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Coffee Write: The hospitality of sales


July 7, 2014
By Brian Martell

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July 7, 2014 – I am often struck by the parallels in the sales process and the methods
used in the hospitality industry. Being empathetic, anticipating concerns and
needs, and treating the customer as if they are the only customer you have are
the hallmarks of good hospitality.

July 7, 2014 – I am often struck by the parallels in the sales process and the methods
used in the hospitality industry. Being empathetic, anticipating concerns and
needs, and treating the customer as if they are the only customer you have are
the hallmarks of good hospitality.

Much has been said about communications, unique selling propositions
and competitive advantages when quantifying the road to sales results. All of
the above are important in the recipe required to earn new accounts and
maintain good relations with current customers.

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However, the ingredient that makes outstanding sales stand apart from
the merely adequate is understanding the human element through the soft
qualitative arts practised in the hospitality industry. Make no mistake: a
charming individual who is a good conversationalist and has a superlative grasp
of etiquette is no substitute for the other quantitative virtues required to be
a good salesperson. What hospitality does is add spice to the meat and potatoes
of the stew.

Purchasing professionals are schooled in the science of comparative
analysis while operations managers synergistically look for standardization,
making the purchasing job that much easier. Together they work hard to
negotiate the best deal in terms of the quality cost proposition for their
companies. But even in their analysis, which on the surface may appear
formulaic, they are also looking for assurance that the future performance
promised by the vendors agrees with what actually happens when it comes time to
deliver. Beyond contractual punitive clauses, companies need the goods more
than what they would reap by invoking “breach of contract” and the messiness
that comes with lawyer intervention.

So we come to the people part of the buying process: trust. Until such
time as machines can buy from machines, the human factor of business will be
holistic. Purchasing decisions will be made with both head and heart where the
emotional side of the equation has a vital role in the process (that gut
feeling that tells you something is just not right with the deal). On a very
basic level, trust is gained through relationship building and that can only
happen if there is a flow of ease. And while this might smack of Dale
Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” it comes down to more than
good manners (which nevertheless do count), it comes down to being the person
who can honestly gain trust (no “Wolves of Wall Street,” please).

This is different from being liked, although the two often intersect;
being empathetic, anticipating concerns and needs, and treating the customer as
if they are the only customer you have are the hallmarks of good hospitality. That
builds relationships and trust. Earning trust removes the natural reservations
people have of the unknown. Our human inclination to be suspicious of new
situations was hardwired into us as a means of survival. And while we use our
intellect to make decisions based on logic, inductive reasoning and
comparisons, we are still, after all, human.

The next time you stay at a hotel or go to a sit-down restaurant,
trained staff should practise the art of hospitality. It could be said that the
best recruiting ground for salespeople would be from the hospitality industry,
especially if they are hospitable by second nature. Observe if they greet you
with a smile, make eye contact, listen attentively, and use your name where
appropriate. They will do it to make your experience that much more pleasurable
and to earn your trust as a returning customer.



Brian Martell works at
Heritage Coffee as vice-president of sales and has 21 years of industry
experience. Brian has also been the recipient of three prestigious
awards: the Don Storey, Stuart Daw, and the Albert DeNovelus Customer
Service awards. Questions, comments, feedback, start a dialogue? E-mail
him at brian@hertiage-coffee.com.


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