Whether you run your own business or work for a company in a sales-related role, you are always looking for sales techniques that work. I have developed and learned many over the years from readers providing great advice.

One person advised me to ask “yes or yes” questions. He worked for Hyatt Hotels and asked himself, “What else can I do for Hyatt?” Then it hit him: “Increase the average check price.”

He said: “Restaurants are always looking to grow the average amount of money their diners spend. Usually, they do this by pushing wine and other alcoholic beverages and dessert. But those weren’t options for a place that served so much breakfast. I was going to have to be more creative.

“The impressive fresh-squeezed orange juice maker we had … gave me an idea. I had just learned about the ‘yes or yes’ theory at a sales seminar. I put a big display of oranges outside the entrance to the restaurant, and while guests were lined up to get in, I had a waitress ask each customer if they would like coffee or juice. Little room for a ‘no’ in that question.

“As it happened, most people said, ‘Both.’ Pretty soon, the coffee or juice proposition became standard operating practice at all Hyatt coffee shops — along with the welcoming display of fresh oranges. Never ask a person a yes or no question when it could be yes or yes instead.”

My good friend Brandon Steiner, founder and owner of one of the largest memorabilia dealers in the country, Steiner Sports, has another good suggestion. And I might add, one that I have used quite often.

Say you are having a tough time getting a meeting with someone — a potential client, investor or mentor. You try everything: persistent calls, e-mails, tweets, carrier pigeon. But nothing works.

This happened to Brandon a couple of years ago when he was trying to get a meeting with a bigwig at a bank in Midtown Manhattan. He figured since his target was a New Yorker, he might be a Yankees fan, so he called Mr. Big’s assistant. Before she could pass him to voice mail for the umpteenth time, Brandon learned that his quarry was a huge admirer of Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. With that news, Brandon saw the light. He immediately sent Mr. Big an empty baseball case with a note attached.

It read: “I heard you love Mariano Rivera. Here’s a case for a Mariano-signed baseball. When you and I meet within the next two weeks, I’ll bring you the ball.”

Wouldn’t you know it? Mr. Big called Brandon that day, and they met the next week.

A florist celebrating its 100th year in business explained its success as staying in touch with customers. The owner “has one employee responsible for sending out reminders of who-sent-what-to-whom last year at a particular time, and many repeat orders are generated by this simple call.”

I am inspired by Elbert Hubbard, a very successful soap salesman who retired to become a writer and publisher in 1894 in his late 30s. He lived by this credo:

“I believe in myself. I believe in the goods I sell. I believe in the firm for whom I work. I believe in my colleagues and helpers. I believe in American business methods. I believe in producers, creators, manufacturers, distributors, and in all industrial workers of the world who have a job and hold it down. I believe that truth is an asset. I believe in good cheer and good health, and I recognize the fact that the first requisite in success is not to achieve the dollar or to confer a benefit, but that the reward will come automatically and usually as a matter of course. I believe in sunshine, fresh air, spinach, applesauce, laughter, buttermilk, babies and chiffon, always remembering that the greatest word in the English language is ‘sufficiency.’ I believe that when I make a sale, I make a friend. And I believe that when I part with a person, I must do it in such a way that when they see me again, they will be glad and so will I. I believe in the hands that work, in the brains that think and in the hearts that love.”

Mackay’s Moral: Don’t just make a sale, make a friend.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Reach him by e-mail at harvey@mackay.com.