Think strawberries

One of our specialities at Terrific Trading is  Selling for Non-Salespeople 2018. In other words selling for people who see themselves as service providers, technicians or professionals, people who help their customers – people who often find the whole idea of selling distasteful.

We know that equipping them with selling skills won’t in any way improve their performance and the profitability of the company they represent UNTIL and UNLESS we can help them feel OK about selling. By the way, this includes the owners of many businesses.

It’s good fun watching the transformation. When going through my library of information recently, I rediscovered a wonderful story of one such transformation related by James Levinson. It’s from way back in the 1970’s in the hospitality sector but I’m sure it’s one you will relate to.

From 1972 to early 1975 James Levinson was brought in as CEO of his hotel groups’ flagship store, the Plaza Hotel in New York. Unprofitable in the five years before he assumed the hotel’s key leadership role, the Plaza was a success each year of Levinson’s tenure before being sold in February1975 at great profit by Sonseta International Hotels.

How did he preform this remarkable turn-around? By getting the 1,400 staff in every conceivable role working over 18 floors, a thousand guest rooms, six restaurants, a night club and a theatre to ‘Think Strawberries’.

It’s a wonderful story. You can access it by clicking on Think Strawberries. To whet your appetite, here are a couple of excerpts.

“Soon after I commenced at the Plaza, something occurred which gave me a preview of what I was up against.

“I was walking through the lobby when I heard the phone ring at the Bell Captain’s desk. No-one was answering it.

“To demonstrate to my staff that no job was too demeaning for me, I went over, picked up the phone and said, ‘Bell Captain’s desk. How may I help you?’

“A voice came over the other end, ‘Pass it on, Levinson’s in the lobby.’

Here’s another snippet:

“The Plaza is a dignified institution. It is so dignified it was considered demeaning to admit that we needed business, no matter how much money we were losing. And if you didn’t ask us, we wouldn’t ask you. We weren’t ringing your doorbell or anyone else’s. You had to ring ours.

“This seemed to be a philosophy shared by the entire organisation… If you wanted a second drink at the Plaza’s famous Oak Bar, you got it via a simple technique – tripping the waiter and then pinning him to the floor. You had to ask him, not the other way around.

“I introduced a new policy. When the guest’s glass is down to one-third full, the waiter is to ask the guest if he’d like a second drink…Couldn’t miss, I thought.

“About a month after introducing this policy, I joined the General Manager in the Oak Bar for a drink. I noticed at the table next to us there were four guests and four empty glasses. Not a waiter came near them.

“After about 15 minutes, I asked the GM what had happened to my ‘second-drink’ program. The GM called over the maitre’d and asked the same. The maitre’d called over the captain, pointed to the other table and said, ‘Whatever happened to Lavenson’s ‘second drink’ program?’ The captain then called over the waiter, who broke into a wreath of smiles as he explained that the people at the next table had already had their second drink!”

You can find out how James Levinson turned around the culture at the Plaza, New York by clicking Think Strawberries. You’ll love it.

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Jurek Leon is a storyteller, speaker and trainer. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly 'Terrific Tips' e-newsletter at Alternatively, email