Your customers may think that autumn has just begun, but for savvy operators, it’s time to turn your mind to the Holidays. In fact, there’s no time like the present to prepare your bartenders and servers to maximize beverage sales for the upcoming holiday season. If you put off the training too long, you’re likely to run out of time to do it right, especially as Yuletide chaos begins to escalate.
So grab a calendar and a pen. The first step in conducting targeted sales training is to schedule an appropriate number of sessions, enough to cover the content thoroughly and reinforce desired wait-staff behavior. Consider pre-shift meetings, well planned and conducted regularly–at least twice a week, if not daily–during October and early November. That’ll give you plenty of time to fine tune the sales skills you’d like to see executed on the floor.
Nothing gets a wait staff fired up like lively team meetings. They don’t have to be too long or too involved – five to 10 minutes, max – but they do have to be as fun as they are informative. Otherwise, attendees will come to dread them and tune out immediately.
TRY THE FIVE P’S
To keep them tuned in, try this five-part approach: Prepare, Praise, Present, Participate and Practice.
If you’re serious about your pre-shift meetings, your staff will be inclined to share your sentiments. On the other hand, if you’re just going through the motions, you’ll be lucky to get half-hearted performances. Who’ll be to blame?
Thoughtful preparation sets the tone for the beverage sales training at hand. Using a flip chart, outline an agenda for each meeting. Do it well in advance, not hurriedly a few minutes before show time. Cross off items as they’re covered and keep the meeting on schedule and on track–without fail. You should exhibit the same efficiency you want out of your wait staff.
Resist the urge to shoulder the entire responsibility of preparation. Involve servers, bartenders and other managers as much as possible. The bar manager, for instance, could lead half a dozen product-knowledge sessions, imparting pertinent insights into your operation’s selection of beer, wine and spirits. Your wait staff, after all, can’t sell what it doesn’t know.
It’s a good idea to kick off your pre-shift meetings by recognizing noteworthy accomplishments. Since your focus will be holiday beverage sales, look to spotlight a server whose per-person check average shined the night before. Congratulate the performance publicly, leading the group in a round of applause.
Don’t be content, however, with the warm-and-fuzziness of the moment. Take steps to shape winning behaviors in others. First, ask the server to explain what he or she did to be successful, drawing out specific examples that co-workers can identify with and apply to their own situations.
Powerful learning takes place when members of your sales team teach one another. Your job is to make sure those opportunities abound.
Once you’ve spotlighted sales-enhancing performances and explored ways that employees can integrate the skills into their own style of service, it’s time to focus on the holiday season.
For starters, you could dig up sales figures from the previous holiday season and use them to establish sales goals, determine what sold well a year ago and even identify shortcomings that need to be addressed before history repeats itself.
Make it a point to present something new every pre-shift meeting rather than ramble on about all-too-familiar themes. Post a training topic for the day, covering material that can be facilitated quickly and put to use immediately. At least one session – but probably more – should be spent on wine- and champagne-opening skills. Servers’ and bartenders’ lack of confidence in this area will clamp a ball and chain to your holiday sales potential.
Whatever training you deliver, keep it light, fun and worthwhile. If you have a sense of humor, use it. If you don’t have a sense of humor, get one. Smiling employees will look forward to the next day’s meeting.
During your pre-shift meetings, try not to do all of the talking. In fact, it’s best to speak 20 percent of the time and seek feedback the other 80 percent.
Come up with exercises that support the training topic and encourage attendees to participate. Hand out small tokens such as lottery tickets to reward thoughtful contributions.
Especially the Art of Role-Playing. You can talk all you want about beverage sales, but to make the most of your time and get the points to sink in, it’s best to put employees in the driver’s seat where they can try out what you’re teaching. It’s called “role-playing.” Through the use of this training technique, you can develop sales skills and evaluate competency without the pressure of expectant guests looking on.
Think back to how you learned to drive and you can see why role-playing is so effective. Did you watch someone explain it on a flip chart, then jump behind the wheel? Probably not. Someone showed you the proper techniques, then you went through the motions in a parked car until you felt confident enough to fly solo.
Here’s how to conduct effective role-playing sessions:
Write two or three role-play scenarios on notecards before the pre-shift meeting, inventing situations that will help illustrate how you want your wait staff to act. If, for example, the day’s training is on upselling, one of your scenarios could be: “Two guests at your table order the same glass of wine. How would you sell them on the idea of ordering a bottle? Use the exact dialogue you’d say to the guests.”
Call up role-players one scenario at a time. Some employees would pretend to be guests, others would take turns playing the part of server or bartender.
Don’t just select those who are comfortable playing the roles. Give everyone a chance, even if stage fright is an issue. Making the role-playing fun and low-key will help employees get over their fears.
After each role-play, seek improvement by asking: “What was done right?” and “What, if anything, could have been done better?” Detail any missed opportunities.
At the end of the pre-shift meeting, ask several in attendance: “What are you going to do differently as a result of today’s training?” If they announce it out loud to the group, they’re more apt to do it.
And “doing” is the name of the game.