A Sales Lesson From Dottie at Cracker Barrel

Because I enjoy fine dining and am very health conscious, I had dinner last night at a little place called Cracker Barrel. Judge if you want – those biscuits are amazing.

As I paid, the lady at the register noticed my t-shirt featuring The Man in Black and said, “I bet a Johnny Cash fan would like horses” as she motioned to some kind of tchotchke with a photo of horses on it. I said ‘no thank you’ to the trinket, but I did leave with two takeaways as souvenirs…

Takeaway #1 – Read Your Customer

I don’t remember this woman’s name, but if I call her “Dottie”, you’ll probably draw a fairly accurate mental picture. My conversation with Dottie lasted a matter of seconds and was in the context of trying to process a transaction quickly. And yet, she still took the time to notice what I was wearing, make a reasoned on-the-fly inference, and then had the initiative to make a suggestion. This was not a standard, one-size-fits-all pitch. No, she noticed something about unique about me. Small as it is, that still matters. So the replay reveals these three moves: Observe. Infer. Engage. Nice play, Dottie.

Takeaway #2 – EVERYONE Is In Sales

Everyone – all the way down to the southernmost regions of your org chart – can and should be a salesperson, in one way or another. Dottie may not feel like she holds a particularly important role in the Cracker Barrel organization, and yet she’s the front line in working with customers. What could be more important that? Even a person in the most seemingly mundane, non-Client/non-Customer-facing position can come up with a better way of doing things and then try to sell said idea up the chain.

So how do you leverage the collective sales power of every strata of your organization? Well, that’s a whole book unto itself, but at the very least, it requires Empowering, Educating, and Incentivizing them. It’s a process that requires time and commitment, but you can begin today simply by giving team members permission to think and act like an owner.

So, what did we learn from Dottie at Cracker Barrel?

  1. Making the human connection with a customer makes a difference.
  1. Smart businesses encourage all employees to be proactive sellers.

All of that plus the best chicken-fried chicken I’ve had in ages. Thanks, Dottie!

– Matthew Porter

Matthew Porter writes about decoding success, creative leadership, marketing, and productivity.

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