Suggestive Selling

Suggestive Selling
by Allen Wankat, Culligan International

Ever been to McDonald’s, Burger King, or Wendy’s? Immediately after the order is placed, the counter person always has one of several questions to ask: “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would you like to supersize that?” or “Would you like an apple pie with that?” and even “Would you like cheese on your burger?” Those are the simplest examples of Suggestive (or add-on) Selling that explain the concept used by many businesses. Banks even are asking, “Have you heard about the overdraft protection that we offer?”

The reasons businesses go to the effort to train employees to suggest additional products or to “up sell’ are many, but usually zero in on one key reason: added revenue and profit for the business. Fries, soft drinks, added cheese, larger portions, and yes – overdraft protection are all high margin add-ons.

Bottled water suggestive selling — Will drivers do it? What is there to sell? Is it worth the effort? Some of the answers are obvious, and some are not. Normally, most HOD bottled water suppliers are already suggesting adding bottles when the weather turns warmer – almost a given. But this is a given that may not happen if the management team does not lay out a program, or maybe a contest.

Suggestive selling generally is not an easy thing for route drivers, or even for personnel who answer the phones in the office. Drivers often love their job, partially for what it is not. It is NOT a job where there is pressure to sell. They deliver. The personality of many route drivers can be introspective, and it is management’s duty and opportunity to train route drivers, and to move them toward becoming route salespersons.

How can such training be accomplished? Through role-playing. Role-playing is easy, can be done in a few minutes daily, and can be done in small or large groups. The meetings can be fun, motivating, or drudgery, depending on management’s approach and planning.  Specific goals should be stated, short written scenarios used, and the route manager or owner should lead the way. The question a route person could ask a customer could be as simple as, “It sure is starting to get hot! Would you like to look at a program we have so that you won’t run out of water?” At this point, the driver reaches forward, hands the customer a sheet of paper with just a few words explaining the program to add a bottle.  The driver who is shy or a little bit quiet does not have to recite a fancy sales pitch!

What else can be sold? Half liter bottles? Add-on products? How about customer referrals? Each program requires training, goal setting, and an offer sheet. Goal setting is not complete without a call to action, which include offer requirements and an ending date for the offer or prize!

Like everyone, most route sales personnel are motivated by recognition and rewards, often times in that exact order. Team management (or the business owner), need to post results compared to goals, on a chart for all to see. Contests are another whole subject, but usually pay for themselves.

Don’t forget about the folks who answer the phones, as earlier mentioned. They, too, can thrive when goals are set, role-playing is introduced, and prizes are awarded.

For smaller operations, it is easy to introduce very simple, but motivating “one-person contests.” It is as simple as saying, “If you bring in two referrals this week, I will take you to lunch” or “I will give you XYZ!” Every added product should improve the profitability of the business.

The author is Allen Wankat. Allen is the Franchise Development Manager for Culligan International and the current President of the Southeastern Bottled Water Association.