Posted by: gotrain | August 27, 2008

Knowledgeable Staff Sell More & Give Better Service

Last night I went for dinner at St-Hubert Barbecue with my friends from the Beaconsfield Cylce Club after a fast Tuesday night ride.

The place was very busy and noisy and so the service was a little slow. After reviewing the menu I decided to eat light with a salad but they had three appealing salads on the menu. I asked the harried waitress what was the difference and she looked at me dumbfounded and tried to muster up an explanation. It was obvious that she did not know about each salad and asked me what the names of the various salads were hoping that would give her some clues about what to answer. I said I wasn’t sure so she picked up the menu and said let me show you the pictures so you can see the differences.

I thought to myself that this person does not know her product and it caused me to have doubts about whether their salads we popular and thus fresh. This is a good example of where a poorly informed and less knowledgeable sales person can cause the customer to doubt and maybe not buy.

Is there a relation to this and training? I think so as any good training and development program would make sure that their salespeople know their product before they send them out on the field. But is the person in question a salesperson or a server? Both I say since how she performs her job directly impacts sales as well as the  customers experience.

I used the word development as part of training because to me the development part signifies a process not just an event. Training, given or taken as an event never gives a good ROI because it is easily forgotten and not sufficiently reinforced in most cases. In fact yesterday I made a follow-up call with a business owner I met over a year ago and asked him to meet again to discuss using my services for business development coaching. He agreed but shared with me how skeptical he is because of his past experience working with consultants for various things including leadership coaching. He said that after the fact nothing stuck and he did not see any return on investment.

A development process conducted with a specific well founded goal in mind and a commitment by top management to push forward on the intitiative is much different than a training event. A good process must include a solid follow-up plan that ties into a performance management system, including performance appraisals and compensation decisions. Of course a commissioned salesperson’s compensation is directly affected by their performance so why include them in a performance management system, you could ask?

Every employee forms part of the organizational culture and climate and if the ownership embraces a continuous improvement type of culture, how can it allow a select few to decide their own behaviour and performance? How would you sell others on committing to behaviours that contribute to a continuous improvement and team oriented culture? It’s not possible, you must get everyone on board and convince or replace those who resist.

St-Hubert barbecue needs to work on their training and development program. Perhaps like many restaurant franchisors, they do provide the guidelines and support to their franchisees and this is where the problem is. The franchisee owner does not understand or take the time to invest in the tools provided for training and coaching staff so they best serve the customers and sell more. Again as always, it all comes down to leadership.

Stephen Goldberg



  1. Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. Scenarios like you describe seem to happen way to often in North American businesses. Restaurants, retail, office environments, it doesn’t matter – the waste and missed opportunities are significant.

    It does come down to leadership … and just because you own a restaurant or have been selected as the boss, it doesn’t make you a leader. Training and development will help you become one.

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