As a “seasoned” professional in the hospitality business, I am often asked to give advice to newbies entering the industry. What is the key to longevity in a business known for high turnover and long hours? For sales and business development professionals, what are the secrets to success? I always gave and still give the same answer;
Be Patient and Listen.
Recently, I have added a third; Hold Your Thoughts.
This means be patient with your own career path. Take the time to learn. Ask questions and do not be afraid to show your vulnerability. Find a mentor and connect for life. Do not expect immediate gratification and career advancement based on what everyone else is doing. Every individual is different and you will grow at your own pace.
This means do not just hear, but listen. To your clients, your peers and your mentor. Your clients want to talk. Listen to their voice, tone and level of urgency. Do not interrupt them when they are speaking. Let your peers share their opinions and consider alternative ideas. Let your mentor provide constructive feedback to push you further.
Hold Your Thoughts
Recently, I have noticed that salespeople really like to talk and talk and talk. And talk more. Trust me, I am one. When I am coaching salespeople, I often cannot get a word in. Do not own the conversation just to show you are the expert. It is exhausting. The definition of conversation is a ‘talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged’. Engage with others and do not make it all about you.
I met a colleague for dinner this past week at a new restaurant in the West Loop. For a restaurant that opened within the last two months, the quality of the food was excellent and the plates were creative.
The service was another story. I arrived a couple of minutes late so my friend was already at the bar drinking a Campari and soda with an orange peel garnish. We immediately were seated and took off our coats to settle in. The waiter arrived and asked what I would like to drink. I said, I will have the same. The waiter said, what is that garnish? My friend said, “an orange peel”. The waiter said, “no it’s not. It’s lemon. I will be right back.“ This was an awkward interaction as our first connection between guest and server. It was an orange peel.
After my drink arrived, the menus were delivered. Our waiter started talking before we even had a chance to look. He didn’t even take a breath for me to say, “Can you give us a minute?”. Rather than asking us what we were interested in, he told us what he liked on the menu. I honestly didn’t care what he liked. I simply wanted to read the menu.
We were constantly interrupted as well. There was never an acknowledgement of our table conversation. It was more about keeping to his schedule and activities. We would be mid-sentence, then have to stop our conversation to accommodate his questions.
The service of one waiter affected the overall dining experience. The food was great, the dining room was warm and cozy. I do want to go back for those reasons. I just want to make sure the next time I go there my next waiter holds his thoughts and just listens.