In our experience, many of our most successful sales rep students come from the hospitality industry, especially bartending. But what is it about bartending that prepares great sales reps?
The answers may surprise you, so you’ll hear what our former barmeisters and liquor slingers have to say about it throughout this piece. Besides, the connection between bartending and sales isn’t always apparent to those who’ve never worked for tips – a bartender’s primary means of earning a living wage.
Ask anyone who’s transitioned into a sales career from a background in the bar business, and they’ll tell you as many true-life stories as you can stand about how the two are comparable.
The truth is that talented bartenders rely on salesmanship skills to sell their regular guests on an experience – not necessarily a product – because there is no shortage of places to order a cold beer and a hamburger. The trick is making people choose the experience you provide instead of a competitor that’s sometimes literally located around the corner.
A skilled bartender knows this dynamic market all-too-well and understands that it’s essential to read a guest’s wants and needs and anticipate them from day one.
The same dynamic applies to the sales field: you have to know your prospects’ wants and needs and how your product or solution fulfills both. If you offer anything less, guests walk out of your business and happily go around the corner for a better experience – a better value.
So, here are 5 ways we think bartending prepares you for a thriving sales career.
1 – Command of the Point of Sales
The best bartenders in the world have a host mentality from start to finish and never lose it. They guide guests through the “sales process” of enjoying a night out on the town responsibly. To do that, skilled bartenders expertly demonstrate command of the point of sales because that’s how to make the most money when the house gets packed on the weekends.
In bar terminology, the “point” is the most vital function to fill because one person can’t do everything a bar needs to operate. It’s invariably a team effort, but there’s a method in the madness.
Someone has to make the first impression last longer than a cordial hello, right? For example, when a guest walks in and scans the room, a talented point bartender will immediately shout, “Hi! Welcome to the Uvaro Lounge!” The opening is crucial and sets up everything else that follows. It’s this solid initial greeting that demonstrates command of the point, and guests feel it instinctively.
Broadly speaking, many guests won’t know what they want on that particular evening. They only know that this bar offers phenomenal customer service, looks fantastic, and makes people feel at home. By taking command of the sales process, you can increase your chances of closing on a sale showing how bartending prepares great sales reps!
2 – Experience with Discovery
Along those lines, we’ve seen our students with bartending backgrounds absolutely excel at discovery. It’s a crucial soft skill that sales reps must develop and master because, without it, you’ll be lost in the dark and never understand why prospects are turning down your offers.
Ask any bartender, and they’ll tell you that people aren’t always clear with what they want, even when asked a direct question like, “would you like the usual?”
Let’s say that your bar has a regular guest: a single male, aged 21-25, colossal basketball fan. For every single Toronto Raptors home game, they show up like clockwork 30 minutes before. They always wear the same jersey and hat, drinking domestic beer.
They’re the typical regular, and as a general rule of thumb – never change the experience when someone enjoys it and keeps coming back for more. But that’s not demonstrating command of the point of sales, nor is it showing the ability to discover a customer’s wants and needs with any semblance of accuracy!
Yes, indeed, the Raptors Fan always drinks the same thing, but have you ever offered them anything different? Bartenders know that there’s always an opportunity to up-sell or switch a regular guest to a different product other than “the usual.”
It comes down to dollars. It always does. Right now, Raptors Fan’s average sales ticket is about $50 if you never offer him anything different. But if they try a new lager from a local microbrewery, their average sales ticket can be much higher at around $65 or so.
The smallest detail that you didn’t really appreciate at the time – discovering that the regular was willing to try new, more expensive beer – directly led to a closed sale.
In the sales field, discovery is vital to the sales process because every prospect has unique pain points and objections. The task of a great sales rep is to have answers at the ready. And you can’t do that without learning more about what the prospect needs – and feels about a product.
3 – Thick Skin, Even-Keel Personality
This quality is arguably the most significant benefit of hiring a sales rep who’s transitioned into the field from the bar industry. Sales reps get told no more times than they successfully close a sale; it’s a tricky thing for newcomers to get passed, people hanging up the phone or dodging the conversation altogether.
While bartenders don’t have to deal with many, the same principle of needing a thick skin applies. Once again proving that bartending prepares great sales reps.
A bartender’s job actually has very little to do with pouring wine or shaking a martini. You have to be the ringmaster of the circus and stay aware of everything that’s going on in front of you. If you do anything less, the guest’s perception of your customer service immediately plummets, and they walk down the street to go to your competitor.
Still – even if you do everything right and anticipate everything you think may or may not happen – people always find ways to surprise you with how they behave. Honestly, it has very little to do with alcohol because, to quote Jim Morrison, “people are strange.”
To use a cliché, a talented bartender has “seen it all before” because people never behave the way you’d expect when they’re spending money to have a good time.
Ask any bartender about their worst night on the job, and get ready to hear a wild story because people are, indeed, strange. But to make money, a bartender has to have thick enough skin to keep a level head when the thing starts to go haywire at the front of the house.
4 – Hard Work Ethic
Simply put: bartenders make great sales reps because their work ethic is something to behold. The reasons vary from person to person, but the gist is that it’s hard to earn a living wage on tip income. If a bartender doesn’t grind and put in the work, they don’t put food on the table or pay the bills.
There’s a reason why restaurants insist that their bartenders learn to serve tables first. It’s because you only want the best of the best behind the bar since they’re literally the face of the brand.
Everyone wants the bartender’s job, and they’re always trying to take it. There’s a healthy level of competition – and respect – among co-workers in the service industry.
So, to even be a bartender, you have to outwork everyone else and show that you can continue to produce at that pace. If you approach it any other way, you’ll struggle to make it. A talented bartender can never turn off their work ethic because it’s second nature.
5 – Closing Mentality
The last reason bartenders make great sales reps is that they have a closing mentality, which we often see students struggle to develop.
For a bartender to make money off tips, the house has to sell a product at volume. That’s the bottom line on the math. There’s always an opportunity to fulfill a guest’s needs if you look for it, and you’re good at reading people.
It’s not pushy to ask guests whether or not they’re ready to close out their tab – because a talented bartender already knows they’re ready. Watching people eat and drink is a very intimate thing that not many people realize. It’s fascinating how people start to see right past the bartender and speak openly about anything and everything.
You’re standing 4 feet away from someone, but they behave as if you’re not there until they need something. So, you watch them and anticipate that they’re ready to settle the tab. There’s always a closing mentality, and it never turns off.
A bartender is constantly closing sales and doing the extra work to build a business relationship. They get guests to come back with a smile – and even bring another ten friends.
Transition your career with Uvaro
In the end, it’s a well-known fact that bartending prepares great sales reps for many reasons. They’re simply natural, graceful salespersons who’ve already mastered the basics.
If you’re thinking of a career change and have bartending, hospitality, or customer service background, apply for Uvaro’s sales program now! We have seen several graduates with this background see tremendous success with our course.
Contact us now to learn more!