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The Key to Maximizing Sales

April 2023 | By Clint Clint Elkins is the V.P. of Sales for SB Value

Most caterers enter the industry with extensive knowledge of flavor profiles, seasonal ingredients, optimal temperatures, and other culinary elements. But when it comes to running a catering business, kitchen experience can only go so far. Potential customers don’t care how quickly you can debone a fish or whether you’ve mastered the perfect amount of umami in your signature sauce. They simply want to know what’s in it for them.

Thus, successful caterers aren’t just pros in the kitchen. They must be just as adept with sales. While selling might not come naturally at first, the good news is that it’s a learned skill — and one easily improved over time.

So if you’re struggling to showcase your team’s talent in your sales messaging, keep reading for best practices from industry leaders who know what it takes to seal the deal.

Focus on benefits, not features

Anyone can look up “catering” in the dictionary to find out what your company does. And since your prospective clients already know they need someone to provide food and beverage service, it’s a waste of time to try to convince them they need a caterer. Instead, you need to convince them why your company is the best option for their needs.

“Don't sell catering, sell the results and experiences that your catering will be a part of,” encourages Alan Berg of Wedding Business Solutions LLC. “Food is a means to an end, and the end isn't just great food. Why are they bringing people together? What does success look like... to them!”

So while they might claim that a five-course meal is what they’re after, what they really want is a delicious culinary experience that will set the tone and impress their guests. How they get to that end result ultimately doesn’t matter as long as their awe-struck guests are raving about their event!

Be strategic with your resources

There’s no denying the fact that special events require significant financial investments. With most expenses passed on to the client, it’s safe to say that everyone appreciates a caterer who has their budget in mind. So as you’re pitching your services, be sure to highlight cost-saving strategies that will leave them with more money in the bank.

Desiree Jones of DSquared Company offers a suggestion to discuss sharing rentals with other events. “Connect with the venue to see if they have any other events booked that weekend and see if you can connect with the other event planner to overlap rentals,” she recommends. “That way, you can save a bit of money and possibly put some of their savings back into food or drink upsells.”

When hosting an event, people expect to shell out a considerable amount of money. However, any opportunity to save is welcomed and you’re sure to win people over when you show care for their budget!

Upsell, upsell, upsell

Speaking of upsells, don’t let a chance to offer add-ons pass you by. Today’s event customers care deeply about the guest experience and are typically open to upgrades for their celebration. Upselling can increase revenue per client, oftentimes without a large increase in cost per client. In other words, your profit margin stands to gain!

As for what to upsell, consider enhancements that are often requested or simply improve an event. Jones shares a few examples: “Is it a Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Add in a mocktail bar option! Is it a mix-n-mingle event? You could upsell on a pass plate with a wine glass holder.” Get creative, and don’t be afraid to test the waters to see what your clients like!

Ask for the sale

It might sound obvious, yet too many people leave a sales call without ever asking for the sale. You may think you’ve provided enough information and demonstrated value, so your prospect would be a fool to pass it up! However, leaving the ball in their court can turn into an expired proposal, forgotten follow-ups, and a lost lead.

“If you don't ask, the answer's always no,” Berg asserts. “It's not up to the customer to say ‘we want to do it,’ it's up to you to ask.”

While it might seem brash or assumptive to put potential customers on the spot, it’s actually the opposite. You’re taking control of the discussion and opening a door for them to step in and feel welcomed in your brand experience. Asking for the sale makes it easier for them to say yes and starts your working relationship on the right foot.

Prioritize retention over new sales

Selling is unenjoyable for many and time-intensive for all. While it is necessary to stay in business, you probably don’t need to sell quite as much as you think — especially when your customers keep returning for more.

“Acquiring new customers can be costly, while retaining existing ones can lead to long-term profitability,” explains David Hargrove of 2Brothers1Love. “Implement strategies to improve customer loyalty, such as offering excellent customer service, personalized communication, loyalty programs, and incentives for repeat purchases. This can lead to increased customer lifetime value and reduce churn.”

Happy clients won’t think twice about picking up the phone the next time they need a caterer. Better yet, they’ll be quick to sing your praises when friends ask for a referral! So instead of spending all your working hours on marketing and sales, dedicate some time to enhancing your customer experience and creating retention opportunities.

Selling is integral to every business, but you don’t need to feel rattled whenever you schedule a consultation. Remember your customers’ needs, reflect on how your company stands out, and don’t forget to ask for the sale! As you get comfortable, selling will feel like second nature — and your satisfied clients will come back time and time again.

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Article by Clint Elkins

Clint Elkins is the V.P. of Sales for SB Value, a Group Purchasing Organization that helps culinary professionals save an average of 16% on every food order. Membership is 100% free. No hidden fees. No extra work. Just extra profits. See how much you can save on your next food order when you become an SB Value member.

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