Know Your Product Already!

The other day I pulled into a coffee shop drive-thru to order a specific style of brewing coffee. With this style of brewing, they offer a handful of different beans to chose from. Not knowing the different beans, I asked the voice in the box which is the best bean.

To which he responded, “Well…haha…that’s subject to personal opinion.” GRRRR!!!! Uh, yeah, I’m aware of that Columbo! That’s why I ASKED for your personal opinion! This frustrates the entrepreneur in me because I can’t believe that a place that focuses on selling something can’t actually give an opinion on what’s best.

Many times I’ve been asked what the best financial product we offer is. Every time they get the same answer. The best thing we do is our one-on-one counseling. However, that’s not an option for a lot of people, so the next best thing is FPU. Done and done! That’s it. No need for me to think about the question.

No need for me to state that it’s a matter of personal opinion. I know our products! And because I do, I can intelligently articulate to anyone asking for my personal opinion…which is what they asked for in the first place.

It’s the same when you go to a restaurant and ask what’s good on the menu. There’s absolutely no need to tell me, “It’s all good.” That’s a ridiculous answer. It makes me believe that you have no confidence in what items are great. If it’s all good, then it’s all the same to you. Which means I’m now bored because apparently all of your products are equal.

Which one stands out? Which one is better than the rest? Which one is the one that I will be telling my friends about…or blogging to MY TRIBE about?! Think people. If you’re the front line person who gets asked for your opinion, then have one. Be ready to rattle off your favorite, or top three items you sell.

If you’re a leader or entrepreneur, make sure your team has an opinion that’s useful. When I ask for your opinion, and you can confidently tell me what you believe is your best product, half of the sale is already made. Heck, probably more than half.

Question: When have you experienced someone not having an answer, or someone blowing you away because they did? 



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

40 thoughts on “Know Your Product Already!”

  1. I’ve had a similar situation when I’ve gone to Subway and ordered a sandwich I’ve never had. I’ll ask what comes on it and they’ll stare at me like I asked what’s the meaning of life.

    The problem isn’t that these employees don’t have an opinion or knowledge of the product. It’s that their jobs have conditioned them to answer in certain ways for fear of giving the “wrong” answer or in retaliation from the business.

      1. I suppose Matt. Still it would be nice to get a little nudge in the right direction.

        Or it’s amazing when they turn around and look at the picture. They look a bit puzzled as they try to decipher what items are on the sandwich.

  2. The crazy thing is that this coffee shop remains anonymous, whereas if they had absolutely WOW’d you with their service, you might have just mentioned them to a few hundred or thousand people. I don’t even drink coffee, but if someone I respect says “you gotta check this place out, their service is amazing,” I might work up the appetite for some hot chocolate at least.

      1. My father used to tell me that people who have a good experience tell 2 people. When they have a bad one, they tell 16. Not sure if those are exactly accurate, but it drilled the point home, that is for sure. Nowadays, it could even be more tilted with social media.

        My dad ended up firing me, apparently because I was causing too many people to tell 16 people about their experience with me.

        1. I’ve heard that too. And I think it’s probably really multiplied with social media. But boy is it nice when you can spread the story of how great the restaurant was on twitter!

  3. You should have said, “Well, my personal opinion is that you don’t like your job that much!”.

    A few weeks ago we went to our local Denny’s to grab a bite to eat before rushing to our FPU class. The menu is pretty much the same you get at any Denny’s, but the server was awesome. She made us feel like we’re at a much fancier place. She recommended her favorite soup, asked if we wanted extra croutons on the salad and kept coming to our table for drink refills. She was serving some other customers at a table next us. They ordered grits and when she came back with them, it was like she was bringing caviar, just by her attitude. Great customer service paired with great knowledge of the product can help any business shine.

    1. I have stories about Dennys. I have had bad experiences at several of them: in Wisconsin, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Toronto. Terribly slow service. Hardly saw the waitress (I think they’re supposed to be servers). It appeared that every Dennys had a goal of having the longest service time in the food industry. But then we found one in Michigan. We saw it, and I said to my wife, “Should we try it?” Reluctantly, she said we should. The server was on top of things, the food came quickly, and it tasted great. It taught me to give places a second chance.

    2. I’ve had great experiences at Denny’s, all via great staff. Let’s face it, if you’re walking into a Denny’s to start with, you know you’re not going to have a fancy dining experience. But a great staff makes you want to come back, even for a greasy, quick breakfast.

      My last visit to a Denny’s was last month, when I had my boys in tow during a scheduled oil change with my mechanic. I loaded the kids into the wagon, and walked 1/2 mile up the road and had a great breakfast.

      The waitress found me a table where I could park the cumbersome wagon underneath, and served us quickly–as to keep the troops happy!

      If not for the aforementioned greasy goodness, I’d go back there every day!!

  4. I love Starbucks! My favorite place to stop and relax. But … there is one location that is near my house that I avoid. It’s not bad, it is just not the SB standard. They don’t speak the language. (You should know what a Venti is). So, I go to another Starbucks down the road. The brand still gets my business. I just wonder how many never go a second time.

    1. I avoid Starbucks, but when I do go in, I refuse to order according to their names for things. I love the look on the barista’s faces when I order a “large pumpkin spice latte with an extra shot” instead of a triple venti. Some will smile & chuckle, others will look at me gobsmacked.

  5. The best restaurant I ever ate at had an INSANE training program for its wait staff. It was a private club (I wasn’t a member, my father was) and before you could actually wait on your first table, you had to be able to identify all the members by photo and name. And know the menu inside out. During the meal, if you got up from your seat, you’d return to find your napkin neatly folded over the arm of your chair. And your water glass (or what have you) would find itself constantly being refilled though you’d never be aware of it happening. When dinner arrived, more than your waiter brought it, because all plates hit the table at the same time with a single soft “thump”, and all were placed over the left shoulder and removed (again, almost without you being aware of it) over the right.

    At a less posh restaurant where I once worked, we had what we called “turndown” every night before service began. We’d eat something the kitchen prepared for us. If it was a special, we’d all discuss it and few new menu items went live without being sampled by the whole staff. Regardless, we’d discuss what the evening specials were, changes to the menu, and discuss the service plans for that night including any large parties with reservations. We even had wine tasting nights so we’d be competent in suggesting wines to accompany different dishes.

    It’s sad that this level of commitment to service is rare. Especially at an establishment with so few products on offer. This young man would have served you much better, and maintained his position that’s a personal choice, by asking you whether you prefer dark, bold roasts or milder ones. He could have easily, in about 15 seconds, homed in on a suggestion you’d have found valuable and helpful.

    1. If every restaurant considered their guests as club members, we’d have much better service at most places. OK, they’re not going to know everybody’s name, but they can treat you like they do.

      Now that I say that the only place where we go eat as a family is Old Country Buffet. Everyone gets their choice and we can all eat a decent meal for 28 dollars. The best thing is that the kitchen manager at our local place recognizes us and greets us every time. She is Hispanic so she will come and ask me in Spanish if everything is going well. She doesn’t know our names but heard me speaking to my kids in Spanish once and has greeted me in my native language ever since. During our last visit, she told us to ask for her at the register next time we come in and she’ll give us a free adult dinner because we’re great guests and she sees us frequently.

      This is to show that it doesn’t need to be a luxurious restaurant and you can still do an awesome job.

    2. The idea of a debriefing of the menu before the dinner crowd arrives is awesome. What a great way to know your product and keep up with changes and specials.

      I especially like the idea of the wine tastings. Are there any openings currently? lol

  6. I remember that I was at one place, and the server didn’t seem to know a lot. He was nice and friendly, but there were several times that he said “Let me go ask.” They were all things that he should have known (I can’t remember specifics, but I know they were things that should have been daily things). If I wanted to ask the manager, I would have asked the manager! (mini-rant)

    On the flip side, I can’t think of a good example of someone that blew me away. I’ve had some great service, but I don’t think we asked many questions.

    Love the rant, Chris! Good to see you back. Still praying for Chelsea’s recovery.

  7. There is a local restaurant in my town with a seasonal menu that changes weekly and is not very large (4 apps, 5 entrees and 3 desserts). When the waiter comes to the table instead of asking for your order he says, “If you haven’t decided yet, I’d love to make a recommendation.” At that point even if you have decided, you want to know what he is recommending and why so he gets a chance to tell you something about the menu. Impresses me very time I go.

  8. There is a great little Czech restaurant in St. Petersburg. One of those hole-in-the-wall type places no one knows about…until you try to get a table on a Saturday night!

    One visit, after I picked a veal dinner off the menu, the waitress told me not to get it. I told her I’d had it before, and I knew it was good. She leaned in and whispered, “They dropped it on the floor, and washed it off. It’s not going to be good today. Trust me.”

    She went on to recommend a dish I had never had before, and she assured me it was her favorite, and the best dish on the menu, in her opinion.

    Most people would have been appalled by that piece of info (especially those who are against eating veal in the first place), but her honesty earned her a colossal tip. And I will continue to go back…as long as she’s my waitress, that is!!

  9. I asked the “what’s good on the menu” question once before, and was promptly told that the particular restaurant’s food was served on plates instead. But they also told me that they would be glad to make arrangements for me to eat off the menu if I insisted, too.

    Sometimes it’s not the food (or coffee), but the vehicle that the food (or coffee) is delivered by.

  10. I’ve seen some people struggle with the answer to the “what’s good here?” question. As a foodie, I am often asked that by my fellow guests. I usually quickly give them one, or several recommendations from my own experiences. However, when I ask the question of servers, they are sometimes uncomfortable making a blind suggestion, and ask follow-up questions. “Do you like seafood? Do you like spicy food?” Most servers, once they have qualified me in some way, are happy to provide a guided suggestion. However, to do so blindly (as Chris seems to desire) can often lead to frustration. “What’s good on the menu?” “Dish X.” “I don’t eat or like X.” “…” [repeat until frustrated] The best way, in my opinion, to address this uneasiness is to offer to the server a narrowed selection set when asking for a suggestion, e.g. “I’m in the mood for chicken tonight. What can you recommend?” … but that’s just me.

    I sense that many servers who fail to give recommendations have been either frustrated by picky diners who balk at the suggestions thrown their way, or burned by diners whose palates do not match or overlap with their own. (Can any servers chime in here?) It’s a shame, because it teaches them to not take the risk of making a suggestion, and thus they don’t reap the reward they can get from a suggestion well done.

    I think the best experiences come when diner and server work together to figure out what’s best for the diner. It may take a bit longer, but the results are usually well worth it.

  11. The servers at our favorite restaurant are very good with giving recommendations and being honest. While they know us now, they’ve always been that way. I remember us commenting about that on our first trip more than two years ago. I usually ask for recommendations wherever we go and when a server can’t give one, it’s frustrating and sort of taints the whole experience.

  12. I love it when your server lights up because they are so passionate about making your experience wonderful. I don’t eat meat, so it’s nice when a server will offer to substitute shrimp or whatever on a dish so I have more choices.

    Also, when I was at Borders with Seattle’s Best Coffee, we had everyone on staff sample the new seasonal beverages and desserts so we could all recommend them. Hard to recommend and hand sell things if you haven’t tried them.

    Great post Chris!

  13. I love your food blogs – they usually have the best stories! I am NOT a person who likes to try new things while going out to eat, especially as we don’t go out anymore. When we go out, this is IMPORTANT stuff. (: I will ask the wait staff for their favorites and have never been disappointed (admittedly I stay within my meat and potato comfort zone however). Perhaps it is because I am looking at them intently with a big smile that says I mean business about wanting your best.
    Hey, Happy Thanksgiving to you Chris as well as to the CL Tribe!
    LIve Beyond Awesome.

  14. Chris: Thank you so much for a great post. I am asked this question in my wife’s bakery, all the time! I find myself ALWAYS answering the very way you suggested not to.

    I will pick a couple and go with that from now on. I am curious how what results we will get. Steven

  15. Chris, I agree-Being a long-time restaurant manager and Chef–I was always fighting this mindset. The corporate training doesn’t focus on this like it should. It is a real treat to find a restaurant that serves great, unique food with servers that love their job!

  16. Last week I went to a tee-shirt embroidery company that has great radio advertising. The owner waited on me and met all my inquiries with a bit of a sneer, a challenging attitude designed to test my resolve to place an order. I had to pry his opinion out of him on size distribution, and beg him to see color and fabric samples. I was stunned.

    Because I know of no other companies, I went ahead with the order. All it will take is a slight mess-up, and he will lose a potentially great customer. What is the matter with business owners?? I thought we are in a bad economy – why do I have to work so hard for my customers AND work so hard to be a customer?


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