A Great Selling Lesson from a Friendly Grandmother


Earlier this summer, my wife and I traveled to Alexandria, Virginia, for a family wedding. After spending a morning shopping, we started looking for a place to have lunch. We walked the streets and checked out a dozen restaurants before an older woman in a blue dress sitting on a bench in front of one of the cafés greeted us in a friendly manner.

“Are you guys hungry?” she called out. With her short white hair and friendly demeanor, she looked like she could have been anyone’s favorite grandmother.

“Hi, I’m Alice and this is a great little café,” she said with a genuine smile. “Please try this restaurant for lunch. You won’t be disappointed. You see, my son is the owner, and if more people eat here that’s one more day he won’t be moving back home with me.” With that she politely (and without asking) handed us menus.

Walking into the restaurant, the Bittersweet, we noticed it was humming with business. It was also apparent that this charming grandmother was a familiar face as people were constantly waving to her and calling out her name.

We soon learned why. Within a few minutes she had not only convinced us to eat at the restaurant, she even helped my wife decide what to order with her very particular pregnancy cravings.

As we were finishing our lunches, Alice stopped by our table and gave my wife a mini cupcake, a small but memorable gesture.

Is the food as good or the ambiance as pleasant at any of the other dozen restaurants within walking distance of that café? We don’t know. But we do know that the Bittersweet is the only one with Alice. The smiling grandmother drew hungry customers into her son’s business like a fisherman scoops up schools of fish in a large net.

Alice doesn’t refer to herself as head of sales or promotions for Bittersweet, but that is exactly what she does everyday, and my guess is that she brings in 20 percent of the foot traffic each day.

Creating friendly, helpful dialogue with other people and informing them about our services and the problems we can solve for them is a powerful form of selling. Every single person at our companies, whether they answer the phone, work in the field, manage teams or perform service calls, can do the same.

We all just need to be a lot more like Alice, who loves meeting new people and sharing the items at her son’s restaurant. We too can generate friendly, helpful dialogues with customers and prospects while sharing information about the services we offer.

Here are a few things that came to my mind after meeting Alice:

  1. Everyone’s a messenger. Remember that sometimes hard selling is not needed. If you communicate with people in a friendly, honest and helpful manner, people will often buy based on gut instinct.
  2. Everyone can sell. Even introverted team members can sell especially if they are technically adept.
  3. Listen to your customers. Once you have communicated the benefits of your services, listen to what they have to say.
  4. Believe in what you are promoting. Alice is great at what she does because she truly believes that her son’s restaurant makes the best food in town.
  5. Get creative. Just like Alice strategically sits herself down on a bench outside the café with menus in hand during the lunch rush, do your field specialists have printed materials to hand out to neighbors of your existing customers? Think of other ways friendly ways to spread your company’s message.