Anyone who has worked as a server or bartender for any period of time knows how much sales psychology goes into the job. I’m still impressed at how much I learned about sales by waiting tables. Here are a few of the best lessons I learned.
1. Work smart, not hard.
When you’re making $2.65 per hour, most of which ends up going to taxes, you learn quickly that busting your ass for that wage is stupid. When I first started working at a pretty nice restaurant, one of my coworkers always figured out ways to streamline the work to make it easier.
When I told her how smart I thought she was, she said, “Why work hard when you can work smart?” and that stuck with me.
In a restaurant working smart could mean filling up every single salt shaker at once so that the process goes faster or taking out a big tray of drinks instead of taking them out one by one.
Batching tasks can improve productivity in any business. If you have blog posts to write, do them all in one sitting. Do all of your admin on one day instead of spending 15 minutes here and there working on it and getting distracted from what you should be working on. Batching tasks allows you to focus and build momentum so that you can get through the tasks faster than doing them sporadically.
2. Having a bad day? Fake a smile to create a real one.
When you rely solely on tips for your income, your demeanor and level of customer service are everything. Your customers don’t care if you’re having a bad day, they expect good service.
In this situation I learned that putting on a fake smile can often lead to creating a real one. It’s strange, but when you refuse to be less than happy and kind to people, your mood just shifts and your day instantly gets better.
The next time you’re having a bad day, put on a smile when dealing with your clients and you’ll see how quickly that simple choice can change your mood.
3. Use the power of suggestion.
There was a rule in the restaurant I worked at: You must always suggest a drink, not just ask what they want. This employs the power of suggestive selling and it can work wonders for your bottom line.
At first I thought this was stupid, but I found that asking, “Can I get you started with a glass of wine?” was always more effective than “What would you like to drink?”
I cannot tell you the number of times I heard, “Now that you mention it, that sounds great!” when I asked that question. This directly affected the amount of money I made because a 20% tip on a bill where someone is ordering $7 glasses of wine is going to be higher than one where they aren’t drinking, and it’s all a matter of making a simple suggestion.
4. Upsell when possible.
Remember being asked, “Would you like to super size that?” at McDonalds? This is a great example of upselling at work.
When I worked at a restaurant we often asked if people wanted toppings on their steak or, “Which vodka would you like? We have Stoli, Grey Goose, etc.” when someone ordered a vodka drink instead of just serving the house vodka automatically.
Simply asking if a couple would like to book an engagement shoot is a great way for a wedding photographer to upsell. It isn’t a pushy tactic; it’s just a question that gives your customer an extra option.
5. Don’t be so stuffy.
Working with people every day taught me that people respond to people just being honest with them instead of being all corporate and stuffy. People would often ask me how I liked a particular dish and if I didn’t like it, I’d be honest and suggest something else they may like.
Hearing someone say, “The shrimp creole isn’t the best in the world, but the jambalaya is amazing!” is so much more refreshing than hearing someone say, “Oh it’s all good!” through a forced grin. In addition to appreciating your honesty, your customer will enjoy their experience more because they got something that they love.
Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and be honest about it with people. If your client asks for your opinion on a venue that you hate and you recommend it, that will reflect badly on you. If they trust you enough to ask, be honest with them.
6. Anticipate your customer’s needs.
When you work in restaurants you tend to notice patterns in the way people eat. For instance, I found that nearly everyone who orders a Cajun dish would want hot sauce, so I stopped waiting for them to ask and just brought it along with the food. Sometimes I’d keep it in my apron and when the customer said, “Can I have some…?” I’d pull it out and say, “Hot sauce?” They would always appreciate the attentiveness and not having to wait for me to react to their needs.
If you work at the wedding itself, what can you bring with you that could help your client? Even something as simple as having a small emergency kit or sewing kit handy can be a lifesaver for a distressed bride.
Take a moment to think about the experiences you’ve had in past jobs and as a customer. I think you’ll be surprised at how many lessons from seemingly unrelated industries can apply to your wedding business.
Heidi Thompson of Evolve Your Wedding Business works with wedding pros who want to get out of the dreaded feast or famine cycle of doom. Check out her free resource on turning your website visitors into actual clients: How Your Website Is Keeping You From Making Money & What To Do About It.
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