I was having dinner alone, in a strange community, at a nationally-known restaurant chain. I watched the waitress deliver the checks at the five other tables in her section before flagging her over.

“How many tables are in this section?” I asked. She told me six. Taking her through the math we determined that she averaged four table turns of two diners per table on each shift – approximately 48 customers per waitress per shift.

I then asked the price of the average desert on her menu. She estimated $3.50 I said, “Do you realize that if you invited each of those people to have dessert, and one out of three did, you’d make an extra $8.40 in tips every shift?”

She had that “no idea what you’re talking about” look, when she asked, “Are you telling me that you want dessert?” “No,” I said, “I’m telling you that people like to be asked.”

Want to know the sad part? Restaurants aren’t the worst offenders. You spend all that money inviting folks to your store, then your staff doesn’t ask ’em to buy. Too many employees simply don’t think about up-selling. Waaay too many. This is a management problem. It has a management solution.

Good managers know two basic facts:

1) The easiest sale is an add-on sale to an existing customer.
2) Anything that isn’t measured can’t be managed.

Make up-selling a requirement. Start at the customer contact level. Tabulate the average number of items per purchase. The only number your staff needs to track, and to be accountable for, is the average number of items on each receipt.

Do your employees think of this as (gasp!) SELLING? They’re right. If they have a problem with sales, shame on you for not making very clear at the first interview that everyone’s job was to sell. How do you describe the job? Clerk? Customer service person? No wonder your staff doesn’t have your focus.

Maybe you need new staff people. Then again, maybe you could improve this staff. Start by changing their titles.

Drop into any Waffle House. You’ll note that the waitress’ name tags all say “Salesperson.” The day they put on the uniform Waffle House employees know what the job entails.

Done correctly, all customer service jobs are selling.

Would you care to see the dessert menu?” will never produce the sales of “The chef just pulled some of his homemade apple pies out of the oven. Did you save room for a warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon?”

Yeah, selling.

When was the last time you bought a bottle of wine and were offered an ice bucket, or a corkscrew? No, it doesn’t happen to me, either. Pity. Not only because the store could sell extra items, but also because I can never find a corkscrew. People appreciate it when you help them to save an extra trip. People are flattered by your concern.

When the customer brings a can of paint to the check out, ask if she has drop cloths, masking tape, or paint rollers with handle extenders.

When the customer asks for bedding plants, personally escort her to the plants, then ask if she has fertilizer, bug spray, a shovel.

When the customer buys the new projection TV, will she need video cables? A video switcher? Audio cables? Matching transformers? A universal remote? A DVD player? A couple new movies?

Never work up financing of the boat without reminding the buyer how much she needs life vests, depth finders, a trolling motor, a marine radio.

Selling. Refer to it as improved customer service.

What an incredible idea! Improving sales by providing genuine customer service. Put it in your ads.

Here at Ajax Company we’ll:

ease your frustrations; or
save you time; or
save you money; or
help you impress your friends,

by checking to see if you have everything you need before you leave the store.”

Go through your business department by department. Make check lists. Figure out the your obvious offers, and make your staff very familiar with all of the appropriate add-on sales possibilities. Monitor them to make sure those possibilities are being offered.

Pay attention to, and reward, improvement in add-on sales. See if your sales and your customer satisfaction levels don’t both go up.

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