Making sales isn't always easy, but there are some simple steps that can be taken to increase your odds. Ken Burgin shares some of the most effective tricks of the trade.

1. Can your staff sell?
Most can't, until you show them how – they need to learn and practice scripts, build confidence and receive prompt feedback on results. Many customers leave with change in their pocket – how are the sales of side orders, second drinks, desserts and bar snacks? Are coffee customers always asked if they would like another when the cup is cleared? Do staff automatically suggest mineral water to go with wine purchases? Are there menu items (like vegetables) that are an easy upsell? This is not pressure, it’s survival.

2. Promote the sale of high-profit items
Not the high priced items, but your house-made lemonade (sugar, lemon concentrate and water) instead of bottled drinks, juicy pork ribs instead of expensive steaks, or raspberry mousse (with frozen berries and pre-mix) instead of bought-in cakes.

3. How well are phone calls handled?
When I rang for a dinner booking recently and asked about parking, the young dude who answered told me 'it's a bit of a nightmare in this area'. Bad answer – it may not be easy, but that is not the right script! How are calls answered out of hours, and how many phone inquiries turn into firm bookings? Mystery phone calls can be illuminating.

4. Is your social media focused on attraction and sales?
Pretty pictures are not enough, neither are endless promotional banners. Every post needs a call to action, and a link through to the menu, entertainment or booking page. Post more often (twice a day) and respond quickly to social media messages.

5. Does your website turn browsers into customers?
Does it have a strong sales message, tonnes of information and an attractive layout? Or is it cool and intimidating, or just old fashioned? It needs to be mobile-friendly (where 70 percent of your traffic comes from) with three essentials immediately obvious: phone number, opening hours and map directions.

6. How well do you turn email inquiries into sales?
When the request comes in for a party menu or booking date, there's an expectation of a same-day response – better still, same hour. How many of these turn into paying customers? How can you check? People will also be messaging through their  first app at hand, so expect them from Facebook, Linkedin and all the rest.

reserved.jpgImage: Pascoes Software Engineering

7. Do the walls sell?
There may be signs and posters if it’s a big space, or social media invitations – anything to make a connection when guests are looking around. It’s surprising how many venues don’t have their name visible inside – sometimes guests forget where they are!

8. Always promote group bookings
Have information on the menu or a short version of the party options available at the counter or in a stand. People will help themselves – who knows what they have in mind?

9. Can customers order without talking to anyone?
This could be booking online, emailing through a catering order or buying a gift certificate. Here’s a test: how easy is this to do after 11pm?

10. Do you keep in touch with your regular customers?
A short email, a postcard, or a menu in a hand-written envelope will nudge customers who've forgotten you. 

11. Are the community groups you support returning the favour?
They may need reminding that your big heart is based on commercial reality. How many are regular customers?

12. Finally, the business card
The tiny brochure that should be on every counter and every bill, with phone, web and social media details. Give away hundreds of them and the business flows back.


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