an honest comment because they just ticked so many boxes. Let me show you why:

It’s the story of two friends in Scotland who created their own beer, and it took them a lot of time, a lot of pain and a lot of love, but they made an exceptional brand that is loved across the world. They’ve grown so much that they even opened the first beer hotel--pretty fantastic stuff.

It all started in 2007 in an industrial estate, two men and their dog (that little addition just makes the story), and the desire to create a new and spectacular beer. The story on their website follows a detailed timeline that goes from then to now, and you can follow every step of their journey to success. They include their failures, the victories and that faithful dog who has been there since the start.

The story resonates with us, and they continue that feeling in their marketing. Slogans such as “We Bleed Beer” on their landing page just further demonstrate their passion for what they do. These two men bring the love they have for their beer to their customers, and that’s what you have to do as salespeople. If you don’t have your A-game on, then you aren’t going to convince customers that they need to buy from you.

These two guys, James and Martin, focus their story around four key moments, and these are the ones you should remember:

  1. They encounter a problem: Industrially brewed lagers and ales are boring.

  2. They have a spark of insight: What if we can fix this problem?

  3. They start their own brewery, brewing in tiny batches.

  4. They are now on a mission: to make more people passionate about their craft beer.

What Can You Do?
The things to remember are that you should always include personality and passion in each of the conversations you have. Being a salesperson is about sharing stories, connecting with the customer, and building that bond. However, there are rules to the storytelling process that need to be followed:

You should always keep it real. Some companies enjoy and even benefit from the odd embellishment, but they are a trap. Later on, you will trip over yourself and be revealed as a liar. That’s not good for business, and people prefer someone authentic and genuine. It doesn’t need to be the tale of the century; it just needs to be real.

Following that, you should also remember the three C’s of excellent writing:

  • Clear

  • Confident

  • Concise

These make up the recipe for success and, combined with the process for writing your story below, you will be able to create something meaningful and spectacular:

  • What is the story I want to tell?

  • How will I deliver the story?

  • What kind of client participation do I want or need?

  • How will client participation affect the story over time?

Now you’re ready to get out there and tell the world your story. Just remember to keep it real, and you’ll have no issues drawing your customers in and leaving them feeling better connected.



6 Steps to Prospect in 15 Minutes

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Written for Catersource

Yes, I have come up with a way for you to prospect in 15 minutes, but the first time you try it, it’s going to be more like an hour while you figure things out. I did a little survey to find out how many salespeople are prospecting regularly, and I was pretty surprised to discover that the majority rarely do so. This means they aren’t finding new clients, and I get it. There aren’t enough hours in the day and there is so much to do, but this is also our job. You should always be searching for your next customer. If they are coming to your business effortless, that’s great but then you’re an order taker.

The six steps that follow are designed to bring in new business in a proactive and strategic way.

Step 1: CRM

What does this stand for? Customer Relationship Management. This is the tool you use to keep track of everything, from the list of clients to who is dealing with them at the moment. It’s an excellent way to determine which customers are being taken care of, which need some attention, and those that don’t have a designated salesperson. This way, you can snap them up quickly and get straight into the game.

Step 2: Company website

For corporate clients, take a look at their website. It will show you what they do, the way they interact with others, and will give you (generally) good insight. You can look for the company story and core values, as well as the content of their blogs, to understand their background, as well as their beginning. Usually, websites will give you reasonable access to the company social media accounts as well, which can be handy for information gathering.

Step 3: LinkedIn

This is such an underrated social media platform. You can learn so much about a person and the company they work for through it. Take a look at their recent posts and updates to their profile, but also spend time browsing their awards, publications, and achievements. You can see if there is anything on their LinkedIn that you have in common, as this will help to build a stronger connection and speed up the process. It shows you know who they are, and it’s just a fantastic professional platform overall.

Step 4: Social media

We’re in the digital age, and that means social media reigns. Instagram is a significant platform to follow people, whether it’s clients or competitors. You can save hashtags related to your business and keep an eye on them for ideas and help you get the word out about your company. Other than that, it would be best if you learned what your clients are posting. What is important to them, and is it something you can relate to? Social media is a fast and easy way to learn about your customers, and it only takes a couple of minutes to get through.

Step 5: Competitors

Competitor pages are essential as well because they allow you to get further insight into your client and what makes them tick. Take a look around and see what makes each of them different from the other. On the plus side, you may even end up gaining another customer through this, widening your client base even more.

Step 6: Gatekeeper

This is an obstacle you need to overcome, and you can do so using kindness. The gatekeeper is the person who answers the phone, blocking your access to those in charge and those who can say yes to your ideas. You should work to befriend the gatekeeper, maybe even sending a little gift, as this will soften their approach. That way, you will often find that they are the ones telling their boss to give you a go. The good news is that most people listen to what the gatekeeper has to say.

Once you have the practice down, you will find that this whole process doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. They are quite simple steps, and this is why they are so often overlooked during sales methods. As a salesperson, it is down to you to make a connection with the customer and show them that you care. Similarly, you should be searching for new ones every day and interacting with them; you can’t afford your client pool to go stagnant.

Meryl Snow

OWNER, FEASTIVITIES EVENTS, PHILADELPHIA, PA AND SENIOR CONSULTANT, CERTIFIED CATERING CONSULTANTS

With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method.  As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.She is the author of Booked It! and Cha-CHING!


Influencer or Decision Maker

Written for Catersource

Is the Decision Maker Really the Most Important Figure?

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You'll hear people encourage you to get to the decision maker because they have the ultimate power and final say. This is the wrong approach; it really is, because the decision maker isn't the one you need to impress; it's the influencer. They have a lot more control over the situation than you think, and if you fail to impress them, your chances of success are lowered.

There is much importance in knowing who the decision maker will be with each buyer; it's not necessarily made clear from the moment you make contact with the company or social client. However, the reality is to figure out who the influencer is.

What is an Influencer?

Traditionally speaking, you will find the influencer tends to be a person that has the client's ear, often working with the buyer and their advice is highly valued. They may have a list of responsibilities, including researching options before briefing the client on their opinion. They pay close attention to detail, and they don't miss a thing.

While they seem all-powerful, they have no control over the budget, or authority when it comes to making the final decision. However, the influencer remains very essential, as you will discover shortly.

The influencer could be the best friend, mother, or mother-in-law of the decision maker as well as potentially being a co-worker. They aren't paying the bill, but they have a lot of influence over the buyer; which is why you should never assume you know who the influencer is.

Next, you've got to find out who the influencer is, and it doesn't take much to do this in a casual manner. After making your appointment with the client, just follow this little conversation:

Salesperson: "great then we'll meet on Tuesday, is there anyone assisting you in making your decision?"

Client: "Yes, my best friend, Jenna."

Salesperson: "Can Jenna meet on Tuesday as well?"

Client: No, she's out of town."

Salesperson: "Let's meet when she returns."

You'll want to make sure that the influencer is at your meeting. You don't want to risk the influencer potentially showing up at your competitor's meeting and not yours. So, next time you are faced with a meeting with the influencer, remember to impress them and not just shrug them off.

To Conclude

Really, there is a lesson to be learned here. It's not always about who you are; it's the kind of influence you have. The influencer may be a secondary position, but it carries high-ranking responsibilities and some serious power that often goes unnoticed and underestimated. A lot of the time, the little guy holds the keys to the next room, and this is a solid example of just that.

TRAINING YOUR TEAM TO SELL LIKE THEY OWN THE BUSINESS

Meryl Snow / guest contributor NACE

When you’re an entrepreneur, you only have to answer to yourself. However, when you’re building a sales team, it’s important to develop accountability among your employees. After all, your salespeople are brand ambassadors — when you send them to a sales meeting, they represent your company and have the potential to make or break a sale.

Here are a few strategies for creating a team dynamic where every member feels entitled and empowered to represent your brand.

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Build the best team

Even prior to training, it all starts with hiring the right people. When you’re looking to build your sales team, it’s not just about filling a position — it’s about finding an employee who is committed to your brand and ready to make a difference. Consider building in a personality test portion into the recruitment process. Although it can’t guarantee a person’s work ethic, it can show strengths, weaknesses, and possible red flags for a candidate that will help to determine whether they’d be a good fit for your company.

Create a training manual

If you don’t have a training manual already, it’s time to dedicate some time to create one. A manual not only helps with the onboarding process, but it’s also a great resource for employees any time they need a refresher. The ease of a manual that has all of the procedures in one place helps to empower your team members and it also saves you the time of answering everybody’s questions.

Work on role play situations

Practice makes perfect, and that also goes with sales. Role-playing certain situations with your team can better prepare them to address it in the real world, but it also gives you an inside look at where your employees are strong and where they need improvement. Give them guidance as needed, but take a step back to let them work through their own process. The more independent and empowered they feel, the more composed they will be in a sticky situation.

Evaluate body language

Be attentive to your team’s body language when they are in sales meetings and notice if they are giving off any bad cues. Look out for nail biting, crossed arms, tapping, or fidgeting — all of these can subconsciously send the wrong message to a prospect. Instead, encourage them to smile, nod their heads, and maintain eye contact. While these are all things you may automatically do, recognize that your salespeople may not have built those habits yet and guide them accordingly.

Employ healthy competition

A little bit of competition never hurt anyone — if anything, it can be a prime motivator in a sales position. Take the time to recognize the highest performer each week or award the best salesperson of the month with a small gift card. Keep it small to avoid unhealthy competition, but honoring your team members for their achievements will ensure that they remain motivated towards success.

Taking the time to focus on team-building is an investment in the future. It’s important to have employees that you trust to carry your business, as it allows you to take a step back and dedicate more time into your business core. With the right sales team, you’re sure to see your company grow to its full potential.

4 STRATEGIES TO UPSELL EFFECTIVELY

Meryl Snow / Guest Contributor WeddingIQ

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Upselling is an art that marries psychology with sales strategies in order to elevate your client experience and boost your bottom line. By communicating the competitive uniqueness and value that you bring to the table, you can guide clients in the direction of adding on services and products that will take their celebration to the next level.

In fact, upselling boosts sales by 20 to 42 percent on average and all it takes is some simple coaching and careful positioning.

Sound like it’s worth a try? Try out some of these techniques to improve sales of add-on services and products.

Get to the point

One of the easiest and most effective upselling strategies is to simply plug in upgraded options on your proposal. Prospects are already interested in what you have to offer, so all it takes is a few sentences at the end about how you can go above and beyond their expectations. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; in fact, it can even be as simple as showing signature drink options or an upgraded hors d’oeuvres menu. On average, one out of every four clients will jump on the offer, so it’s well worth the minimal effort of adding to your proposal.

Let your environment do the work

If your client meetings usually take place in your office, take some time to strategically place some samples of upgraded products throughout the space. Give them a tour of your place and let them discover the pieces that speak to them the most — something will likely catch their eye and pique their interest.

Likewise, displaying good quality photos that show off your upgraded services and products in action is another useful strategy. Put an iPad on loop, leave out a photo album, or hang up some framed photos behind your desk to add a discreet plug to every meeting.

Share similar client stories

Take a page out of Amazon’s book and share your own version of “customers who bought this also bought this.” Previous event experiences speak volumes and can present new ideas for clients. Start by having a few anonymous proposals on hand that shows off a full event’s order. Include some photos for an extra punch and you’ll surely see a significant rise in sales.

Show off the latest styles

As you’re browsing the latest trends and shopping for new products, don’t be afraid to shoot some ideas over to your clients and let them you know thought of them first. Not only will it show that their event is always on your mind, but they will likely be open to the suggestion of something unique and different from what’s been done in the past.

Upselling can be mutually beneficial for both you and the client, but it’s important to tread carefully and avoid coming across as insincere. Keep your offers simple to prevent overwhelming decisions, and always know when a client really means no. The goal is to meet the client’s needs and highlight choices that will escalate their event, not to sell more stuff and make more money. Your sales efforts have to be in the genuine interest of your clients or else you risk losing your client’s respect and damaging the experience.

Identifying Buying Signals That Close

Written for Catersource

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It’s not easy becoming a stellar salesperson and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight; it takes hard work and perseverance to learn the tools of the trade. One of the critical skills you need to hone is the ability to identify when your client is ready to buy and close the sale. There are both large and little signals that you can pick up on that will let you know when the time is right to make a move.

This article is here to illuminate what makes a good salesperson, as well as some of the key signals you should be looking for when working with prospects. It’s time for you to let go of your inhibitions and close that sale.

What makes a good salesperson?

Before going into the signals you should be watching for, there’s a more important question: What makes a good salesperson? The whole point of sales is to help a customer (whether an individual or a business) to fulfill a need of theirs that your company provides.

However, to do that effectively and with a high success rate, you need to bring energy and passion to the table. I already know you have the passion for being in the special events industry; however, we need to bring that same passion to the sale.

A prospect needs to feel that you love what you do, feel good about what you sell, and that you know the answer to every question they have or, at the very least, know how to get it. It’s more than just making a sale; it’s about forming a relationship with the client and reassuring them that they are in good hands. The client will be able to feel the energy being transferred between you, whether good or bad.

You also need to be able to read people. A good salesperson learns how to identify and translate both verbal and non-verbal cues — this is essential for identifying buying signals. Connecting non-verbally provides a new level of communication with the customer, and they will see you as more professional and experienced when you can read them.

Quick tip: Eye contact can be hard for some of us, but the client doesn’t need to know that. Instead of looking in the eyes, focus on the end of their nose. You can still pick up sales cues and the client will think you are looking at them in the eyes.

Identifying buying signals & closing the sale

Now for the main event: Detecting the signals when your customer is ready to buy. Below, you will find some of the most common buying signals that indicate the customer is prepared to move forward with the transaction. In fact, you are likely to see at least two of these during your next interaction.

#1 Nodding their head

This is a classic non-verbal cue that signifies the customer is interested, agreeable, and ready to make the purchase. Keep watching their face while you talk and you will be able to pick up on even the faintest nods during your chat. When you see the nod, start making your way towards the closing of the deal.

#2 The client starts repeating a benefit statement

Repetition is essentially a request for validation — your prospect wants you to confirm the information you have given them. It shows that the benefit is significant to them, so circle back and provide them with the confirmation they are looking for. If you see this signal, take two steps: validate and move towards the close.

#3 The client asks for the price

Asking for the price does not mean that the client is rejecting it, although many salespeople take it this way. In fact, it is a sign of interest and you can confirm this by asking if you are on the right track and whether the product meets their needs before you head towards the close. Don’t apologize for the price or defend it.

#4 Are there any other styles or colors to choose from?

By asking you for other styles or colors, they aren’t telling you that they dislike what is being offered – they just want to know if there is more variety available. Take this question with enthusiasm and show them everything you’ve got. If you have nothing, remain excited by what you do have and start steering the pitch towards that sweet close.

#5 How much money do you need to start?

This is a sign of interest in your company and making an investment in what you are offering. It’s a genuine question and one that means you can start heading towards finalizing the deal once you have answered it. Keep your energy up, as well as your interest in the client. Remember: the customer is the center of attention here.

#6 Do I have to pay it all right now or can I do it in installments?

With this question, they are already thinking about buying your product and this is likely one of the last questions they intend to ask. Determining payment methods and potential plans is essential, so this is one of the best signs that you can jump straight to the close.

#7 Do you offer any other discounts?

Your customer isn't cheap—it’s important not to think of them this way so they don’t pick up on your energy. They are being smart and asking for discounts is another sure sign that they are heading for a close with you. Be open with anything that is available, and always be as accommodating as possible.

Obvious cues to look for

To continue helping you learn to identify cues and signals, here are a few obvious ones across various industries that you can remember and learn from:

• If a customer in a restaurant has their wallet out, they are likely ready for the bill.

• If a customer in a restaurant has their menu closed, they are probably ready to order.

• If a customer in a store has spent more than a few minutes looking at the same product, they likely need assistance or want more information.

• If a customer has crossed arms and sighs frequently, they are likely frustrated and in need of assistance, or for a situation to be diffused.

• If a customer is interested in something, expect a lot of face touching, movement around the product, and head tilting.

Some of the signals might seem a little obvious when you read about them, but identifying them when you are closing a sale can be tough—primarily when you are focusing on selling the product or service to the client. You won’t be an expert instantly, but if you print this article and place it by your desk, it will act as a solid reminder of what to look for—including some of the obvious cues that are easily missed. Learning to focus on pitching and signal identification will take time, but by the end of it, you are sure to be a smooth, slick, and unstoppable sales force. Just remember—bring your energy and passion and act on the buying signals; if you don’t, chances are your competition will.

Training Your Team to Sell Like They Own the Business

written for NACE

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When you’re an entrepreneur, you only have to answer to yourself. However, when you’re building a sales team, it’s important to develop accountability among your employees. After all, your salespeople are brand ambassadors — when you send them to a sales meeting, they represent your company and have the potential to make or break a sale.

Here are a few strategies for creating a team dynamic where every member feels entitled and empowered to represent your brand.

Build the best team

Even prior to training, it all starts with hiring the right people. When you’re looking to build your sales team, it’s not just about filling a position — it’s about finding an employee who is committed to your brand and ready to make a difference. Consider building in a personality test portion into the recruitment process. Although it can’t guarantee a person’s work ethic, it can show strengths, weaknesses, and possible red flags for a candidate that will help to determine whether they’d be a good fit for your company.

Create a training manual

If you don’t have a training manual already, it’s time to dedicate some time to creating one. A manual not only helps with the onboarding process, but it’s also a great resource for employees any time they need a refresher. The ease of a manual that has all of the procedures in one place helps to empower your team members and it also saves you the time of answering everybody’s questions.

Work on role play situations

Practice makes perfect, and that also goes with sales. Role playing certain situations with your team can better prepare them to address it in the real world, but it also gives you an inside look at where your employees are strong and where they need improvement. Give them guidance as needed, but take a step back to let them work through their own process. The more independent and empowered they feel, the more composed they will be in a sticky situation.

Evaluate body language

Be attentive to your team’s body language when they are in sales meetings and notice if they are giving off any bad cues. Look out for nail biting, crossed arms, tapping, or fidgeting — all of these can subconsciously send the wrong message to a prospect. Instead, encourage them to smile, nod their heads, and maintain eye contact. While these are all things you may automatically do, recognize that your sales people may not have built those habits yet and guide them accordingly.

Employ healthy competition

A little bit of competition never hurt anyone — if anything, it can be a prime motivator in a sales position. Take the time to recognize the highest performer each week or award the best salesperson of the month with a small gift card. Keep it small to avoid unhealthy competition, but honoring your team members for their achievements will ensure that they remain motivated towards success.

Taking the time to focus on teambuilding is an investment in the future. It’s important to have employees that you trust to carry your business, as it allows you to take a step back and dedicate more time into your business core. With the right sales team, you’re sure to see your company grow to its full potential.


With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method. As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.

What is Slowing Down Your Sales Team?

Meryl’s article published in Catersource

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Running a business involves a lot of moving pieces, but your sales strategy is what forms the foundation. After all, booking new clients is what allows your company to grow. If you’ve felt that your sales have been stagnant, consider these strategies as a way to jumpstart your booking process.

You don’t have a training manual.

A training manual helps you to organize the onboarding process for employees, effectively saving time and providing new hires with a reliable resource. Creating an employee training manual can seem like a lot of work. Understand that it is an investment in the future of your business—not only does it ensure consistency, but it also prevents constant questions in the first weeks of employment. Providing new hires with a manual shows them that you trust their ability to guide themselves to a certain extent, which promotes engagement and high morale.

Your sales team is full of order-takers.

Start 2019 on the Right Foot

Meryl’s article published in Rising Tide Society

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While many people are thinking of personal resolutions, entrepreneurs often find business inspiration in the energy of a new year—it provides new opportunities for growth, changes, and learning lessons. Whether last year was one of countless conversions or one of missed chances, 2019 offers a blank slate to get your business into gear.

Here are some tried-and-true techniques for streamlining your sales cycle and taking your company to the next level.

Read more

Food Trends, 2019

 

Article written for Catersource

Is there anything worse than a client suggesting a food trend that you aren’t familiar with? Clients are savvy and will know the trends—possibly before you do.

Couples want convenient, sophisticated food experiences, fresh, natural, additive-free food and they need transparency in the source and the way its prepared. Embrace this—it’s not going away.

They expect their food to be unique and exciting, while also being ethically produced with locally-sourced, environmentally-friendly ingredients.

Ten years ago, if a wedding couple asked for organic food, sourcing was difficult and expensive.

They want their food to have a story. Where did it come from? What about the small business? The farm? Is it socially responsible?

Couples are increasingly aware of the importance of choosing the right foods for their guests, as an extension of who they are. They want to be socially responsible and are looking for fresh, natural, and healthy menus.

2019 food trends

Fermented foods will be hotter than ever! We will see more kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir, carrots, and many other foods fermented, cooked, and offered at events.

Whether it’s poke, noodles, hummus, or full entrees, food presented in bowls offers an opportunity to move beyond the plate.

A vegan main course from  Feastivities Events

A vegan main course from Feastivities Events

Meat is no longer the only source of protein. In 2019 seeds, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, hemp, flax, and split peas will take center stage on the dinner plate at receptions.

Veggies are back…but not in the tired crudité display. Cut-to-order veggie plates with homemade dips and chips—and why not… add some fermented foods to enhance the action station.

Light, tasty, and beautifully garnished gin-based cocktail from    Feastivities Events

Light, tasty, and beautifully garnished gin-based cocktail from Feastivities Events

High-end cocktails continue to find a place at events. You’ll see fresh ingredients at reception bars. Fruit squeezed in front of guests. Small batch bitters, tonics, and elixirs, ice balls and flowers embedded in ice cubes. The making of the cocktail will be an interactive performance. Couples are becoming more aware of the damage excessive drinking can cause at their weddings and as such, offering “mocktails” is a great solution. But get those straws out of the bar: plastic out, paper in. Choosing to go plastic-free is important to them.

Food trucks have had their moment but couples are still looking for laidback ways to offer simple, tasty food. Short plates with farm-to-fork concepts will stay popular.

These are just a few food trends you’ll see at weddings in 2019 and caterers have jumped right in on clean eating and making it deliciously easy for their couples.

 

The Training Manual is Not the Same as the Employee Handbook

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I’ve noticed some confusion regarding the differences between employee training manuals and employee handbooks. No matter the type or size of your company it is paramount to have both.

The purpose of a training manual is to organize how you are going to train your employees throughout their employment. Having a training manual helps create a standardized plan that is going to take your employees to success. A training manual guarantees that employees do not miss important instructions. Step by step your employees will reach their goals quicker.

An employee handbook outlines policies, freeing yourself and your employees from liability. Describe in detail employee expectations, scheduling, substance abuse, calling out etc. Educate your employees on general and sexual harassment. When writing a handbook, consider what company behavior you want to make up your company culture. Focus on keeping that atmosphere through the guidelines that are set.

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According to Dale Carnegie, companies whose employees are well engaged outperform their competitors by over 200%. Employee engagement is not possible without employee training; it follows that having a good employee training manual in place can help boost your company’s ability to engage its employees. 

Creating quality training manuals for various positions in a company is an important part of the organization's talent management plan. When training manuals are available for key positions in a company, it is possible to ensure continuity of operations when new employees are hired, and it sure does stop the questions on “How do I do…”

Taking time to write out an employee training manual may seem like a laborious task. However, a formal training manual ensures consistency in the presentation of the training program. Another major advantage is that all the training information on skills, processes, and other information necessary to perform the tasks is together in one place. Training manuals should support the training objectives.

Tips on starting a manual:

  • The best way to start a training manual is to place yourself in the training process.
  • Have a recording device and dictate at the moment an employee pulls into the parking lot. (Where are they to park? Which door do they enter? Where is the time clock? Do they need to put the heat on?
  • Assign other team members to create a portion of the training manual. For example, you may have someone that has mastered the company software programs.
  • Maximize employee engagement:  Your manual will benefit if you include:
    • Be Clear & Concise– avoid information overload
  • The combination of text and visual aids – use images, illustrations, tables, diagrams etc.
    • Logical structure – headings, page numbers, section summaries and tab dividers etc.
    • Write in the active sense: Active sentences tend to be shorter and less confusing. Passive sentences tend to be longer and more confusing.
    • Well formatted – visually pleasing, color-coded, good use of white space and generous margins to accommodate note taking.
    • Regular intervals – Q&A sections, worksheets, learning checklists, and quizzes.

Training manual content should be based on objectives so it is possible to tell when trainees have mastered the material.

  • Tremendous benefits to a well-formatted training manual.
    • Saves time- When new employees have reference material available, they know where to go when they have questions.
    • Scalable- A documented operations manual can also make your business more scalable.
    • Reducing Liability- courts will review your manual to assess liability.
    • Added market value to the company- in the event you sell your company, the successor will utilize the manuals for a smooth transition.

One of my pet peeves is when an employee asks the same question twice. The training manual eliminates, well almost eliminates the “How do I…” questions.

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Props that POP!

It’s not just enough to network; crafting a winning proposal is also essential to booking the event. Your proposal should pop! Here’s the scenario. It’s Friday afternoon, and an event planner calls looking for a proposal for a client. She wants it emailed by 10 AM Monday. Yours will be one of the three she will present to her client. And there’s the rub – she’s doing the presentation, not you. So how are you going to make your voice heard at the pitch meeting? With a proposal that is so striking and imaginative the other two just fade away.

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Be it a six-figure- wedding or a low-budget event down your street, it all starts with a proposal that describes the event. If you're in the events business, you must be able to sell your skills to the client by way of a well-written event proposal.

The first step in writing the winning proposal involves having a conversation or researching about the client to find out what she hopes to accomplish at the upcoming event. A proposal is the most client-centric document that your company can create. Each bid must be designed to suit each client’s needs. The best proposals, regardless of the industry follow a similar structure, including the cover page, credentials, and summary of the client’s needs, services provided and pricing.

It is very crucial that the proposal you write is relevant to the client. The client is getting proposals from other companies apart from yours; as such it is vital that you don’t make the client feel like a commodity. Personalize the proposal. The title of the proposal is significant. When you use a personalized title like ‘Jane & Jack Take the Plunge (bride mentioned that in conversation) versus Jane & Jack’s Wedding, it shows that you are tailoring the event to the client and not just treating the client like a commodity. While everyone else is naming their proposal with the event name and date, look for ways to stand out by sending a strong message even before the client opens the proposal. Think differently!

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To craft a proposal that pops, you should know the client’s wishes. During your initial meeting with the client, be sure to take notes besides the time, date, and location for the event. Listen to the client’s ideas for issues pertaining to the theme, color scheme and other aesthetic elements of the event. Your proposal should speak directly to the client and their wishes. The client needs to feel that their needs are understood. Keep in mind that the client may also be reviewing proposals from other companies offering similar services to yours and is likely to pick the one that best understands their needs.

In designing a proposal, you should include a brief introduction of you and your company. This gives the client an idea of who you are and a taste for the company personality. Your proposal should contain a summary of the client's needs and goal for the event. Be sure to go over what the client told you about the event as regards dates, time, proposed venue, theme and other information earlier provided, showing that you understand what they are looking for.

In a proposal, the most important word is ‘YOU’, that is the client’s name. The proposal needs to be client-centric, being about meeting the client’s needs. The client basically wants to know how you can help them run an amazing event. Prove how you are going to do this by setting the stage and telling the story. Let’s say you’re a caterer and your proposal tells this story: “As guests arrive they ascend the grand staircase to the balcony where our staff greets them with smiles, champagne and scrumptious hors d’oeuvre artfully presented with river rocks & reeds on stylishly polished aluminum salvers”. By doing this, you are putting the client in the scene and feeding their imagination. Proposals must be tailored to the client’s needs to make a winning impression.

Employ creativity. Who wouldn’t rather eat ‘seared garlic and lime scented tenderloin skewers’ than ‘filet kabobs’? And if those skewers are staged ‘in a jewel box with a flashy orchid,’ they taste even better! Your choice of words matter. Especially for those in the catering industry, with food there are so many “yummy” words. Put the reader in the scene by painting mental images.

Describe the design elements of your tablescapes with evocative words and photos. As they read, the client will become more and more immersed in the vision you have designed. It’s not just ‘a vase of red tulips.’ It’s ‘a glass cylinder enveloped in birch bark bursting with scarlet French tulips.’

Pepper the proposal with buzzwords that relate to the client or event. Let’s say you’re catering for an electric power company dinner. You could use words like amps, grid or wired for a clever tie-in. Clients like a witty phrase here and there if it fits. Choice of words matter, regardless of your role in the events industry, be sure to use words that bring what you do to life when you write your proposals.

Your client wants to know what services you will render during the event. Say you’re an event planner, and the upcoming event is significant, such as a wedding with many aspects, it might be appropriate to create headings such as “Cocktail Party” or “Luncheon,” and then describe the duties you will perform for that aspect of the event – such as setting up the tables and serving food. Add photos of similar events that you've handled in the past to this section of the proposal. This gives the client a vivid example of what you will do.

You’ve described the event, using language that enables the client to picture the event more vividly. Now, the client is thinking, ‘Beautiful, how much is this going to cost?’ In the proposal, create a section titled ‘Cost Summary’ or ‘Proposed Costs’ or even ‘The Nitty Gritty,’ listing the prices for each item and their purpose to eliminate ambiguity. Tally them up and write the proposed total event cost. In times past, it used to be selling dreams and charging what you want. Long gone are those days. Given the current economic conditions, most clients are taking a closer look and thinking, “bargain.” It is thus beneficial to give the client a choice on pricing or different packages to choose from. Don’t just give the client the stated proposed cost or nothing because the client can easily select nothing and move on to the next vendor who offers similar service for a lesser price. Endeavor to give the client three price points. List the priciest option first so that if the client will have a ‘Wow! That is expensive’ reaction, it will be to your most expensive option. They will then see the other pricing options as much more reasonable. It may be advantageous to offer some discount, like a discount for booking early or a package discount for many events booked at the same time.

Ensure that you provide your full contact information on every page so the client can contact you again. Too often the client prints all proposals and if your information is not on every page it will get lost in the shuffle.

You don’t need special software to make proposal magic. A word doc or PowerPoint will work just fine. Save time by saving descriptions in a folder for easy cut and paste or drop-in. And when your kick-ass proposal is ready, make sure you PDF it before sending.

Trite but true – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!

Complacency is the Enemy of Success

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Slumps in your level of motivation are a natural phenomenon. Lack of motivation, however, can have dire financial consequences such as a reduction in profit. Motivated salespeople sell more, no doubt. Going about your business looking like the weight of the world is on your shoulders has never helped anyone boost their sales. Attitude and mindset play significant roles in enabling you to reach targets and shoot your company to the heights you desire.

Complacency is the enemy of success. It is easy to become complacent over time, never pushing oneself and ceasing to go an ‘extra mile’ for the sake of your company and clients. Without a doubt, you know that you need to be motivated to succeed in sales, you want to be motivated but you find out that you just cannot attain and maintain that motivation. Is this the case?  

Motivation is an in-house job; it begins and ends with you. Even if you fail to realize it, motivation is something you can control, an internal job. No one gets to determine your level of motivation. You need to take responsibility for your motivation – every second, every minute, hourly and daily. 

While it is good to source for inspiration from motivational speakers, workshops, and mantras, the drive to increase sales must come from within you. Rekindling motivation starts with bearing in mind the reason why you started your company in the first place. Doubts and other issues can make you lose sight of why you started and your initial passion. It is the passion for what you do and an unreserved belief in what you’re selling that drives you to win clients over at the end of the day. Review the thank-you letters, calls, publicity and awards you have received from satisfied clients and rekindled that passion for what you do! It goes a long way towards renewing your enthusiasm for selling. 

Motivating a team is one of the most important things that a leader can do. Without guidance, employees can fail 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.

Part of keeping your team motivated and excited about always improving is also ensuring that they don’t become complacent. We all know the type: arrive at work in a daze, clock in, and then sit at their desk doing the bare minimum to get by. Then, they leave as early as possible, never really committing to their career path, and worst of all—detract from, rather than add to, the success of the team. If these types are already satisfied with what they have, it can become increasingly difficult to engage them and motivate them to success.

Why do good people become complacent? Sometimes even the best workers can become complacent over time. Feeling happy and fulfilled in their career, some individuals can fall into the habit of quiet complacency, never pushing themselves and ceasing to go that ‘extra mile’ for their boss or their client. They do this without realizing that their co-workers and manager may be fostering a slowly simmering resentment toward their blasé attitude.

Are competitions motivating your team? Many managers decide to motivate their teams by setting up competitions and monetary incentives intended to encourage everyone to get back on board and do their very best. Team spirit! While these types of incentives can be a temporary measure that appears to work at first, money is not always the answer. Sometimes the very best motivating factors are interpersonal relationships—caring for the success of the team is an excellent way to boost morale and performance. 

Focus on relationships with your team. We all know what it feels like to be managed skillfully versus being managed poorly. If you are in management, know that trying to intimidate your employees into respecting you will not work. A Drill Sargent won’t gain their employees’ respect. Instead of barking orders, counteract complacency by celebrating goals and accomplishments. Make a big deal out of it when they make a huge sale or land a new client! By warmly and regularly congratulating your team when they do well (and working on building them up when they are struggling) you will reach goals you have never dreamed of.

Nip negativity: get rid of cancerous employees Negative employees or CAVE dwellers (Consistently Against Virtually Everything) are a cancer in your organization. They will bring you down and destroy the morale of your other employees. Sometimes you can work with these individuals to get them back on track, but sometimes they just have to go.

Conversely, you may have a great employee who just isn’t getting the job done, consistently underperforming and bringing the team down. Don’t be too quick to dismiss these people— they may simply be in the wrong position in your company. Sit down and ask them, “If I had a magic wand, what position would you like to have in this company?” By listening to your employee, you will learn how to manage them better and bring your entire team to success.

Laugh and play with your team! Most importantly, you have to remember that we are all social beings. Saying thank you and laughing with your team can go much further toward a harmonious and successful business environment than any competition can. Spend time together, enjoy their company, and listen to what they have to say—these are the steps to managing your team with poise, enjoyment, and skill.

Can Your Salespeople Sell?

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Weddings, galas, and birthday bashes. Album release parties, charity fundraisers, and product launches. Corporate retreats, meetings, exhibitions, and conferences. What do all special events have in common? They can’t plan themselves. As such, each of these events needs to have a focused and committed team working together to accomplish the goal of a perfectly prepared event for the client. Individuals often find out that they lack the much-needed expertise and time to plan events themselves. This is where we as independent event professionals step in and give these events the individual attention they so much deserve. The industry is one that has grown tremendously in the past decade with around $500 billion spent annually for events worldwide. It’s multifaceted. This means that the marketplace that the industry provides is big enough to support your endeavor as an event professional. There are many directions in which you can expand, and the industry offers a lucrative market ready to sustain you. From wedding planners to caterers to venue coordinators, floral designers and entertainers, the tasks are myriad.

Before the Internet, the event professionals were the experts, having the answers and ideas. The shopper's ability to find information has altered the balance of power from the salesperson to the buyer.  Clients are doing their research and often know the trends before you do. Let’s take the modern wedding as an example; today ’s couple has a wide array of information sources from bridal magazines, the Internet, wedding books, wedding TV shows. They are armed, ready and educated. Are you? 

The difficulty of ‘selling’ in the special events market is compounded by the fact that today’s clients have a wide array of options available to them as regards what they can buy. Hence, there is a need to understand the client, set yourself apart from the competition, and show your client how you’re different to close sales. It is necessary to stand out. Just how do you do this? Sell yourself. The phrase “sell yourself” is most often misinterpreted as showcasing your positive features and throwing yourself in the face of people whom you intend to make an impression on, however selling yourself is more about pulling clients to you and the end result to your company.

Perhaps your bookings have started to drop off lately, and you find yourself struggling to hit sales targets that you used to breeze right past. You may be fabulous at bonding with the client but still, find yourself losing opportunities. It is not just enough to bond with the client. Have you ever met with a client and you instantly connected? You just have the confidence that you will book the event. A week later, the client is not responding to your calls and emails. What happened? You were outsold! No matter how hard you work, how well you qualify and regardless of how well you think your meeting with the client went, if you are weak at closing sales, you will suffer in your career. 

Closing sales involve a planned process of understanding the client’s needs, showing the client that you have what it takes to fill that need and ultimately, creating a relationship with the client so that they decide to trust you with the job of filling that need. 

In the years that I have worked with salespeople in the industry, I noticed one common thread. Salespeople are not essentially salespeople. Let’s face it- we don’t see too many true salespeople in our industry. A genuine salesperson wants to book the event and then move onto the next sale. They usually have no desire to be a part of the planning process and the endless paperwork will do them in. Our salespeople are in this business because they have a passion for what they do; plan, decorate, entertain, and feed events. We’re asking our salespeople to qualify, book, plan and execute the event which is four different personality traits. 

Our salespeople need to be trained- period. We need to establish the proper training tools for success. After all, they are the driving force that is bringing in revenue to your business.

BRANDING – YOU FIRST AND THEN YOUR COMPANY

 
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Have you ever met with a client and you instantly connected? You just know you will book the event. But then, a week later the client is not responding to your calls and emails. What happened? You were outsold! One of the greatest ways to articulate your competencies, wealth of experience, skills, knowledge, and your overall worth in today's competitive events industry is to create and nurture a brand that helps you stand out in the crowd. If you’re not selling you, then you’re not selling. As aptly put by a management expert Tom Peters, "We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer of a brand called You."

Branding is a means of defining you, your business or company to yourself, your team and people on the outside – the potential clients. Creating an inimitable and powerful brand starts with determining what makes you unique. What are your strengths, goals, passions, core competencies? What makes you different from your peers? It is not just enough to know what makes you unique if you do not target the right people, the efforts are futile. There is a strong need to identify your target audience. This allows you deliver and ‘register’ your company on the minds of the right people. Everything you do contributes to your branding endeavor, either positively or negatively. Even the little things count – dressing, behavior to employees, body language, emails, down to behavior on social media. If you want to be successful, creating and managing a brand isn't just an option, it's a necessity.

Every business has a brand whether you know it or not. Branding is not only for the big companies. It’s not just your logo, your tagline or slogan. They are signatures of your brand. Popular belief is that branding is a communication strategy.  It is not. Branding is a business strategy, a way to align every action to guide your business to success. It is a phenomenon that happens in the mind and in the heart, it’s a feeling one gets when they think of a product or company. The easiest way to describe branding is to think about it as a personality. It’s an attitude. How it walks, how it talks, it tells a story about the company. Branding affects people on an emotional level. They need to know, like and trust your business.

In order to brand your company effectively, you must know who you are. First, you will need to lay the foundation and ask yourself these questions: 

•    What is my core motivation?
•    Who are my target clients?
•    How does my company affect people on an emotional level?
•    What problems am I solving for my market?
•    What sets me apart from my competition?
•    List out your business's key features and characteristics, your competitive advantages.

After completing the above exercises, then write a one-page mission statement, a company overview. This is not only intended to let your target market know who you are but the ideas, principles, and values that you and your entire company will live by. You need to know what it is that makes you different, special and more compelling than other event professionals in the market.  Many caterers, for example, spend much of their time, money and energy promoting their products and services instead of building their brand image. If your main emphasis as, say a baker is on your cakes, then you don't have a brand, you have a commodity. There is need to clearly define your unique marketing position. You need to show value and a clear understanding of why you are different from that other event professional down the street. Branding is not solely what you say, it’s how you act. Remember it is a personality. Let’s take a closer look at your business. In the hospitality industry, your employees are in front, they are at times the company’s voice.   

•    How does your staff look while they are setting up events? Are they disheveled, or are they in logo set up shirts?
•    Do they use proper grammar?
•    How do they dress? 
•    Are they following up with the clients?
•    Are they knowledgeable about the company’s services and goals?
•    Do they represent your brand?

You must take control of your brand. If you don’t manage your brand the market will do it for you. In order to establish brand awareness, branding needs to be used consistently and frequently in everything you produce.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING HOW I TURNED MY SLUGGISH SALES TEAM INTO A SALES CONVERSION MACHINE?