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?

 

MERYL SNOW NAMED TO PRESTIGIOUS INDUSTRY GLOBAL ADVISORY BOARD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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The International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning (IAWEP) is pleased to announce their 2018-19 Global Advisory Board.

“2018 has already been an exciting year for the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning,” shares Kylie Carlson, the Academy’s CEO and Founder.  “With that, we’re thrilled to continue the momentum by assembling top industry thought leaders from around the world.”

Meryl Snow of SnowStorm Solutions will be joining the Global Advisory Board, where she will contribute her input into course materials, provide guidance for Academy students and share her insight with Wedding Business Magazine, as well as the annual International Wedding Trend Report.

“Education is extremely important to me because it provides knowledge and that is the foundation that we need to navigate in the special events industry, ” says Meryl Snow.

The Academy currently has campuses in UK, Australia, New Zealand, the UAE, South East Asia, and North America. In total, fifty wedding professionals were selected globally for the honor.  

“It has been a true honor to pursue our role as a global leader in wedding and event planning, styling and design education, and we are quite fortunate to welcome this elite group of professionals to the team,” adds Carlson. “Now more than ever, it’s essential we maintain an international vision as we look ahead to what’s to come.”

Meryl has spent 28 years in the special event & wedding industry as co-founder of Feastivities Events, along with its subsidiaries OffShoots Decor and Philadelphia's Picnic Company.   She also is the author of Booked It, Cha Ching and three how-to Style & Design videos.     
                                                                                                    
She's ambitious, focused and confident. This is more than a job; she’s on a mission to help businesses get on their own path to success. Meryl's a passionate believer in entrepreneurship and uses her gifts to support businesses build a stronger economy. Her philosophies have proved successful for not only her own business, but also many other companies, trade organizations, and universities have benefited from her training and advice. 

About the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning

With six online campuses globally, the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning boasts an internationally recognized accreditation program that brings professional training to wedding planners, event planners, event designers and wedding stylists.

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MERYL SNOW UNVEILS REVOLUTIONARY NEW “TRIANGLE METHOD”

PRESS RELEASE:

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A formula for creating the perfect sales team

NEW JERSEY, February 14, 2018 - Certified Catering Consultants (CCC) Senior Consultant of Sales Training and Strategies, Meryl Snow, has introduced a revolutionary new approach to full-service catering. Coined as “The Triangle Method” Meryl has designed a teaching tutorial for full-service caterers who want to zone-in on developing a stellar sales team. The emphasis is to help owners and managers to ensure accountability with the sales team and take a step back from the daily grind of sales and marketing, giving them the opportunity to focus on the broader development of their operation while training their sales team in qualifying and closing techniques. The Triangle Method is designed to take the grunge work out of individualized operations manuals by delivering full-service access to a step by step guide, for the sales team.

“Bringing the Triangle Method to market is an exciting opportunity for myself and the entire catering world” says Meryl Snow, owner and operator of SnowStorm Solutions, ”My clients can now use this platform as a tool to create a sales team from hiring, compensation plans, employee contract, goals, modern sales training and most importantly accountability for increased sales!”

With the ability to train employees both on-site and remotely, Meryl’s new method gives employers the tools they need to grow a more efficient and profitable sales team while getting absolute clarity on how to reach your goals as fast as possible...and you'll get an exact strategy to make it all happen. Upon completion of the course, team members have the tools & techniques they need to close the deal...every time.

“Meryl is an invaluable member of our team at CCC,” says Carl Sacks, Managing Director of CCC, “You will find that innovative thinking is a common thread among all of our consultants. Meryl’s unique approach to sales and marketing development is not only a reflection of the spirit of our consultants but is groundbreaking for the industry.”

10 Things You Should and Should Not Do with Social Media and Your Employees

 
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We are in the Digital Age, and that means everyone is on social media – including your employees. It leaves you with a whole new world to manage, as employee social media that is not monitored could end up causing your company some serious issues in the future. While it is important to find a middle ground, and to also ensure that you do not stalk your workers, there are a few things that you should remember to do and avoid when it comes to employee social media. 

Things to Do


#1 Always Have a Plan
You need to have a plan for employee use of social media in the workplace. You might not think this is a big issue, but an employer can be held responsible for the actions of those who work for them online, and employees could leak information about a company online for everyone to see. It doesn’t matter if it occurs at home or in the office, so you need to make sure you have a firm plan in place. 


#2 Implement a Clear Policy
This brings you to developing and implementing a clear policy for social media and what is allowed, as well as what is prohibited. It should contain details of appropriate and inappropriate behavior, in addition to things that are strictly forbidden. Of course, you should ensure legal professional looks through it first to make sure that nothing has been missed and that the policy makes sense. 


#3 Train Your Employees  
A formal training program will teach your employees how to behave on social media where the workplace is concerned and also show them the consequences for violating the policy. It also shows that you, as a company, are committed to ensuring that your public image remains sound. 


#4 Keep Detailed Records  
The records that should be kept are ones that refer to your employees have read and understood the social media policy that you have implemented. This means that you know, and have proof of, each employee agreeing to and understanding the policy. 


#5 Monitor Responsibly
In many jurisdictions, you have the right to monitor your employee’s social media at all times. However, you should make sure that you monitor them responsibly as too much of it can cause tension in the workplace, a lack of morale, and a decline in your worker’s trust in you. 

Things Not to Do


#1 Don’t be Too Hasty
If an employee violates your social media policy, you must not rush to fire or punish them. Not just because of the potential legal implications, but also because you can lower morale. Try talking through the situation with them and giving them a warning before you terminate their contract. 


#2 Make Sure Your Policy Does Not Overreach
By this, we mean that you should not exercise too much control over what your employee’s do on social media. While there are things that should certainly be banned or restricted, social media is also a personal place and your policies should not reach that far in. 


#3 Make Sure the Policy Goes Company Wide
Everyone has to adhere to the policy. Whether it’s the interns or the CEO, the social media policy needs to stretch across the entire company. This leaves everyone being treated as equals, but also ensures that you are protected as a company. 


#4 Don’t Forget a Contact Person
Some employees are going to have questions about the policy, and you will need to appoint someone as the person they contact when they have a query or concern. This will not only make you more transparent to your employees but will also ensure that their questions are answered satisfactorily. 


#5 Don’t be Inconsistent
When it comes to disciplinary actions, you should always be consistent and treat everyone equally. It gives you legal protection, but also means that unrest among employees is likely to be massively decreased because they will know that they have not been singled out. It keeps morale steady and everyone feeling like equals. 

To Conclude
Social media is not an easy thing to manage, especially in the workplace. It is likely that you will always have the odd employee who does something wrong and perhaps slanders the company they work for online. However, having a plan and policy in place that promises disciplinary action is a sure way to reduce this risk. Just remember that you should ensure your monitoring is balanced and that you don’t overreach when it comes to restricting your workers.
 

 

Are You a Vitamin or a Painkiller?

 

If you could have one pill the rest of your life would it be a Vitamin or a Painkiller?

Posted by Meryl Snow on Tuesday, November 28, 2017
 

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?

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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.